Keeping it real

Kate Johnson is striving to help young women develop positive body image and self-esteem

Written by Kate Johnson
Close-up of a young woman smiling.

As a long-term youth worker and a professional model, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the modelling industry can misrepresent to our youth, and the negative impact this often has.

Through my youth work with the Australian Air Force Cadets, model tutoring and delivering workshops over the past few years, I’ve learnt that as high as 80 per cent of women across Australia say the images of women on television and in movies, fashion magazines and advertising make them feel insecure.

Millions of teenagers worldwide idolise what they see in the media. Body image is closely linked to self-esteem, and low self-esteem in adolescents can lead to eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. These are serious social problems that can only be tackled by those very people who our youth look up to: models and beauty queens.

Understanding the ‘theatre and fantasy’ of beauty

I established my blog chicnation.com.au as a sophisticated educational resource hub to help and inspire young women in leading their own happy and healthy life. I only had a limited number of role models in my early years and I wasted my teens (and more of my 20s than I’d care to admit) consumed by insecurity and hiding from my past.

Here I stand all this time later, working in the very industry I had grown to despise, and actually understanding how it all works – and lo and behold, I enjoy the work and the wealth of talent and passion I am always surrounded by immensely! I never needed to be insecure after all – I know for a fact I don’t wake up looking like any of my campaign images, and it’s important for young girls to understand the theatre and fantasy that goes into creating these picture-perfect people.

My own journey is a far cry from the glitz and glamour that my name and profile is often associated with today. By sharing my own story – complete with being raised by a quadriplegic mother, surviving a sexual assault and enduring a miscarriage – with my knowledge of how the industry actually works, I’m really aiming to inspire and empower teenagers to focus more on inner beauty than to strive for the digital perfection. I don’t wake up looking like my campaign images; I have a team of highly specialised professionals to create my look for that.

As soon as you accept the things you can’t change or change the way you think about them, you’ll move past just existing and really start living. If only I was there to tell me that back then. Hindsight is a beautiful thing!

Over the years I’ve learnt that it is just as important to nurture your mind as it is to nourish your body. Managing your thoughts, fears, worries and insecurities whilst maintaining a balanced diet, combined with regular exercise…that’s a healthy mind and body!

Sharing the goodness

Since being crowned Mrs Australia International for 2014 I have directed my charity work with the Touch of Goodness Foundation to focus on building teenage self-esteem and tackling body confidence issues – all part of ‘sharing the goodness.’

I am also honoured to be an Ambassador for the Beautiful You Australia campaign, which challenges the stereotypical definition of beauty and celebrates women for what they are, and also a guest speaker at the Beautiful Minds Girlfriend Magazine Event for teenage girls. It’s wonderful that my message is getting out there and I hope this leads to other public figures following suit in ‘keeping it real’ with their blogs and social media as well. The world is full of beautiful people; it’s time to add some substance!

*Read more about Kate's favourite healthy things, and find inspiration for positive, nourished living at chicnation.com.au*

Body image can have a real impact on self confidence and mental wellbeing. We took to the streets of Melbourne’s CBD to chat to parents and teenagers about body image, how comfortable they feel discussing it, and how celebrities image impact their self-esteem.

Written by Kate Johnson

Kate Johnson is a model, blogger at chicnation.com.au, charity ambassador for the Touch of Goodness foundation, and the founder of Purfectly Chic by Kate Johnson. She was crowned Mrs Australia International for 2014.

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