Do you hear the words, “Oh my God you’re SO EXTRA!” more often than your name? Do you start each week vowing to control your OTT behaviour, only to get to Wednesday and turn back into a human meme? Well, my fellow drama queens, that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK; it’s downright fabulous.

You see, I might keep them under wraps 75% of the time, but I definitely have ‘so extra’ tendencies. Case in point: wearing a dress with my own face on it to my 21st birthday party – and the fun didn’t end there, oh no. I then changed into a black leotard and gold glove for a surprise solo performance of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies dance. Yep, I watched way too many episodes of My Super Sweet 16 growing up, but there’s no shame in that.

In fact, being extra could be the antidote to a world where we’re too often taught it’s cool to play it cool. In relationships (“don’t text back too quickly!”), fashion (“why does she always try so hard?”) or in social situations (“ugh, she’s just so LOUD!”), we’re always being told not to care too much or show our excitement too easily. Whether they realise it or not, unapologetically extra gals are actually paving the way for their fellow females to speak up for themselves, and to do, say or dress as they please without judgement.

Take Beyoncé, for example (can you tell I’m obsessed?). Whenever she has an important announcement to make, be it a tour or the birth of her twins, does she just send out a tweet or a statement from her spokesperson? Indeed she does not. There’s a full-blown Instagram photo shoot every time, with the first snap of her baby twins garnering over 10 million likes to date.

Sir Carter and Rumi 1 month today. 🙏🏽❤️👨🏽👩🏽👧🏽👶🏾👶🏾

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Not that it’s about the ‘likes’, of course; quite the opposite. Being truly extra means giving zero cares as to what others think of your decisions. It’s all about what YOU want to wear, say, do and project onto the world, without actually needing their approval. It’s about the dress code being casual, and you turning up in sweats with six-inch heels and stacks of jewellery. You’re not being rude, that’s just how you chose to interpret ‘casual’.

There’s a level of self-awareness that comes with being extra, too, which Rihanna demonstrates perfectly. “When you a plus 1 but squad wanna come,” she captioned a recent Instagram photo of her, hairstylist Yusef Williams, personal assistant Jenn Rosales and BFF/photographer Melissa Forde. Yes, RiRi was being extra with her entourage, but she owned it. “Spam,” is another of her favourite captions, for when she posts five frames of a red carpet or shoot instead of one – classic extra behaviour.

when you a plus 1 but squad wanna come

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on

Being in on the ‘extra’ joke is all part of the fun. While in my day-to-day life I’m generally limited to wearing head-to-toe sequins or using more superlatives than a Kardashian, I live for the moments when I can let out my inner Paris Hilton, the queen of extra behaviour. And Paris, like Rihanna, is 100% in on the lols. Heck, she’s even taken to reposting memes that use pictures of her as the punchline, so aware is she of her own OTT behaviour.

Yas Queen! 👸🏼

A post shared by Paris Hilton (@parishilton) on

So, next time someone calls you ‘extra’, embrace it. If it’s good enough for Queen Bey, Rih and Paris, it’s good enough for you.

Image: Scream Queens

You haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself standing, baffled, in the middle of an inexplicable war between two close friends.

Each of them has a case, and each of them puts that case to you, over and over again, and you listen and nod and sympathise. You can’t help being confused, though. You can’t help thinking that they’re really fighting over nothing, and should get over it, so you can all go to next week’s party together and have a nice time.

So what do you do, when you’re caught between two beefing friends? Is it possible to soothe everyone’s feelings without anyone getting more upset than they already are?

The good news is, yes! It totally is. But once emotions are in turmoil it’s easy for them to spiral, so here are some tips for keeping the road smooth.

1. Listen

Amy Schumer listening

The first one seems easy. A lot of things seem easy, really, but very few things actually are, and listening is not one of them. It’s easy to listen when your goal is simply finding the next point in the conversation when you can talk. It’s easy to listen when someone is telling an interesting story, and all you have to do is react. But listening intently, and considering someone else’s feelings and point of view is harder than you think.

