'You don’t feel like an ogre anymore if you've got love handles or cellulite. All people want to see is someone normal'
British TV presenter Stacey Solomon has become something of an accidental body positive activist. The mother-of-three tells Caitlin McBride about her journey to self love, and honest portrayals of motherhood and her sophomore collection with Penneys
Stacey Solomon, the British tv presenter, has become an unlikely bastion of body confidence and championing the beauty of self-acceptance.
Since rising to a prominence as a contestant on The X Factor back in 2009, her professional popularity has grown ever since - and most recently, she debuted her sophomore clothing collection with Penneys for autumn/winter '19/20.
The campaign, in which all images are entirely un-retouched at her insistence, reflects Stacey Solomon in 2019: a confident, successful, mother-of-three, who understands the migration of her personal values to her professional worth.
When we speak, Stacey is doing a day of back-to-back interviews with Irish and British press to promote the collection and despite the intense schedule, she remains unwaveringly positive and genuine in her responses; a rare quality in celebrity interviewees who often waver after a handful of conversations.
Penneys’ (which operates as Primark outside of Ireland) decision to recruit Stacey as one of the faces of their celebrity collaborations was a natural one: she is the ultimate down-to-earth spokesmodel in keeping with their customer, all of whom have their feet firmly on the ground, keen to scoop up a bargain - and fast.
“Anything I do, I want it to be true to life,” she tells Independent.ie Style. “I shop in Primark and I have all my life, it’s a real campaign and something I believe in. Anything I do needs to be affordable and approachable. That’s who I am and that’s how I live my life.”
How she lives her life is very much under the microscope and with a raw sense of honesty so rarely seen in modern celebrities. She began making headlines in 2017 with her body confidence posts on social media, including sharing imagery of her stretch marks, post-partum body and candid descriptions of motherhood.
“I never see it as confidence, I always feel like it’s just open. It’s who I am - I don’t have to be anything else. I’m at peace with my body and I remind myself all the time there’s nothing wrong with it,” she says.
“I wasted far too many years worrying if I wasn’t good enough, so much so that I certainly won’t be doing that in my adult life. The only reasons I might question if I’m good enough or not is that there are certain things society tells me to believe are good or bad, or pretty or ugly.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” she adds. “There is no one conventional standard of beauty: everyone is beautiful in some way, shape or form. It’s about reminding yourself of that and not allowing society to tell you otherwise.”
The response to her warts-and-all approach to Instagram has been so successful that Solomon is now considered one of the UK’s poster girls for body positivity a title she takes rather seriously.
“I think there’s a certain amount of people who look up to you. They see what I’m putting out every day and I feel a bit of an obligation to be conscious of what I’m posting to make a difference,” she says.
“I would have loved to have had some people to aspire to growing up, seeing people who looked like me, felt like me and struggled like me. Even now I’d love it.
“I gain so much from those conversations with people who are going through the same thing and feel the same way. There are so many times when you feel completely alone and they will say thank you to me for replying because you think there's only you going through something, and you get reassurance when you open up.”
Times are changing and the way in which we speak about women - and their bodies - is moving in a more affirmative direction, one which Stacey is a key element of, alongside other celebrities like Jameela Jamil, Chrissy Teiegen and Amy Schumer, famed for their sincere candidness online. But, why does she do it?
“First of all, I think people are sick of the unrealistic standards that everyone is held to and I’m ready to see some normality. Not everyone wants to see everyone airbrushed and completely perfect. People are feeling and ready to be themselves in a photo. I feel that way and it’s been lovely.
“Mostly, I genuinely appreciate other people. There's real camaraderie around women and body confidence and people getting together and saying ,’This is the way we want to see women portrayed in the media’. You don’t feel there’s something wrong with you because you’ve got love handles or cellulite - you don’t feel like an ogre. People in the past have thought they can’t because it's not what anyone wants to see when really, it’s all anyone wants to see.”
In addition to her brand ambassadorship work, she enjoys a successful broadcasting career, as a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women and ITV2's Celebrity Juice. After giving birth to her third child, a little boy called Rex (four months), she, like other freelancers, had to return to work relatively early in comparison to some other women; a commonality between contracted female celebrities without staff positions.
She is pragmatic with her career as she other aspects of her life, aware the dream gigs she's spent years working towards, are far from stable work, and so, the pressure is always on to keep the dream going.
“I’m privileged and lucky I’m going back to a job I never dreamed I could have had growing up. The people I work for are very kind. Once my body is healed, and my mind is recovered as much as it possibly can, it’s time to get back at it.
“I love work and I’m not embarrassed to say it. Make hay when the sun shines,” she asserts.
“Especially nowadays with the quick pace of life and technology - it can all be there one day and gone tomorrow. While it’s there, I want to take advantage and enjoy it and work as hard as I possibly can. No day’s work is ever guaranteed.”