Body Stories: Ameera

April 23, 2020

Body Stories: Ameera

In Body Stories we talk with ten different D&B customers about their relationship with their body and body image. We ask them how their relationship with their body has changed over time, the influences and pressures, and what they love about their bodies today. 

We loved the candid, thought-provoking conversations that we had with each of the ten women as part of this series. The conversations were both poignant and surprising. We left each one feeling inspired by their story - and hope you do too.

In today's feature we talk with Brighton-born, London-based creative and model, Ameera.

Tell us a bit about you.

I’m Ameera, I’m 24 and I’m a model and freelance creative. I work across fashion and art, I write, I do film work, I make art, I have an artist’s residency at a local school and I do fashion production – organising shoots and so on. I love what I do. I’m addicted to creating and I’m lucky that my passion projects tend to turn into work. I live in South London with my family but I lived in Brighton until I was eight. I often think that my formative teenage years were moulded by my experience of living in London but that my passion for art and for the ocean comes from those first years in Brighton.

What is the earliest memory you have of your body image?

When I was a teenager growing up I remember hating my body. I was always very tall as a child; I remember kids at school used to compare me to a dinosaur. I’d slump down when I stood or walked and I didn’t enjoy being tall at all. It’s actually only recently that I’ve started improving my posture again and I’ve realised that I love my height now.

I remember thinking intensely that if I were white I would be pretty. In my teens I read The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. In the book a little black girl, about 5 years old, looks in the mirror and imagines that she has bright blue eyes. She imagines that with these eyes people will start loving her and that she will be beautiful and accepted. I remember reading it and thinking ‘I’ve felt that exact feeling. I’ve had that exact thought’.

Looking back I feel sorry for my younger self and it makes me realise that I was living in a world that was showing me only one idea of beauty – you know: only ever seeing white people in movies, never seeing a brown person with an English accent, assuming South Asians always smelled of curry. It took a lot of introspection to realise that I carried a lot of those beliefs. It felt like an assumption had already been made that South Asians weren't beautiful. 

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Ameera - Cancer Survivor, Model, Woman of Colour

What have been some of the biggest influences on your body image and your body confidence?

To be honest I think my body image is still something that I grapple with. However, a few years ago I decided to start telling myself that I loved myself, every day. I found that slowly, the more I repeated it, the more it became true. Now whenever I find myself being critical of a part of my body I actively notice it then try to say ‘that’s a part of my body that I love the most’.

For example I used to hate a birth mark that I have on my leg. It changes colour constantly and never looks the same. Now I see it as my own personal mood ring, which changes with the seasons. I realised that you can be the one to change your perspective. At first I was faking it but after a while it became learned and now my birth mark really is my favourite part of my body. You can train your brain. Your brain was trained before to think of something negatively, so you are effectively retraining it to think of it positively.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Ameera - Cancer Survivor, Model, Woman of Colour

You had cancer last year and underwent chemotherapy. Do you think that experience has changed how you feel about your body? How you value it?

Like many people I think my relationship with my body remains complicated, in spite of surviving cancer. I move between thinking ‘my body betrayed me’ to thinking ‘it’s amazing that my body got through that’. I feel some distrust because it was a symptomless cancer found randomly. It feels as though it could be there again and I wouldn’t know. 

On the other hand, since cancer I’m fitter than I have ever been. In November 2019 I still couldn’t walk up the stairs. Having cancer made me really want to commit to getting better so I started consistently working out every day and I find that has made me feel good about myself again. My dad is a good runner and just last week I was racing sprints against him in the garden and I was faster. I found myself thinking ‘I’m good at this full stop’, rather than ‘I’m good at this for a cancer survivor’.

Cancer changed my body and a lot of my insecurities have come back since being unwell. I was put on a lot of steroids which made me put on weight. I went through that whole thing of trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that were too small, which felt horrible, as my weight fluctuated from a size 8 to a size 14. They would weigh me every day in hospital and I was gaining a kilogram a day.

Even in the context of recovering and gaining strength did weight gain feel like a bad thing?

Honestly, I’m conflicted. I didn’t want to be losing weight and I wouldn’t have made it through chemotherapy if I lost too much weight but, yes it’s mad, even in that life and death scenario, weight gain still felt stigmatised. In the end, I bought myself a new wardrobe of clothes that fit my new body and felt fabulous again.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Ameera - Cancer Survivor, Model, Woman of Colour

What do you love about your body today?

I love its ability to change; the fact that it keeps developing and healing. I keep passing goals that I’ve always had for it. It’s stronger than I thought it ever could be. I still have some challenges post-chemotherapy, sometimes I worry that this is as healed as it will get and then it surprises me and gets even better. But also it’s not a straight line – it’s constant ups and downs. I find it amazing that your body can flare up and then get better, and you learn to deal with what's given to you.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Ameera - Cancer Survivor, Model, Woman of Colour

And finally, what makes you feel amazing in your body?

Three months after finishing chemotherapy I went on a surf trip. Looking back I think ‘what was I doing?’ ‘Why would you do that?’ But at the time it had felt like I’d been stuck inside for so long because of chemotherapy. I had cabin fever and so it was a bit of escapism. I was no good at surfing but I didn’t care. It was beyond enough to think ‘wow, I’m in the sea. I’m meeting people, I’m getting outside. I’m alive’.

Deakin and Blue - Body Stories - Ameera - Cancer Survivor, Model, Woman of Colour

Loved reading this?

Take a look at the previous blogs in this series featuring AmyMelanie, Charlotte, Naomi and Kath.