(*My immense and undeniable talent for “The Laura Show” when confronted with more than one set of eyeballs.)
She asked me to smile, and tilt my chin, and contort my shoulder, and I knew then she’d been overly complimentary so that I was putty in her hands, and as such would do whatever she told me to. Move my back like this? Swerve my hip like that? WHATEVER YOU NEED, PHOTOGRAPHER LADY WHO HAS COMPLIMENTED ME SO! Whatever. You. Want.
The Tweet had fluttered towards me only the week before. “Laura,” the features director of the national magazine had crammed into 140 characters. “Can you follow me so I can DM you? V. important!”
It transpired she’d seen The Book of Brave, and wanted me to help launch a campaign for Marie Claire UK on – and I quote – saying no to the crap stuff women have to put up with, complete with fancypants photoshoot.
Part of a national movement.
Because of a pdf file I’d charged folks money for through a website I made on Blogger.
That’s the thing about opportunity. They tell you to make your own but nobody ever really breaks that down. Pinterest quotes allude to “the hustle” and “owning it”, and I didn’t realise until I was in the make-up chair, dressed by a stylist and my hair being pulled at by a professional, talking about bravery and fearlessness and fearfulness, that I made that opportunity by being unabashedly myself. I doggedly got on with the business of what thrills me, what makes my heart sing, and then somebody vibing on the same level noticed. And that person just happened to work at Time Inc. I don’t think it’s about “fake it til you make it” so much as “Geek out on whatever ever makes you the most you you can be, and trust the process of it.” Admittedly, my slogan is less catchy, but my point remains: this is certainly never something I could've "pitched" for.
I was invited the other side of the computer screen after she snapped me, after they got me on video, to see, to know, and I declined. "I have a chin thing," I said. "It's not my job to be beautiful, it's somebody else's. And if I look at those I will forget that. So. Just pick the non-troll-like one, please." I’m not here to be hot, or sexy, or photogenic, you see. I’m here to laugh like a drunk sailor and get cold sweats over story ideas. I’m here to get so engrossed in what I love – words – that I forget to wash my hair or have children.
Anyway, not that you’ll be surprised but - I digress.
The Marie Claire #BREAKFREE campaign is designed to challenge society, and ourselves, in breaking free from shame, ageism, mother guilt, body hate, gender, labels, likes, Islamophobia and fear. I got photographed alongside eight other businesswomen, bloggers and campaigners all shouting about how life is scary, that being a woman is hard, that it’s okay to want what we want, how we want it.
New year – life – isn’t, for me, about becoming a new person. New year – life – is about becoming the person you already are, but hide away because it can take an alarming amount of courage to be yourself in a world that tells you to be anything but. I was bullied in high school for my passion. For my hyperbole. For The Laura Show. I’ve been bullied by so-called friends in the years since. It took me ten years to stop apologizing for having a voice, and to understand I am entitled to the space I take up, right along with the next person.
I don’t do new year resolutions any more, because I set monthly ones - it suits my short-sightedness better. But I do set an annual theme. 2013 was “The Joy of Missing Out” to combat my FOMO. 2014 was #StrongandSexy, as I prioritized my health. Last year I said, sit at the grown-up’s table. This year, my theme is circling somewhere around “Let it scare you.”
I do my best – rise to the challenge of myself – when I’m shitting bricks. When I’m not sure if I can. When what I’m chasing is as terrifying as the notion of not going for it at all. I might be the poster child for breaking free from fear, but what I actually mean is being fearful and knowing we’re not alone in that. Trying anyway. Knowing that fucking up isn’t the end – not trying is.
And so, as I write this, here as a national magazine’s bravery ambassador, I’m not shy in saying: screw up. Make mistakes. Give yourself permission to see what feels good. Decide for yourself. Dare to be who you are. That - most of all. In 2016, be more you. You're a marvel. Own that. That's how to #BREAKFREE.
If you want to read about the campaign, the February issue of Marie Claire is on newstands now! Marie Claire UK are encouraging women to contribute to the discussing using the #BREAKFREE hashtag.