At first glance you wouldn’t think that professional hula hooper Marawa Ibrahim had any body insecurities – after all, she does twirl around in a leotard in front of an audience for her day job – but this hasn’t always been the case.

She was once told she was “too chubby” to be a performer and was made to feel self-conscious about her body as she reached puberty and “grew huge boobs overnight”. But since graduating circus school in 2004, the 31-year-old has spent her time travelling around the world as a professional hula hooper and has broken eight world records (and counting), including most hoops spun by an individual and fastest 100m in high-heeled skates. Talk about #lifegoals.

Now, she’s written a new book for girls about puberty and body image, to help them feel comfortable in their own skin. The Girl Guide shares 50 lessons that all girls should know when learning to love their changing bodies – covering everything from spots to sweat, periods to thrush.

Marawa draws from her own cringe-tastic experiences (and is backed up by expert Dr Janice K Hillman and fun illustrations by Sinem Erkas) to answer the questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Honest, funny and ultimately reassuring, think of her like an older sister you might not have – someone who’s been there, done that and got the embarrassing story printed on her t-shirt.

So Marawa – why did you want to write the book?

When I was younger and started going through puberty, I had no idea what was happening to my body. This was before the internet and all I had was a few books that were dated or irrelevant – a serious medical book about pain or a pink wishy-washy book that brushed over topics. I had so many questions and no answers. Now, anyone can type a question into the internet and have uncertified and false answers that come up. You will either think you’re dying or get wrong advice about things.

I felt like I was the only one. But growing up I realised that everyone had been going through the same experience, we just didn’t talk about it. I spent so much time worrying on my own about things that were completely normal.

As I got older I realised that someone needs to write a book for young girls growing up. Not a boring book about babies, but something that really got in there and covered all things that change. So, I started to make a list: skin, thrush, how the menstrual cycle works, how it feels when you have your first period, stretch marks. I kept writing and writing the list and eventually we ended up with 50 things.

It’s based on your own experience and is very, very honest. Was it important to write it in this style?

I wanted to show that I’ve been there and completely understand what girls are going through. I want to share that experience in a way that doesn’t feel too far removed – like a big sister.

There are some pretty gross stories too, but it’s important to include them so people can relate… We’ve created a safe space and addressed the elephant in the room, to say: yes, periods leak in public and it’s embarrassing but here’s how you deal with it.

What was your body image like growing up?

I went through a very short phase of poor body image when I was about 14. My body changed and people would comment. I grew huge boobs overnight and started wearing triple XXXL jumpers trying to hide every curve and shape on me.

When you suddenly grow boobs and people treat you differently – people you’ve known for years, family friends, people from school – it’s strange, unfamiliar and makes you feel uncomfortable.

But apart from that period of my life, I think I’ve been lucky. I won’t buy into it. If anyone wants to make a comment about my body, they’ll know about it!

How did you overcome those insecurities growing up?

I was really lucky my mum was just normal about the whole thing. “You’re going through puberty, you’re going to put on some weight, you’re gonna lose it or you might not. It won’t matter either way,” she told me.

I don’t know how I would have coped without her, she was my lifeline. Other girls I went to school with felt shame in their bodies and pressure from friends and family – some girls I knew had mums who put them on diets. It makes me so angry. Girls are having enough trying to adapt and adjust to what’s going on with their bodies.

I put on weight and I lost it again, my body has been many different sizes and my bras have been many different sizes over the years but we all deserve [to] and should feel comfortable in our bodies.

If you had once piece of advice for girls going through puberty today what would it be?

Don’t trust the internet. A lot of the images you see of people online are airbrushed or filtered – they are not real life. Also, there is a a lot of false information and bad medical advice out there. So make sure you can trust the source; try a recommended source like the NHS.

There are a lot of embarrassing stories in the book, which readers will love. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you while performing?

I once fell over on stage while I was wearing a cape. As I stood up I pierced my heel in the cape, and it got caught around my neck and I fell down again. That was embarrassing.

I always get worried that I’m going to fart, but I haven’t. I always hold it just in case.

Tell us the story of your first period…

I wasn’t at home. It was awful. I felt like I was wetting my pants, but I wasn’t wetting my pants. I knew what was happening and I was horrified. I went in the toilet and I just stayed there because I didn’t have any sanitary products and I didn’t want to tell anyone. But you have to tell someone. There was so much blood. I just put loads of toilet paper in my knickers and waddled out to my mum and was like: “Help!”

