Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Cosmo Awards, The Body Gossip Book and an Unfortunate Incident Involving Three Inch Heels!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that for every triumph in one’s life the universe will find a way to deal an equal and opposite moment of completely hideous, cringeworthy embarrassment. This is fate’s way of stopping us from becoming too big for our metaphorical boots. Which is a deliberately ironic turn of phrase, since I was quite literally sent crashing back down to earth by my actual knee-high boots.

Last Tuesday, Ruth and I were awarded one of Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Ultimate Women of the Year Awards. As an avid Cosmo fan since my mid-teens, I was reduced to a squealing idiot when I heard the news. You can see my attempt to recreate the high pitched ‘squee’ noise which emanated from my frenzied self about two minutes into this video (may I suggest removing any pet dogs in the vicinity first) :

The award ceremony was one of those nights during which you spend every second desperately trying to commit it firmly to memory because you know you’ll dine out on tales of it for many years to come. Everything was starry, swanky, glossy and glitzy. Ruth and I rubbed shoulders with the likes of Fearne Cotton (who is hilarious), Mark Wright and Katie Piper. We supped champagne. We posed for endless photos and spoke to people wielding large, fluffy microphones. People ‘mwah mwah-ed’ us. I lept on Rylan from X Factor and sucked his cheekbone, intoxicated on a combination of adrenaline and free booze. You know, that sort of thing.

Cosmopolitan is unlike many of its contemporary glossies. Yes, there are the mandatory fashion and beauty pages. But there are also articles on how to get a pay rise, the plight of women in less economically developed countries and the laws relating to rape in the UK. The magazine encapsulates the idea that you can be a free thinking feminist and also get excited by a beautiful pair of shoes. It acknowledges that it’s not an ‘either or’ situation.

As a body confidence campaigner who enjoys wearing makeup, doing ridiculous, attention-seeking things with my hair and even, Lord-forbid, exhibiting cleavage, Cosmopolitan couldn’t be more aligned with my life-philosophy. My self-esteem classes are all about putting fashion and glamour back in its box, relegating them to a place of fun and experimentation, to the 10% of our brain space they deserve. Just as diets that involve completely cutting out all your favourite foods rarely lead to long-term health, completely denying yourself the opportunity to express yourself using your face and body isn’t the solution to the body confidence crisis.

I said some of this in my acceptance speech, much to Deputy Feature Editor Rosie Mullender’s delight. “You get it!” she exclaimed in the bar afterwards. Do I ever. So, I was feeling rather pleased with myself when, a couple of days later, I went to Cambridge to teach in a secondary school. I opened the classroom door with a broad smile, surveyed the little faces turned towards me….and promptly tripped on my three inch heels and fell arse-over-tit.

If you’ve never fallen over in front of a group of teenagers – it’s completely unlike falling in front of adults. Adults would swarm to your aid and ask you if you were okay. Teenagers just laugh. Lots. I fell awkwardly, injuring both my leg and my upper back. Desperately fighting the urge to shout obscenities and/or cry I heaved myself up, took off my boots and proceeded to teach barefoot for the rest of the day. Since then my leg just hasn’t functioned in the way I’m used to. It’s slow. I can’t dash across the road, nipping between London busses as I traverse the street because I’d actually get run over and die. My spacial awareness no longer reflects my body’s ability. I have to go to a crossing and wait for the green man. Stairs have become my enemy. Friends ‘tut’ at me as I hobble down the street at the pace of a slightly punch-drunk turtle.

And suddenly it dawned on me….

Our bodies and their ability to allow us to get from day to day are all too easily taken for granted. It’s only when you malfunction in some way that you remember your health is the most precious commodity you own.

Which brings me nicely onto the Body Gossip book. In September we released an anthology of more than 300 body stories written by real people from throughout the UK. And there’s a whole chapter on illness and injury. Stories just like the one above (accept, you know, more inspiring and less about someone making a gigantic tit out of themselves because of their penchant for precarious footwear). What could be a better Christmas present than making someone realise how lucky they are to have the body they do? Or if you or someone you love has challenges with their body, letting them know they’re not alone?

You can buy the Body Gossip book here:

It also affords the opportunity to play what I have affectionately dubbed ‘dirty Where’s Wally’ and match the photographs of naked body parts to various members of the Body Gossip team. My boobs are there, being all conspicuous. Go on, you know you wanna.