No matter how baffling the conflict in question is, and no matter who you think is more wrong or right in the situation, if you don’t start out by listening properly, you won’t get anywhere. You can’t help anyone if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.

2. Feel

New Girl hug gif

While the first step on the road to reconciling your battling friends takes only concentration, step two requires a little more. Namely: tact and empathy.

You will need both to figure out when each friend is talking about important things, like their feelings and when they’re basically just venting. Everyone needs a safe space to vent, on the understanding that the venting goes no further. Vent sessions are Vegas, and what happens there stays there – your role is just to accept the flow of rage and help release it into the ether. Feelings, however, need to be worked through and understood. People have been hurt, and hurt needs to be respected.

3. Mediate

Be quiet

This is the point when a really delicate touch is necessary. Here, you are trying to get two people, separated by presumably many angry words, and behind-the-back slaggings off, and horrible things that were never actually done or said but which each has imagined the other one doing or saying, back together. It is part of the human condition that, while we know that most of our own actions are haphazard, spontaneous and totally unconsidered, we still tend to assume that other people plan every move and every syllable – so if they hurt us, they must have meant to do it. But actually they are bumbling through as much as we are.

You, as the person who has heard both sides of the story, can reassure everyone how much stuff was said in the heat of the moment, how much regret each person is feeling, and (carefully) what they might have done that needs apologising for.

Btw, it is important here to note that none of the venting needs to be communicated. Venting is sacred, what you say when you vent is rarely what you actually feel, it is nothing more than the popping of the boil of emotion. And unless you are willing to carry around the fluid from that boil and bring it out at dinner parties, you should not be repeating vent talk.

4. Buffering

Chocolate

Now things can get a little more fun. Once the dust has settled, once some of the wounds have healed a bit, you can gently start pushing your two friends back into the shallow waters of generally hanging out. You don’t want to do anything too dramatic to start with, not a lavish party or a weekend in Majorca. A girls’ night in is a good idea, with hot chocolates and movies and enough snacks to feed Hagrid.

The film selection is key – you want something good enough that any awkward silences can be easily pushed past, and unimportant enough that no one will mind if you end up talking all the way through it.

5. Just keep swimming

High five

A strange truth is that the best way to get yourself out of an awkward social situation is to pretend it is not awkward, until it simply stops being so. It is time for jokes. Gentle teasings that show how affectionate you all are for each other, stories about what’s been going on in everyone’s lives that gently gloss over the old rift. Before you know it, all will be forgotten and, if you’re lucky, you’ll all be better friends than you were before.

Friends fight for all sorts of reasons, and it’s always the worst – whether you’re one of the battlers, or whether you’re stuck in the no man’s land in between. But nothing lasts forever, and working through a fight is almost always worth it.

@J9andlf

#BrowGameStrong. #BrowsOnFleek. The world (and Instagram) is obsessed with eyebrows, with the face-framers now more talked about than any other feature, and a new brow product popping up every week.

But what if you’re just getting into this brow-grooming malarkey, not yet an Anastasia Beverly Hills expert, and are starting with the traditional eyebrow wax?

Well, you’ll probably never look back, but your first brow wax does come with a whole host of emotions, like…

Acceptance

Sure, big brows are in, but your slugs are starting to drive you crazy and you want more of an arch. You book a wax at a random (cheap) salon on Treatwell before you can change your mind.

Fear

What if the salon’s gross and you end up with an infection on your face? What if it hurts? What if half of your skin comes with the hairs? Maybe you should just cancel and stay sluggy forever.

Excitement

Once your brows are in shape you can start buying all those products the Instagram models advertise! Like, they’re crazy expensive, but that’s what you’re meant to do right?

Pain

WHAT EVEN WAS THAT?! SERIOUSLY?!

Embarrassment

Why didn’t you think to have someone pick you up from the salon? Now you need to get the bus with a big red forehead and everyone is clearly staring. Sigh.