I remember her telling me to put two pads on when I went to sleep, in case I rolled over and leaked. So I went to bed in this kind of giant nappy and I couldn’t sleep. I wish it was a positive story but it was awful and I hated it. But, it got easier.

How do you deal with your period while performing?

I have a combination of things: generally I use tampons, most of the girls I work with use mooncups, but I also use period-absorbing knickers called Thinx. They’re perfect for me: high-waisted and fit under anything.

If you could tell your 14-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

Don’t worry, it gets easier. You find all these body changes hard and feel out of control of your body right now – [maybe] your boobs grew huge overnight and your period is irregular (it just starts sometimes for no reason) – but you will get used to your changing body and learn how to deal with it. It gets easier.

The Girl Guide, written by Marawa Ibrahim in consultation with Doctor Janice K Hillman and illustrated by Sinem Erkas, is out now. Buy your copy here.


Here are some things that count as ‘showing off’: loudly telling everyone your mock results when they didn’t ask. Doing perfect cartwheels during hockey practice. Instagrams from your beach holiday when you know it’s raining back home.

Here’s something that doesn’t count as ‘showing off’: lifting up your arm when there is some entirely natural hair underneath it. Nope. Not even a little bit. That’s called, well, lifting your arm up when there’s some perfectly natural hair underneath it. Ipso facto, Lourdes Leon isn’t ‘showing off’ her underarm hair any more than I’m showing off my elbows by wearing a t-shirt. Or showing off my nose by… having a nose.

But we’re all agreed on that, aren’t we? Because we’re all cool with the fact that bodies have hair in all kinds of places, and that it’s 100% up to us whether we choose to get rid of it or embrace it tenderly. Shave it, wax it, trim it, grow it, plait it, glitter it, or just let it do its sweet thing.

Sadly though, certain corners of the British media are still playing catch up as far as being chill about women’s bodies goes. And so when Madonna’s daughter went on a lovely beach holiday this week, she made headlines in loads of tabloid papers for ‘flaunting’, ‘parading’ and yep, ‘showing off’ her unshaven pits on the beach. Boring, guys. We are bored.


Instead let’s take a moment to salute Madonna Junior for following in her mum’s iconic footsteps – by not giving a s**t, doing her own thing, and being fantastically hirsute while she does it. Besides, Lourdes, you’re just saving yourself a load of painful shaving cuts. And nobody has time for this kind of hassle.


It’s here! The best holiday of the year. Seriously, Easter is the ideal holiday, there’s none of the pressure of Christmas, none of the outfit stress of Halloween and none of the pressure of New Year’s Eve. It’s the Chris Pratt of holidays, but with delicious snacks.

Here’s everything we’ve been reading, watching and loving this week.

Could we *be* more excited?

Pretty much as soon as the final episode of Friends aired and we watched the six of them (plus a few babies) wander down to Central Perk for the last time, people were clamouring for a reunion. And now they’ve got it. Sort of. According to The Independent, there’s an off-Broadway musical coming to New York later this year called Friends! The Musical, written by Bob and Tobly McSmith who have written similar musicals for 90210 and Full House. The show will feature songs such as ‘The One Where We Make A Million Dollars An Episode,’ ‘The Only Coffee Shop in New York,’ ‘Oh. My God. It’s Janice!’. We’ll be there for you…if we can get free flights and accommodation in New York.

This idea has legs

Yoga teacher, Shea penned a love letter on her Instagram account, @shastavibes. But it’s not to a her partner or her crush, she’s written a love letter to her thighs. Turns out, poking them and wishing they miraculously become smaller is stupid and also, might lead to bruising. Instead, why not join Shea and the body positivity movement that seems to be growing more and more brilliant everyday. Kudos Shea, and kudos to your thighs too.

