How we feel about our bodies is constantly changing. In a photo shoot beautifully shot by Alex Cameron (@alex_cameron), six women appear on the pages of Cosmopolitan magazine this month, to chat about their body image and how their individual journeys have impacted what they see in the mirror.
One of these women is Mencap’s very own Myth Buster, Sophie, who has Down Syndrome and wants to show the world that people with a learning disability can feel empowered, comfortable and sexy in their skin – just like everyone else – and spread a little bit of body positivity across the UK along the way!
You can read the article online here. She also shares her thoughts on what it was like to be a model for a day – and some behind-the-scenes photos - below…
What was the Cosmo shoot like?
The day was amazing. I loved getting pampered, meeting lovely people and looking incredible.
What was your favourite part of the day?
People doing my hair and make up.
How did you feel getting to be a model for the day?
It was fantastic!
What songs do you most like to get ready to?
On the Cosmo shoot, we danced together to the Sex and the City theme tune and Harry Styles. I also love 80s music. A Night to Remember by Shalamar is my favourite.
What do you like to do when you get ready?
I like to dance to music whilst getting ready. I always tell myself how beautiful, gorgeous and sexy I am when I look in the mirror.
Why is it important to see more people with Down Syndrome on TV and in magazines and newspapers?
Because people with Down syndrome deserve to be in magazines and for people to see that we also like to have fun and look gorgeous, too.
Sophie’s sister and founder of Down the Lens – a creative workshop for people with a learning disability and additional needs – also shares her thoughts…
How do you feel about Sophie becoming a Mencap Myth Buster?
It's really great Sophie has the opportunity to show people that having Down Syndrome doesn’t stop you from being a party girl. It's another fantastic opportunity for her to break down the stigma that is sometimes still attached to people with learning disabilities.
Can you tell us a bit about your project, Down the Lens?
Down the Lens is a creative workshop for children and adults with a learning disability, which I set up at the beginning of lockdown. Initially we ran drama classes online on Zoom, but now it’s expanded into creative opportunities all over the UK.
What sort of creative opportunities have you worked on with people with a learning disability?
We produced a photoshoot called 'SEE ME' which raised the question: How do some members of society see people with a learning disability? How do they see themselves? How would like they like to be seen?
I’m currently working on a show with a lady who has Down Syndrome and a man with autism, who want to share their love story through digital storytelling, dialogue and movement. They’ve written a whole show themselves and are performing in Manchester this summer; showcasing the fact that people with a learning disability can have emotional, physical and intimate relationships and need to be acknowledged as sexual human beings.
That’s amazing! What’s next for the project?
I’d like to offer workshops within SEN schools and community centres in the future but the ultimate dream would be to have my own creative space in London, so I can provide weekly opportunities for people with learning disabilities and tell their stories to audiences.
What are some myths about learning disability which you’d like to bust?
I’d like to show people that having a learning disability doesn't restrict you from living a fun, empowered meaningful, engaged life. People with a learning disability need to have their voices heard: they have so many insightful and compelling things to say. Having someone with a learning disability in your life makes moments feel more joyous and worthwhile.
What's your favourite thing about being Sophie's sister?
The cuddles! Sophie gives the best cuddles and smothers people with affection which is like medicine for those around her. She’s one of the most caring, thoughtful, gentle, kind souls I know and I love that I can call her my big sister.
What's the biggest life lesson she’s taught you?
To always surround myself with kind people and to try and be confident, comfortable, and content in my own skin. She also taught me to always make my bed in the morning as it sets me up for the day. Sophie is very tidy!
Follow Sophie and Emily’s creative projects @_down.the_lens_
Follow the play Emily wrote about their life together as sisters @sophietheplay
Check out Sophie’s Mencap Myth Buster profile at mencap.org.uk/mythbusters/sophie