Model Leyah Shanks aims to help public self-esteem

Leyah Shanks is wanting Edinburgh people to feel better about themselves. Picture: Complimentary
Leyah Shanks is wanting Edinburgh people to feel better about themselves. Picture: Complimentary
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A model is aiming to get under the skin of people who lack confidence in their bodies and boost their confidence.

Plus-sized model Leyah Shanks will be stopping Festival revellers in the street to ask them what their favourite body part is before snapping their picture.

The 20-year-old is aiming to boost body confidence by highlighting the positives
in people of all shapes and sizes.

She said: “It is alarming that people can have such a negative opinion of themselves and that is something I
really want to change. That’s the main focus of everything that I do.

“People need to be celebrated for who they are. There needs to be a bigger range of shapes and sizes in the media, and we need more disabled models, too. The aim is to make people aware that diversity can be celebrated.

“It is loads of different women of all ages, shapes and sizes just un-airbrushed, 
untouched.”

Using the Fringe as a springboard for her campaign, Leyah said it was going from strength to strength after she attracted thousands of followers on social media websites. She also writes a blog.

She suffered image issues when she was younger and while she plans to go into veterinary care, Leyah is now focusing on helping others overcome their hang-ups.

She is clear that it is not just larger people whom she is targeting.

The Penicuik model added: “It is really important that there are people on both sides of the story. There are people like Kate Moss out there, there are people who are naturally that shape. There are people out there who are naturally curvier.”

Last year, NHS Lothian launched a campaign to teach body-conscious teenagers about airbrushing techniques used by glossy magazines in schools, in response to concerns that youngsters were being influenced by unrealistic images in magazines.

The teenagers were shown the original pictures of models and celebrities before they are airbrushed and compared them with the images after they have been retouched on computers.

Leyah has already won backing from charity B-eat, which offers help on eating disorders, for her campaign.

A spokeswoman said: “It is a really good campaign. We would say that today’s societal pressures are brought to bear on all of us whether we admit to it or not and for somebody to be raising awareness of this can only be a good thing.

“Although low self-esteem around body image is not a cause for an eating disorder, it can be a contributory factor. So it’s important that people realise that it’s what’s inside that counts, not necessarily what is on the outside.

“The pressure is on us all to achieve a so-called body ideal which is often neither achievable nor necessary.

“There is pressure on everybody these days, and that can have a very detrimental effect on somebody’s self-esteem.”