Uncertainty

Did she make them too thin? Are they even? Is this the shape du jour?

Pride

Actually, they look great. You can’t wait to show them off at school; most of your mates have only had a few ill-advised encounters with their big sisters’ tweezers. You feel like the grown-up one for a change.

Annoyance

Why do they grow back so quickly? This upkeep faff is time-consuming and expensive.

Obsession

But you do it, time after time, because who doesn’t want a strong brow game?

Image: Clueless

There comes a point in everyone’s life when they first encounter the idea of their body being a series of ‘problem areas’ or obstacles to overcome, fix and change.. For the first few years of life, most of us are lucky enough to see our bodies for what they do rather than what they look like. We climb trees, feel our arms slice through water as we swim, and eat when we’re hungry. That changes though. I remember reading the word cellulite in a magazine while I was waiting to see my GP when I was about twelve. ‘How To Get Rid Of Unsightly Cellulite’, the headline read in big black letters. ‘Unsightly’ was in bold.

As soon as I found out what cellulite was, I couldn’t stop noticing it. Roaring red circles around the thighs of celebrities on beaches that showed a hint of it, across three or four pages of a gossip magazine’s ‘summer body special’. These images of models and actresses with cellulite, taken without their permission as they tried to enjoy a holiday didn’t make me feel better about my body – but I couldn’t stop reading them.

I pinched the flesh on my thighs and felt disgusted at the sight of the soft dimples that appeared under my skin. I wouldn’t wear shorts, skirts or dresses without opaque tights and the thought of going swimming made fluttery waves of panic course through my body. The concept of going bare-legged anywhere was just a no-go.

Hours of research went into what food to eat and avoid, what body brushes to stimulate circulation to buy, and I compared myself to other girls whose legs remained smooth when they sat down. This went on for a few years, and so too did the hope that I would finally get rid of it and feel free to dress however I wanted.

The thing is though, cellulite isn’t a ‘problem’ that you can tackle for all eternity with expensive products, following a strict diet and drinking water 24/7. Instead, there are ways to stop caring about it, and I highly recommend you take that route instead.

So, what is cellulite exactly?

The connective tissue in your body that separates the fat cells from the skin is made up of a substance called collagen. This tissue has a honeycomb-like structure (yum), and sometimes the bands of collagen can be weaker in some areas – these are the areas you might see a dimpled effect. You’re more likely to see it around your hips and thighs, but some people get it on their stomach or arms too.

Why do some people have it while others don’t?

Let’s be real here. Countless advertisements from the beauty industry tell us that cellulite is a specialised condition that you need to spend lots of money on to get rid of. During the summer you’ll notice there will be a push to sell creams, lotions and treatments that apparently get rid of cellulite for good – you can’t possibly go to the beach with less-than-perfect thighs, apparently.

What they don’t say is that 90% of women have it or will develop it in their lifetimes. That’s nine out of ten women, of all shapes and size and all walks of life. Like stretch marks, it’s just your body changing and developing as you grow and live in the world. Some people are more genetically predisposed to it, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how much you weigh or whether you exercise often or not. It just happens!

Mythbusting time!

Many ‘cellulite-eliminating’ products do so apparently by getting rid of ‘toxins’ from the body. By taking the supplement or slathering on the lotion, these toxins that cause cellulite are apparently removed. This is a complete lie with ZERO scientific evidence to back it up.

Creams that contain caffeine are marketed as a way to achieve Barbie-smooth skin, but any effect they have is totally temporary until you stop using them. Be sceptical about workout gear that claims to reduce the appearance of cellulite. This marketing gimmick will just leave you out of money with only a pair of overpriced leggings to show for it.

Much like bogus detox diets, these products just play on your fears and insecurities in order to get you to fork out your hard-earned money.

Being kind to yourself

Now more than ever we can see a diverse range of bodies represented in the public eye. The power of social media means that people are now seeing themselves represented. Instead of discussing ways to minimise ‘imperfections’ and desperately trying to fit into one single acceptable standard of beauty, people are celebrating and redefining what beauty really is.

