Tasha’s “Cover Girl” Interview on Facebook – Transcript

This week cover girl is a professional plus size model, singer and activist Ms. Natasha Devon. We are proud to bring you an interview with this gorgerous beauty.

[Cindy] Hello Natasha, first of all let me congratulate you for being the cover girl of Plus Size Models and Curvy Women Fan Club.

You are not only a plus size model but also an ambassador of Body Gossip, the national campaign. Tell us more about this project and your work for it.

[Natasha] Body Gossip was founded by my great friend from school, Ruth Rogers. At 5 ft 9 and a size 8-10 (the kind of girl who has always eaten like a horse and has a ridiculously high metabolism) she was told that she would have to lose weight to become a successful actress. So struck was she by the injustice of this, she founded Body Gossip – She ran a campaign on Facebook and Bebo asking for people to write monologues concerning how they feel about their bodies. She was inundated with thousands of replies. She picked the best 12 (they are absolutely awesome pieces of writing, too, the public truely are more talented than we know) and somehow managed to persuade 12 celebrities, including Natalie Cassidy, Nikki Grahame, Shobna Guillati and beautiful size 16 model Chloe Marshall, to perform the pieces in shows all over the country, with proceeds going to BEAT, the eating disorders charity.

I have obviously known of the campaign since it was a tiny, fledgling idea in the recesses of Ruth’s brain and supported her 100%. I agreed to not only perform at the shows as my musical alter ego, Mis-Dee, but to shout the Body Gossip message from the rooftops. In my capacity as a body image motivational speaker and working for Winning Minds (a therapy practice that uses “neural recoding” to enable clients to conquer mind based issues and specialising in eating disorders) I am quite often in the local press and on radio, so fortunately I have been able to do so!

[Cindy] As a singer you were facing a pressure on your body image. What happend?

[Natasha] I was very severely bulimic at the time and a size 12-14, really quite slender for my 5 ft 11 frame (I’m a size 16-18 now which just goes to show it really is all about proportion!). My then manager arranged a gig in one of the more harshly criticised areas of the London music circuit and, presenting it as my “debut”, asked for the audience to email with their opinions of my performance. Of the 20 or so emails received, only one commented on my vocal prowess saying “that girl had a really good voice”. The rest implied that because I was not, in their view, thin enough, I clearly did not take the music industry seriously. I was absolutely crushed and realised that too often people listen with their eyes and not their ears.

In retrospect, I think I was expected, with my demeanour throughout my performance, to in some way convey that I was apologetic and ashamed of not being the amaciated twiglet I was expected to be. I realised that, as passionate as I was and continue to be about music, being in that sort of environment would only serve to exacerbate my eating disorder and so now Mis-Dee has been relegated to hobby territory!

[Cindy] Eating disorders are getting bigger and bigger problem in these days. It is not only anorexia or bulimia but also obesity. The view on food is really something what changed. A lot of people are not interested what they eat, which quality and quantity, cooking got almost out of fashion, the general relationship to food is the worse in the whole history. Do you think that this attitude causes problems with eating?

[Natasha] People have forgotten to listen to their bodies. One of the things we can re-program your mind to do at Winning Minds is to eat in response to hunger and stop when you are full. It sounds like such a simple concept but people find it so difficult. People eat in response to all sorts of things which have nothing to do with hunger and they are usually emotional – boredom, sadness, loneliness, or in celebration of an achievement. It’s partly because of the way we are programmed as children to see food as a reward and associate it with comfort.

I also think there is a lot to be said for sitting down as a family and making a social event out of eating an evening meal. If you look at countries like Italy – they spend hours slaving over their food, it’s a work of art, and once it has come out of the oven it is given the time and attention it deserves. Everyone from the Grandma to the youngest child in the family sits down to savour it. The obesity rate is much much lower over there and that is not a coincidence.

[Cindy] What are your plans in your career? I have heard something about Gok Wan 😉

[Natasha] First and foremost, I plan to let the World know about the wonder that is Mark Newey, my boss and therapist for Winning Minds. His neural recoding therapy really is astoundingly effective in combatting eating disorders and negative body image because it can directly target and work with the powerful unconscious mind, where our habits and beliefs are stored. Neural recoding focusses on changing the mindset rather than the behaviour (the change in behaviour follows naturally). I really do believe, and this is slightly controversial, that the NHS needs to recognise the effectiveness of NLP (Neuro linguistic Programming, a technique used in neural recoding) in combatting eating disorders. Mark and I have put together a one day eating disorder workshop/seminar so we can reach the highest number of sufferers possible with the resources we have. Ultimately, I want to ensure that no woman or man goes through what I went through.

I also give body image talks in local schools and colleges. I speak about a combination of what I have learned from Mark – How the mind takes on insecurity and false beliefs which make us hate our bodies – and my experience in the music and fashion industry to “deglamorise” the concept of extreme dieting and thinness with the aim of making young people healthy and happy. This is where Gok comes in. I recently learned his show is running a national campaign to get body image put on the National Curriculum and a petition will be submitted to the House of Commons – I’ve been in talks with Gok’s people about working together. That’s all I can really say!

As far as the modelling is concerned, I want to portray an inspiring image that empowers women, rather than fuelling their insecurities. I’m by no means saying that my particular body type, which is very Amazonian, is the “one” definition of beauty, because I don’t believe such a thing exists, merely that the entire spectrum of beauty should be represented in the media and in the fashion industry because wouldn’t it just be so very very boring if we were all the same?

[Cindy] Your body looks very healthy and powerful. How do you keep yourself in condition?

[Natasha] I cannot tell you the freedom and joy I have found in being rid of my eating disorder. It has inspired me to really take care of my body and nourish and nurture it.

I cannot stand gyms – To me they are like modern day torture chambers – an enclosed, windowless cell full of people sweating, grunting and talking about “reps” – yuck. I think all the exercise you need can be done in every day life. I walk a lot – about 4-6 miles per day – and I try to do it as briskly as I can – I challenge myself to beat my last time! I also love to shake my thang on the dance floor and I’m very fortunate as my parents have a swimming pool which I can just leap in whenever I happen to be visiting – swimming is such great exercise – it works all your major muscle groups without straining them.

As far as food goes, I have learned a lot from Mark’s approach with neural recoding. Like nearly every other woman on the planet, I used to think “I’ll start the diet on Monday” and then stuff myself silly until then to compensate for my forthcoming deprivation. The truth is no food is your enemy. I eat slowly and really savour my food and if I’m not enjoying it for any reason, I don’t eat it. I am a real foodie and don’t see the sense in denying that part of my personality – I love to eat!

Most of all, I have learned to accept my body. There are parts of me I really do think are completely gorgeous and I can say that because it’s taken me so long to be able to say that. There are other parts which I’m not so keen on. But it’s the same for every single person out there. My body is healthy and allows me to do the things I want to in life and for that I’m supremely grateful.

[Cindy] Thank you the interview and good luck in everything you do.

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