Book Review: Body Image Warrior by Chelsea Bonner


A (very) brief plot overview

Chelsea Bonner, the founder of Bella Management, writes about her journey to creating a modelling agency that represents beauty in all shapes and sizes as well as her own personal journey to self acceptance.

What’s good about it?

First of all, pretty much everything Chelsea Bonner says is something that a young woman needs to hear. Whilst a lot of it is something that deep down we all know, such as the models that you see in magazines are not meant to portray a realistic reality, the fact that the message comes from someone so prominent in the modelling industry makes the message hit home better. Chelsea writes in a way that doesn’t feel like you are being lectured and told to love yourself as you are, but as an older friend or a sister pointing out the things they have learnt that they know you need to hear.

First of all, as someone who originates from England I have never heard of Chelsea Bonner or her family, but that didn’t stop me from understanding any of the anecdotes in the book. If anyone was going to be put off by the fact that they didn’t know who she was, don’t be – her writing is so great that by the end of it you feel like you know her anyway.

Chelsea talks at length about how the modelling industry as it is can be damaging to not only the people looking at the images, but to the models themselves. So often we are confronted with the airbrushed, edited and filtered images and just think of how we compare to them, not how the eighteen year old in the image has had their self esteem and confidence shattered to get to a point that they are ‘thin enough’ to be photographed. In the age of Instagram where everything appears perfect, to have someone point out the dieting, the starvation and the ill health behind those images is really important. It reminds us all to not judge things on first sight, to take a step back and sit in reality.

One of the biggest messages in this book for me is that size does not dictate health or beauty. This is such a common narrative, yet it is incorrect. To have someone explicitly and repeatedly point this out is brilliant. Chelsea talks about how she herself was one of the fittest people on her cycle team, yet she was the biggest. She talks about how women have had to starve themselves or resort to drug usage to become a smaller dress size, a dress size that would be labelled as ‘healthy’ even though these women had destroyed their healthy to achieve it. After the Nike mannequin outcry, anything that reinforces this message that you cannot look at a person’s size and determine their health is incredibly important.

Chelsea’s writing and her ideas are repeatedly supported by references and quotes from journals and scientific publications, showing that this is a well thought out, well researched piece of non fiction. It was really interesting, and on occasion quite shocking, to read some of the statistics and facts. The inclusion of these parts served to highlight the growing nature of the problem as well as show why it was so vital that someone like Chelsea wrote this book.

By the end of the book, you have a real admiration of Chelsea for writing it. It can’t have been easy to expose some of the secrets of the modelling industry and to retell painful moments from her life, just like it can’t have been easy for her to go through some of the experiences she went through. Having people shun her for representing plus size models and wanting to make fashion more inclusive must have been tough, but Chelsea is a strong woman and someone I think would be a brilliant role model for women everywhere. She had a vision, worked relentlessly and often survived off of passion alone to make the change she saw was needed in the world – if that isn’t a role model, I’m not sure what is.

What’s not so good?

Personally I found that sometimes the message of this book became a little jumbled. I think that is due to the nature of the writing – it is part autography, part self help, part social commentary, part call to arms, part factual reporting, part documentation of the rise of Bella Management. Sometimes it seemed to veer too far into Chelsea’s personal life that is lost a little of the body positive message, but alternatively if this book was to be read as an autobiography then sometimes the factual elements of body image and the reality of modelling made it too far removed from Chelsea’s life. The intentions of the book are brilliant, but I imagine when writing it there was so much content to cover and so many angles to write about that it was hard to streamline it to one specific genre.

Rate Me: 9/10. Ladies, if you are even slightly insecure about yourself, add this book to your Christmas list – you won’t regret it.

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