The only reason we see things like cellulite as a problem is because we’re sold the idea that it is. Companies have successfully marketed a perfectly normal and common genetic trait as a gross eyesore to be body-brushed and exfoliated away. Thoughts like this can make something as fun and carefree as a trip to the beach turn into a spiral of anxiety.

It’s important to remember that your body is the only one you’ll ever have, and you should look after it. Think about all the cool stuff you could do with the time you might have spent being angry at yourself for something you really can’t control. You could learn a language, make a Victoria sponge cake or finally perfect your winged liner. It’s a good idea to counteract negative thoughts about your body the best you can.

Ask yourself, ‘would I tell my best friend she shouldn’t wear that cute swimsuit because of how her body naturally stores fat?’ Whether it’s cellulite or thigh gaps, there will always be a new part of your body that you’ll be told to fix, smooth or scrub. None of it matters. Eat good meals when you’re hungry, drink lots of water and be kind to yourself.

Image: Katie Edmunds

PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome.

It’s also sometimes known as Premenstrual Tension (PMT), the monthly blues, or The Bit Before Your Period Starts When You Feel Like You Want to Hide Under Your Duvet with Three Packets of Oreos and Shout at Everyone. But that’s less catchy.

Give it to me straight

People experience PMS in different ways, and 25% of women don’t experience PMS at all. With any luck you’ll be one of those people – but if you’re not, here is the rollcall of things that you might find you experience for a day or two before your period.

Physically, PMS might make you feel a little bloated, tired or achey. Some people have headaches or backache, some get a few cramps before their period actually arrives. Others notice they’re more clumsy (mind that lamp!). You might find your skin gets a little spotty, or your fringe does that annoying flicky thing you hate.

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, and it generally affects three in four women. That’s lots of us. Hiya.
  • Emotionally, it might make you more irritable, anxious or weepy. Physically, PMS might cause bloating, acne, headaches, backache or sore breasts – but hopefully not all at once.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet can both help decrease PMS symptoms. But if you’re really struggling, a chat to your GP might give you more options.

Emotionally, you might find yourself feeling a little… fragile. This could mean that you’re more irritable, anxious, weepy and/or prone to slamming doors. One minute you might be on top of the world, the next you could feel like the world is getting on top of you. Or it might just be a general feeling that everything is a little… blarrgh.

A bit… arrghh.

Basically, all the fun stuff. But you probably won’t have all these symptoms; most people just experience a few.

Who can I blame?

Don’t shout, but nobody knows exactly what causes PMS. It’s thought to be something to do with the changing levels of hormones in your menstrual cycle, which can throw everything… off. A little.  

The most important thing to know is that you’re not just being a drama queen – PMS is very real, and you’re definitely not alone.

PMS Treatment: How do I make it go away?

While there’s not much you can do to prevent PMS, there are lots of ways you can help yourself feel better.

Eating a balanced, varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and veg could help ease those symptoms. PMS might make you feel like face-planting a bucket of KFC, but too much salt or fatty, processed foods can actually make things worse (don’t get us started on the unfairness).

And while it might be the last thing you feel like doing, regular exercise can also help keep PMS in check, as well as generally making you feel more like a queen. That could be a run, a fierce game of hockey, a nice long walk with a favourite playlist or just punching a pillow quite hard.   

As time goes on you’ll find your own, personal ways to beat the premenstrual blues – but some of our favourites are: weeping along to a sad film, having a one-woman dance party, learning to cartwheel, giving yourself a craft project or watching videos of unlikely animal friendships. For more inspiration, visit Weepy Girls’ Corner.

NOTHING. IS. WORKING.

Be kind to yourself, and remember that some people suffer more than others – and it won’t last forever. But if PMS is still having a big impact on your life, it might be a good idea to head to your GP for about what will work best for you.

There’s only so much those poor pillows can take.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Today is International Friendship Day.