Dear Thighs, "I’m in love with you, every inch, every lump all the way up from my knees to my rump" You may not be slender, or tanned, or smooth, but you’re up for the challenge when I start to move you power through squats, lunges, and stairs, and you don’t seem to mind when some people glare" ..✏️📓 ____________________________________________________ This whole journey to body acceptance and self-love is kind of a roller coaster, but an exciting one that I’m gonna keep riding. Each day I am learning that my self-worth is based less on what others think and more on how I feel. And lately, I feel really good. I was realizing today that my body is becoming less of an object of comparison in my mind, and more of a tool. My body is a method of accomplishing day to day things and that’s it. So far it’s doing a damn good job. In fact, it rarely lets me down. So for that reason alone, I should be completely in love with it. So to my thighs and all my other perfectly strong and functional body parts, thank you for getting shit done. <3 #postpartumfitness #postpartumbody #thickfit #thunderthighs #plussize #thickwomen #thickyogi #melanin #blackyogasuperstars

A post shared by Shea (@shastavibes) on

We Read Too

Kaya Thomas, a university student in the State was tired of not seeing enough people of colour or women in tech in books. So, like a boss, she decided to do something about it. She’s created an app called We Read Too which features over 600 books with main characters who are people of colour or women in tech. The idea, design and coding are all her own, NBD. When you spoke to Teen Vogue about why she thinks this project is so important she explained, “It’s for those of who want young people of color to be exposed to books where they seem themselves reflected in the characters and the authors. But it’s also for people who want to be exposed to different cultures than their own…I think fiction especially helps you get a better understanding of another person’s story, and that helps you build empathy.” Aaaaaand download.

Orange is the New Black Season Five Trailer

The trailer for Season 5 of Orange is the New Black has dropped and urgh, now it’s just left us with more questions. It picks off where season four ended, with Daya pointing a gun at CO Humphrey’s head with the rest of the inmates screaming at her to shoot him. Then, because the people who make trailers are evil geniuses, the screen goes black and you hear a gunshot and everyone screams. So. Much. Intrigue. Season Five will be released on Friday June 9th, and apparently will take place “in real-time over the course of three days”. Urgh, only 56 days to wait.

Baby, put your hands up. Literally.

Look, this isn’t really news. But it’s adorable and it’s Easter and so we’re going to throw it in anyway.

Have a lovely Easter x

Are you feeling a little clumsier than usual? Finding yourself tripping over cracks in the pavement, doormats, your own stupid feet? Don’t worry, you haven’t just woken up one day with the coordination of a baby deer. It’s probably just because you’ve grown a few inches instead.

During adolescence, girls can grow at a rate of up to 8cm per year. That’s the length of an iPhone 6. Or a £20 note. Or Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix stacked on top of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Am I going to be a towering giantess?

It’s hard to say definitively how tall you’ll grow to be, but your height is largely decided by your parents. Your parents’ heights, that is – they didn’t get to fill out a request form. If you have tall parents, you might want to take up basketball. If your parents are on the shorter side, a glowing career as a gymnast or jockey might await you. Or not. Point is, there’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ height – they all have their pros and cons.

If you’re on the smaller size of things, you will always have more legroom on planes, you will never hit your head on doorframes and you can shop in Topshop’s Petite section. If you’re on the taller side of things, you will always be able to reach the top shelf in the supermarket, you might be effortlessly good at the high jump in PE, and you can shop in Topshop’s Tall section. And medium height? Well, Topshop might sell out of 32″ jeans quicker, but at least you’ll never have to grit your teeth while aunties comment on your remarkable stature over Sunday dinner.

How does it work?

Your hands and feet are the first things to grow, so next time you feel your shoes pinching, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re going to have a growth spurt in the not-too-distant future.

Next come your arms and legs, and then your spine. Finally, your hips and pelvis widen, making you less likely to blow over in the wind.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • Your height is closely linked to your parents' heights. But tall, short and everything in between is beautiful – so embrace it.
  • Often during your teenage years, growth spurts happen so quickly that your brain struggles to keep up. Hence the tripping over.
  • Growth spurts are often triggered during puberty as the levels of testosterone rise in both boys and girls.
  • Girls generally grow their fastest at 12-13 and tend to finish growing around 18, while boys grow their fastest between 14 and 15 and finish growing around 20.

Often during your teenage years growth spurts happen so quickly that your brain struggles to keep up. Hence the tripping. Your centre of gravity is changing so rapidly that your brain is having to calculate new rules for balancing, like, all the time.

Some people also experience growing pains, which can feel like an intense, cramp-like pain in your legs. Like owls, witches and vampires they generally only come out at night, and will have disappeared by the morning.  

Why now?

Growth spurts are often triggered during puberty as levels of the hormone testosterone rise in both boys and girls. This chemical also causes sexual organs (willies, vaginas, those guys) to develop, which is why these two things often happen at once. It’s kinda like a biological version of synchronised swimming. But not really.

When will it stop?

Girls generally grow at their fastest rate at 12-13 and tend to finish growing around 18. On average, boys grow their fastest between 14 and 15 and finish growing around 20.

