A FEW years ago, Emma Louise Harris would never have imagined that she'd be posing for photos in underwear, and sharing them with hundreds of people via social media.

In fact, when she was younger Emma felt too fat and ugly to do many of the things that she wanted to do.

But the 38-year-old artist from Locks Heath has embraced the body positivity movement and learnt to be proud of her body.

Emma says that as she has become older, she has learnt to care less about what others might think of her appearance.

And becoming an amateur model has helped her even more.

Credit: Ray Barnes


A friend, who is a full-time model, suggested to Emma that she joined a website, Purple Port, which links models and photographers, who often collaborate for free in exchange for images.

"At first I thought 'don't be silly,' but then I thought it might be fun, so I joined a posted a few photos of myself," says Emma.

"I thought no one would be interested, or that I might get a couple of shoots, but it's taken off."

That was a year ago. Since then, she has done, on average, a shoot per month, two of which were paid jobs.

"I like dressing up. I've always enjoyed fancy dress," says Emma.

"Doing this gives me a chance to explore different aspects of my persona. Being an artist, I am very visual. I do all the styling and make-up for the shoots, and I really enjoy that."

Credit: Trevor Hope.


Emma adds that her mum's words have also encouraged her in her modelling.

"It's good to have a chance to have some decent photographs of myself!" she says.

"It's something to look back on. My mum always says that if you don't think you look good now, you'll look back on yourself in ten years' time, and wonder what you were worried about.

"I already have that now with photos of myself in my 20s."

Emma only became aware of the body positivity movement a couple of years ago, and has since embraced it.

The body positivity movement advocates accepting and celebrating all body types.

"I found it very inspiring seeing people posting pictures of themselves who are not necessarily a model standard size eight," explains Emma.

"It was great seeing women being really confident in themselves, and saying 'take me as I am'.

Credit: Ray Barnes.

"It encouraged me to feel more confident in how I look. These women look amazing and you realise that your age or your dress size isn't what's important. You can look stylish and amazing at any age or dress size."

Emma admires a number of plus-size models, such as Tess Holliday, who recently featured on the cover of UK Cosmopolitan.

"A lot of people were pleased to see someone of a different size but other people said that she is promoting obesity," says Emma.

"I don't see how someone is promoting obesity simply by existing, and being a bigger size. People are different shapes and sizes, and it's no use pretending otherwise."

Emma is also inspired by leading light in the body positivity movement, Megan Crabbe.

"She had an eating disorder and was very thin at times, and she shares the message that thin doesn't equal happiness," says Emma.

"A lot of people delay their happiness for a future time, for instance, they think 'I'll be happy when I've lost this weight.' But you can choose to be happy right now.

"I know I did that. When I was younger, there were things that I wanted to do, but I told myself that I was too fat and ugly to do them," continues Emma.

"That was partly down to my inner voice and partly due to some people I knew not being very kind and saying some unpleasant things.

"It chips away at your confidence, and comes to haunt you. But as I've got older, I've realised that what other people think is their issue, not mine."

Credit: Peter DP Photography.


Emma, who shares her photos on her Facebook account and on Instagram at miss_em_model, says that her modelling shoots started out as being just for herself, but that as she began to share the images, she realised that other people wer responding to them.

"Recently, I shared a post about becoming more accepting about how I look and someone I know sent me a message to say that they were too self-conscious to wear a swimsuit.

"This person is very attractive and slim, so it shows that people of all shapes and sizes can be insecure. Maybe seeing me, someone who is nearly 40 and is a size 18, might help other people to feel more confident, to think that if I can do it, maybe they can as well.

"I do wish there had been more people like me around in the media when I was younger. All the images of women I saw where the likes of Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford. There's only one type of woman seen in magazines.

"It primes you to think that there is only one way to be attractive. We're conditioned to think that to be attractive, you have to look like a supermodel, but only a very few people look like that. It's an unrealistic goal and can leave you feel that you're lacking something.

"It would have been lovely to have seen different types of people represented in magazines."

Emma says that she would never have imagined when she was in her 20s that she would be sharing photos of herself in swimwear and underwear on social media.

"I would have laughed and said it was ridiculous," she says.

"Even though I was thinner then, I was very self-conscious, so I would have been very surprised. I don't think I would have believed it even five years ago."

* See Emma's artwork at https://emmalouiseharrisart.wordpress.com on Facebook at Emma Louise Harris - Visual Artist

Credit: AV Photography