It’s the perfect time to celebrate awesome friends, whether they’re on the other side of the world, a few doors down the street or half-watching Pretty Little Liars in bed next to you.

I made, kept and lost a lot of friends when I was growing up, as my family moved around exactly eight times before I turned 16. It’s tough, and my poor mum endured a lot of tears and tantrums that I dedicated to her.

We first moved to another country while I was at primary school. I felt like a pea being ripped out of its pod and thrown into a mountainous salad of the unfamiliar. The kids in my new school wanted to know more about me and I just wanted to go back to my ‘real’ home.

But the tears of sadness and anxiety soon dried. I found the joy of writing letters to my pen-pals in England and started to open up to the new crowd and give them a chance. I made friends and soon felt like the most popular kid in school, just because everyone wanted to be pals with the new English girl.

After a couple of years, my family returned to England and I faced the sadness and frustration all over again. I cried my eyes out when my new best friend gave me a brown faux-leather coat as a leaving present – I’d eyed it up in the local department store for weeks.

But my emotions were mixed once more, as I was excited to be reunited with my old buddies, telling them all about my time away and showing off my pierced ears and bobbed hair. I would reach peak popularity, again!

I never saw the girl who gifted me with the coat after I left, but I’ll always be thankful to her
for being my pal and giving me something that made me feel like I was a total rock star. And I’m forever grateful to the friendly classmates who welcomed me into their school and invited me to their birthday parties like I was royalty.

Looking back, these experiences helped me to mature into a teenager, then adult who can cope with change. I learnt to be brave and open minded about meeting new people, which can often feel like walking into a room of Death Eaters.

I inherited and continued the habit of moving around well after finishing school and leaving the nest. I even somehow ended up in Paris for six months! It put me in good stead for continuing to make new friends. I learn something from every person I meet; about the world, about them and about myself.

I went on to live with an Irish girl and a Spanish girl when I moved to Edinburgh. We’d never met before moving in together but I soon considered them two of my best friends. Last year we reunited at my Spanish friend’s family home in Madrid and it felt like nothing had changed, except her gorgeous apartment wasn’t infested with mice and mould like our old digs. We’re meeting up again this year, in Morocco, using our friendship as a perfect excuse to explore the world together.

There are also the times when other people are the ones to leave a friend-shaped hole in my life.

My best friend moved to Canada with a boy. She was so excited, I thought I’d never see or hear from her again. But thanks to Skype, we ended up speaking more regularly than we had done in a long time. In fact, I definitely did the old ‘oh the Wifi is breaking up’ trick a few times when Made in Chelsea was about to start during one of our Monday night catch ups. But even though she was approximately a million miles away, I knew she’d be there for me no matter what.

Friendships don’t need constant attention, just a little watering now and again to keep things in bloom. And in a world of social media and instant communication, saying goodbye in person doesn’t mean that the friendship must end.

I have recently reconnected with old friends in London through Facebook, I natter with my Yorkshire based buds on WhatsApp throughout the week, and I receive much needed grownup advice and guidance from my talented writer friend in China (along with British reality TV lolz and bantz that she admirably keeps us with over there).

Even if all you can do to today is send a good thought to someone, do it for the friends – old and new, near and far – who have helped shape you into the person that you are.

Me? I want to thank all my friends, wherever you are, for constantly making me feel as special as I did the first time I put on that coat and strutted into the classroom.

@hlouiser89

Image: Kate Borrill

Growing up in front of an audience throws up a lot of challenges. One of the biggest is feeling the pressure to share only the best, most photo-worthy moments and to live the perfect life to match. Great grades, flawless make-up, a beautifully curated Instagram – it’s easy to feel the heavy weight of expectation when it seems like all eyes are on you.

The pressure ramps up further when there’s an endless stream of perfection out there to compare yourself to, whether it’s the girl who goes to the gym five times a week or the food blogger who cooks meals that look way too beautiful to eat. All this makes it pretty difficult to deal with the reality that we can’t be absolutely amazing at everything in life.