So hold onto your hats ladies, we’ve got some growin’ (and tripping over inanimate objects) to do! But whatever height you end up, work it. Every inch of you is A++. 

What did you call your vagina when you were a child? Did you call it anything at all? Were you even taught the difference between vaginas and vulvas?

I didn’t learn any of that until biology at school; at home my brother and I called our genitalia ‘wee-wee’s, and any other ‘difficult’ parts of the anatomy – breasts, testicles, weird moles – my mother just wrote off as ‘do-do’s and left us to figure out the rest. So out of curiosity, I decided to ask women I know what they called their vaginas and vulvas as kids. And the results are AMAZING.

1. There

2. Down There

3. The Thing

4. Bits

5. Bottom

6. Front Bottom

7. Wee-wee

8. Moneybox

9. Purse

10. Tuppence

11. Lady Garden

12. Tiddler

13. Miffy

14. VG

15. Foufou

16. Doodle

17. Doodie

18. Noony

19. Nunny

20. Minnie

21. Mooey

22. Minnie-moo

23. Mary

24. Wendy

25. Twinkie

26. Twinkle

27. Mimsy

28. Pry-pry

29. Foof

30. Fairy

31. Flower

32. Fanny

33. Wanny

34. Gee

35. Hoop

36. Penny

37. Pam

38. Ying-yang

39. Buntsy

40. Tail

41. Nesty

42. Pinky

43. Chuffy

44. Winkle

45. Gina

46. Pia

47. Chotchi

48. Mimi

49. Bunny

50. Pocket

51. Popkin

52. No-no

53. Noo-noo

54. Felicity

55. Sally

56. Button

57. Loopy-loo

And my personal favourite…

58. Lettuce.

‘Vagina’ doesn’t seem quite so weird now, does it?


Girls in the UK are in the midst of a body confidence crisis, and the cult of ‘perfection’ isn’t helping. Our guest writer Adeola Gbakinro tells us how we can help change that. 

What is low body confidence? When I was younger I felt like I needed to fit in, I believed there were criteria I needed to meet. If I didn’t fit into those criteria, there was risk of ridicule, or even being bullied. The peer pressure from friends, the ‘ideal’ girl that we thought boys liked – it made me want to be ‘perfect’.

According to the Girls’ Attitudes Survey, published by Girlguiding, 49% of girls aged 11-16 fear people will criticise their body if someone takes their picture. I know all too well how this feels and just what a detrimental and lasting impact it can have on the happiness and mental wellbeing of a young woman. If an individual has a negative perception of their body, perhaps they feel they’re not ‘pretty enough’ or don’t look the ‘right way,’ then hearing one negative comment can increase this x 100.

I can’t help but think that if I’d had a safe place and time in school, to discuss the core issues and importance of positive body confidence, I would not have let the pressure around me sink in. I would have been better prepared to deal with the situations I faced and to challenge them.

In the Girls’ Attitudes Survey  75% of girls aged 11 – 21 told us they believe  women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability and 47% aged 11–21 said the way they look holds them back. One look at the media and you see thousands of airbrushed photos, portraying this ‘perfect’ image of a woman where she fits a particular size and shape, where the person she is and the things she achieves are rarely mentioned. 

It is so easy to compare yourself to everything you see in magazines and on billboards. Recognising that your own body doesn’t look anything like that can make you feel inadequate and it becomes increasingly harder to ‘be yourself.’

As a Girlguiding advocate, I believe this needs changing and the time is now!

Girlguiding is campaigning for compulsory Personal, Social and Health Education and Sex and Relationships Education to include body confidence and healthy relationships. We want girls to be confident in their bodies, from their school years through to adulthood, and we believe education can play a major part in this. By teaching body confidence in schools, girls can learn how to increase their self-esteem and learn how to value themselves.

Girls and young women need to be reassured that there is no perfect image. Their size, shape or height does not define how far they can reach in life.

We need to teach girls that they are awesome whatever their shape and size.

In Girlguiding, through resources such as our Think Resilient and Free Being Me badges, we inspire girls to be confident within themselves. But we know much still needs to be done and we believe it can start in school.

You can help us achieve this by signing the petition here.

Adeola Gbakinro, 20, is a member of the Girlguiding Advocate panel. The Advocate panel is made up of 18 girls and young women aged 14-25 who speak out and call for change.

Image: Manjit Thapp