A mum from Chudleigh has shared how she hated her looks and was bullied for being “too fat” – but is now a plus-sized model on a mission to spread a message of body positivity.
Jodie Fagan, 27, was told she was “too ugly” to become a model and was subject to years of torment and bullying about her weight.
At 16, the bullying got so bad that Jodie would force herself to take “handfuls” of diet pills with the hopes of losing weight.
However, after overcoming “years of torture”, Jodie, a size 20, is now on a mission to spread body positivity and is even competing to be crowned Miss Voluptuous UK 2023.
“There were a lot of days where I was left in floods of tears, I felt sick about how I looked,” Jodie, a volunteer at her local youth centre, told NeedToKnow.online.
“When I would tell people at school that I wanted to be a model everyone would just laugh at me, tell me I’m too big, call me ugly and fat.
“Some of the kids would take my lunch from me and tell me I didn’t need to eat because I was fat and had double chins.
“I found it very hard to maintain friendships because of the bullying. People would avoid being my friend as they were scared they would then become a target for bullying, they were embarrassed to be seen with me, I was so lonely.”
After welcoming her daughter Amari, four, in 2017 and seeing the changes to her body – including stretch marks and a C-section scar – Jodie realised she needed to work on her self-esteem and be a good role model for her child.
The mum-of-one said: “I realised I would never want her to think the way I did, I wanted to become a positive role model for her.
“I set up an Instagram account and booked a professional photoshoot. I decided I was no longer going to hide who I was.
“I want to teach other people that everyone looks different and that’s okay, our bodies are just a vessel and it’s who we are inside that matters.”
Jodie decided to try modelling after a friend, who also models, recommended she give it a go and put her in touch with some photographers to build up a portfolio.
She was a natural and is now hoping to make a career out of modelling.
The mum-of-one is now hoping to step even further out of her comfort zone by being crowned Miss Voluptuous UK 2023.
She is representing her home town of Chudleigh after reaching the grand final of the pageant that is specifically aimed at plus-size contestants.
She said: “I don’t know what to expect, I would love to win of course but that is not why I applied.
“I did it to show myself what I am capable of, whether I win or not, I will have accomplished a lot and that’s what matters.”
While Jodie is still exposed to comments from trolls about her weight online, she says she no longer lets them to get to her.
She said: “I still get a lot of horrible messages, particularly from men on my page, a lot of them try to flirt with me, but the minute I don’t give them a response, they turn to hate.
“They try and make me feel insecure, telling me I am self-obsessed, but it no longer gets to me.
“I have learnt to just laugh it off, being called fat now just doesn’t bother me anymore.
“I have grown to have a thick skin, there is only so many times you can cry about something.”
Instead, she is focusing on her future – particularly the upcoming pageant.
Jodie added: “This pageant isn’t based solely around beauty, it is more about how you present yourself as a role model, and what you do in a community.
“It doesn’t look for validation on looks because being crowned most beautiful will not help with positive body image.
“If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be that you are beautiful just the way you are and that things will get better.
“However I wouldn’t change anything about my past, as I wouldn’t be who I am today.”