But, I’m here with good news! Being bad at stuff is actually kind of…great. And I’m going to prove it with yoga. Well, a story about yoga anyway.

Earlier this year, I decided that I was going to start doing yoga every weekday morning; my imagination buzzing with images of me upside down, contorted in impossible looking angles, probably wearing some kind of amazing leopard print yoga gear that would show off my enviably defined abs. But then I did my first session and those visions were quickly melted away by the reality that my spine seems to be made out of solid steel.

Still, I’d made a promise to myself, so I carried on each day and here I am two months later with my legs over my shoulders. Oh wait, no, I can barely touch my toes. But the thing is, I don’t care even the slightest bit. I don’t care because I committed to doing something for myself and I stuck to it. No pressure, no Instagram posts, no comparisons, just me and my mat for half an hour every day.

Each morning, I watch as the woman on my app swoops into position. She bends from the hip, gracefully and effortlessly folding in half like origami. Meanwhile, I resemble a handful of broken twigs; all odd angles and jutting limbs. While she rests her head by her ankles, my arms dangle in the general direction of my toes.

I creak into half moon pose, ease into something that looks a bit like downward-facing dog and let out involuntary squeaks as I try and hold the plank. I am definitively un-graceful and what I do can certainly not be described as a ‘flow’ but I’m there doing it and I feel transformed afterwards: clear headed and ready for the day.

Every now and then I’ll notice a little improvement; I get an inch further into a stretch, or I hold a pose for longer without wobbling. It’s encouraging and there’s no doubt that it feels like a huge reward for my consistency but make no mistake, I’m still really bad at yoga.

I’ve been bad at plenty of stuff before – gymnastics, running, shot put – and it’s always made me want to quit. “What’s the point in carrying on if I’m not immediately brilliant? Gold medals or nothing, mate”, I’d think. But this time it’s different because I’ve taken perfection out of the equation. I’ve relieved myself of that pressure and given myself the headspace to just do something with absolutely zero expectations – and I think you should do it too.

It doesn’t matter if your portrait of Adele looks more like Tom Cruise or if your signature dish is slightly-too-hard pasta in a questionable sauce. It doesn’t matter if you knit wonky scarves or belly flop into the pool. All that matters is that you love it and you’re doing it.

And whether you decide to share it or not is completely up to you. Not everything you do needs to be for public consumption. It’s totally fine to sew skirts with wonky hems or paint blurry landscapes without ever showing a single soul. Give yourself permission to tuck yourself away and spend a few hours doing your thing without the pressure of wondering how many likes you might get or what other people might think.

On the flipside, never – and I mean never – be afraid to share the fruits of your labour if that’s what you want to do. Be proud of the fact that you’re doing something for no other reason than you love doing it. In my experience, when I’ve talked about my absent yoga skills, I’ve received nothing but words of encouragement from people who understand that it’s about the practice, the dedication to myself and ultimately, the enjoyment.

So grab your paints, lace up your trainers or hit the mat because life’s not about perfection, it’s about having fun.

Image: Sisters

Summer is great for a lot of things: spending time outdoors, hanging out with your mates, unsheathing your pasty arms and legs from their winter woollies and getting some vitamin D… the list goes on.

You know what it’s not good for, though? Being a goth. Or in my case at least, being a rubbish goth.

At my school, come year nine, two main groups emerged: the chavs and the alts, and you had to pledge your allegiance to one or the other. You were allowed to sit on the edge with a gentle nod towards your chosen clan – an Adidas satchel or a bit of extra eyeliner, for example – but choose you must.

I’ve always been an angsty person – even as a child I’d get myself worked up about the meaning of life – so the alts were my obvious choice. And boy did I commit to it, bypassing the entry-level studded belts and skater shoes and launching headfirst into raven-black hair and boned corsets. In my mind I was a beautiful angel of darkness, with an ethereal aesthetic that matched my troubled soul.

