"No matter what your body looks like, you deserve to be loved out loud" - Kitty Underhill.
I met Kitty a few weeks ago whilst working on a event together and found her story so inspiring, it just had to be shared with the Girl Gang! Enjoy!
Thank you so much for being involved in The Girl Gang Kitty! I would love it if you could introduce yourself please:
Thank you so much for having me! My name is Kitty Underhill - I am a plus size model, body acceptance advocate and speaker.
Have you always been in modelling?
No! I actually fell into modelling by mistake. I am an actor first, and when I first started trying to *do the thing*, I met someone in a smoking area who said he worked for a music management label. I followed them on Twitter and saw they were casting for models for their next music video. I never ever considered myself to be a model, but thought it was worth a shot as I could add the footage to my showreel. After filming with them, they asked me to model their new range of tshirts. I literally couldn’t believe it - I never saw anyone who looked like me growing up, and I had been bogged down with low self esteem, bad body image issues and disordered eating woes for as long as I could remember at that point. I was SO nervous on my first shoot, but when I got into the swing of it I found that I absolutely loved it! As I began to model on and off at uni, I was learning more about feminism and I found the body positive world on Tumblr. I realised that the fact that I never saw anyone who looked like me growing up informed how I felt about myself in such a significant way. I did a shoot with a lingerie brand that ended up going semi viral on Twitter - unfortunately, that invited a lot of unwarranted, nasty comments about my body. However, for every bad comment, there were a handful from people saying ‘wow! I’ve never seen anyone with my body type modelling like this before! I feel so seen’. I realised I had a cause - not only was it clear that so many people did not accept their bodies, but people needed to see people who look like them. I’m a plus size model with tiny boobs, and it’s so rare you see that in the fashion world. That’s why I’ve kept going. I realised that with my career, I was able to teach people how to be more accepting of their bodies whilst providing some representation too! I’ve made it my life’s mission ever since.
What’s been your favourite shoot so far?
This is so difficult! I don’t know if I could choose my favourite of all time, but my favourite shoot from this year was my shoot with Polyester Magazine, which went together with one of their podcasts episodes about finding love and dating as a plus size femme. The makeup was inspired by love letters - the idea being that we so often show affection to others, but we so rarely show affection to ourselves. We were dressed in gorgeous lingerie and had motivating phrases painted on our faces! It was such a cool project to be a part of.
Do you have any advice for women wanting to get into modelling?
Instagram is your best friend! The algorithm is tricky for many, but it’s a great place to curate your portfolio, and show people/brands/potential casting directors your personality, your style, and who you are. I would also say it’s so important to build a thick skin. There is a lot of competition and rejection in the industry so you have to make sure you engage in self care and be kind to yourself throughout, because it can take its toll on you.
How would you describe your own body image?
It goes up and down, I think as many other peoples’ do! Some days I feel I can take on the world and feel fierce as hell! Some days however, I feel like I’m back at square one and I find it hard to quiet the nasty voices in my head. Whenever it feels low I try to remember how far I’ve come, and take some extra care of myself.
I would love to get your thoughts on the impact social media can have on your body image and any advice you would give readers on this?
I think it can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, it can invite a LOT of comparison, and can make us feel really bad about ourselves; we end up comparing ourselves to someone’s perfect poses and highlight reel, which is not a true representation of them. It can make us feel like we’re not ‘skinny’ enough, not ‘cool’ enough, not ‘pretty’ enough. But the magic of social media is that we’re in a place now where we can choose to follow people that make us feel good about ourselves! As soon as you feel those comparisons creeping in, mute that person’s page or unfollow! You don’t owe anyone a follow. You really don’t. The best thing I did was follow bodies that don’t fit into the mainstream idea of what beauty is. Seeing rolls, cellulite, bellies on my timeline brings me joy when I scroll, every time! It also helps to normalise those features if you’re not feeling so accepting of them just yet.
Within your line of work, are plus size bodies immediately accepted or is there still an air of unacceptance from brands & the media?
I think brands and the media are accepting of ‘acceptable fat’ plus size bodies - usually plus size bodies that have a flat stomach, big boobs, big hips and bum. Anything that deviates from that is ‘promoting obesity’ (don’t get me started on what a vile phrase that is!!). Unfortunately, the plus size modelling industry has a beauty standard within itself, but it’s amazing to see so many models trying to break that mould!
Have you ever been personally impacted due to your dress size?
In my teens, I was unfortunately involved in a relationship with someone who used my size as a reason to not officially be with me. He would send me pictures of slim celebrities, saying how sad he was I didn’t have that body. He hid me because he didn’t want people to see me with him. It was so difficult, and unfortunately I internalised a lot of what he taught me about myself and my body. At the time, he confirmed what I always thought about myself, which is what made it so hard to move on from him. When I eventually got together with someone who wanted to be with me, he was furious - he clearly enjoyed the control he had over me. I overcame him by finding someone else. But to anyone else who ever finds themselves in that position - please know, you deserve so much better. No matter what your body looks like, you deserve to be loved out loud. Anyone who withholds love until such time as you become ‘acceptable’ to them is not worth your time.
What are your top 3 fashion brands for your size?
I LOVE Pretty Little Thing, they’re my go to for figure hugging basics and cool pieces. I also love Missguided. If you’re looking for something a brand that isn’t fast fashion though, you have GOT to check out PlusEquals - they’ve just released a collaboration collection with Sofie Hagen!! It’s all handmade and beautifully designed by incredibly talented and utter babe, Jazmin Lee.
Are there any resources or accounts you would recommend readers to follow to diversify their feeds and view positive body image?
Yes! I recommend following @YrFatFriend on Instagram and Twitter - they’re an incredible educator on fat acceptance and fat issues. Internalised fatphobia is a huge contributor as to why people feel bad about their bodies, and the first step to feeling better about your body is by challenging what you have internalised. One of the best things I ever did was start following eating disorder counsellors/therapists on Instagram - check out @phelanwell, @bodyimage_therapist, @harri_rose, @thefatsextherapist, @kristamurias and @trustyourbodyproject. @antidietriotclub is also an amazing organisation who curate anti-diet, body positive events. They’ve just got funding to get a bus so they can take their events around the country, which is awesome! I would also recommend checking out @curvynyome, @khal_essie, @nerdabouttown, @enamasiama, @manlikesophia, @scarrednotscared and @curvyliving because they are all awesome babes doing some incredible things.
Finally, what is your favourite quote of all time?
I wish I could think of something really profound to say for this question, but honestly, my favourite quote is “Everything’s coming up Millhouse!”