The reality, though, was rather different. Caking white foundation over my already-bad skin just made it look worse, and my Potter-esque glasses only magnified the fact that I didn’t have a clue when it came to blending eyeshadow. I did a rubbish job dying my hair, my braces rubbed all my blood-red lipstick off and I could never get my blacks to match.

Plus, I lived in the middle of nowhere, so I couldn’t just pop to the shops for the stuff I needed to actually make the look work – visiting my nearest town involved sitting on a bus for more than an hour, which is not something I recommend when all the other passengers are aging farmers and elderly conservatives and you’re wearing a black wedding dress.

But I stuck with it, because even though I was doing a pretty bad job of it I felt that rocking a goth aesthetic was part of my identity. The music, the people and the mindset of the alt-goth scene spoke to me and made me feel like I was part of something meaningful and different – that I was meaningful and different.

So I was prepared to deal with the time-consuming faff of the hair and makeup, and I’d gotten used to the horrified stares from people in the village and the stupid insults from kids in school. It was the payoff for finding my identity and ‘my people’.

What eventually broke me, though, was summer.

No amount of factor 50 suncream could keep the freckles and weird tan lines at bay. No amount of powder would keep the white foundation on my shiny face and no amount of deodorant would stop me sweating profusely onto my thick velvet dresses. Any time I succumbed to the heat and wore a light dress or a pair of shorts the sudden change in aesthetic was so jarring everyone would make a big deal out of it, which made me feel rubbish, like I was betraying my own identity.

This was back in the days before pastel and summer goth were a thing. Back before there were endless webpages of style inspo to look to and long before Instagram makeup tutorials came along. It was all or nothing, and I was uncomfortable, sweaty and defeated. If I couldn’t properly show off who I was on the inside on the outside, I thought, then I wouldn’t bother at all.

So instead I just wore what was comfortable. I still went for blacks and dark colours, but there was no more scratchy velvet or rib-busting corsets. I stopped trashing my hair every month with black dye and started using a wash-in red to give my natural mousey-ginger a bit of a kick. I swapped the painful Victorian-style heels for a pair of comfy biker boots and while I still trucked on the black eyeliner, the white foundation went in the bin.

For a while I felt like I was compromising; like I was doing a bad job of ‘being me’, but gradually it dawned on me that, actually, I felt better in my own skin. I spent less time in front of a mirror fretting about my makeup. I moved around more freely and worried less about the vibe of my outfits.

I still listened to the same music and hung out with the same people – people who liked me for me, and not what I looked like. People who probably liked me even better when I stopped constantly tripping over my long skirts and being preoccupied with staying pale. I had, without even realising it, developed my own style and was more ‘me’ than I’d ever been.

So that summer was good for a lot of things, and as it turned out in the end, being a rubbish goth was one of them.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Summer is the greatest time of year, but there’s something about the rising temperatures and shedding of layers that can make even the most confident of ladies feel a bit, well, wobbly about their bodies.

If you thought celebs were immune to these feelings, you thought wrong, as nine celeb ladies talk body confidence – how to get it, keep it and what to do when you’re not quite there yet.

“I feel very empowered and confident and comfortable with where I am. And I think it took me a long while to get there because, you know, the past year was so interesting because I’ve never been body-shamed before. I did gain weight, but I don’t care. It wasn’t about how I gained weight, it was about how I embraced it. And that’s just kind of my approach.”

Selena Gomez shuts down her body-shamers and gives everyone a lesson in the art of not caring. Take note.

“This confidence is not something that happens overnight. I have been working on it for a long time. I look in the mirror and do affirmations: ‘You are bold. You are brilliant. You are beautiful.’ If my lower pooch is really popping out that day, I look at it and say, ‘Pooch, you are cute!’”

Model Ashley Graham knows that building your body confidence can take time and that’s OK.

“Sometimes when I’m having bad body image issue days, I remind myself that I’d rather live in freedom from my eating disorder than worry about what people think about my body… I am more than a number and a jean size.”

Demi Lovato faces her eating disorder head-on.

“I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high-fashion before… Yes, I have abs, I have a butt, I have thighs, but I’m not asking for special treatment. I’m fitting into my sample sizes. Your mean comments don’t make me want to change my body.”

Gigi Hadid’s open letter to her Instagram trolls is an inspiration to us all.

“We do not value ourselves enough. Especially young people, [who] don’t really appreciate, how brilliant our bodies are. I’ve always been very, very specific, and very choosy – very choosy ­– about what I do with my body, and who I want to share that with.”

Beyoncé knows her worth and isn’t afraid to let everyone else know, too.

“If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet,’ I’m like, ‘You can go f**k yourself.’ “

Jennifer Lawrence won’t be told how to look or eat by anyone, and for that we salute her.

“I know because I’m honest about my insecurities that people think I’m 100% positive about my body all the time, but I’m not. I get really uncomfortable, too. But I just remind myself that this is the body I was given. This is who I am.”

Ariel Winter practises the art of self-acceptance.

“I was actually just taking a picture of the bruises and then I saw the stretchmarks in there. I have those apps, the Facetune and Photoshopping ones, and I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore — and I’m never doing it again, because I think we forgot what normal people look like now.”

Chrissy Teigen explains her stretchmark selfie and why she won’t be editing them out of her Insta pics from now on.

“Stop trying to make people feel badly about their bodies. It’s okay to be different… to be curvy or to be thin… How about we respect people’s body boundaries and encourage each other to feel like a babe no matter how they are? That would be nice.”

Ariana Grande has nothing but love for ALL body shapes.

Amen, sisters!

Image: Getty/Katie Edmunds

Your first love is super exciting, guys. The butterflies when they text back, the electric shock when they hold your hand, the first kiss, the lets-get-married-and-have-babies feeling you can’t suppress. It’s slushy and exciting and all-consuming. You want to spend time with your shiny new boyfriend 24/7, right? But if there’s one rule I can teach you early on in the game of love, it’s not to sideline your bff.

Sure, they can’t gaze into your eyes over a chocolate sundae and make you melt inside and out, but they were there at the beginning of this wild romance, and they’ll be there at the end. Unless the married-and-have-babies thang comes true, in which case they’ll be right by your side at the wedding anyways, because CHIEF BRIDESMAID.

The first rule: it doesn’t have to be bff vs boyfriend. You might not be able to recreate Monica and Chandler’s super-cute r’ship with their pals in Friends (unless you’ve all been besties at school since day one) but there’s no harm in merging groups. Why can’t your girls and his guys come together in a big ball of joy and love? The answer is: they can. Just don’t be too PDA in public. There’s absolutely no fun to be had watching two people play tonsil tennis in the corner of Maccy D’s for three straight hours. Trust me, I’ve been there. Also, I’m pretty sure tongue exhaustion is a legit condition.

Next, mate dates. Make time to hang with your best friend and do not, I repeat, do not invite your new boyfriend along. Those few hours hanging out in your bedroom together trying out the latest braids or strolling round the shopping centre catching up on school goss are precious. Treat them with respect. Your boyfriend has no place here so tell him you’re a sassy, independent woman that needs some girl time.

Another rule to revise and memorise forever: if you’re on a mate date, PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. I’m just gonna say it – it’s not nice if you’re ‘there’ but not really there. It can make your friend feel unimportant and second best if your hang-out consists of her sitting in silence while you send 196 WhatsApp messages to your boyf. Turn your phone on silent, pop it in your bag and gaze into her eyes over a chocolate sundae.

The lesson? You’ll always need your best friend to confide in so don’t cut them out. Whether you need a moan about the new ‘moustache’ your boyfriend’s trying out (bum-fluff is not a good look, guys) or a big, ugly cry at the fact he likes his computer games more than you, your bestie will always be there for you. Because friends are for life, not just for killing time between crushes…

@missblackmore

Image: Clueless

CRAP.

I mean, obviously that’s great. So great. For her. Couldn’t be more chuffed, obviously, because we’re basically the same person. Sisters from another mister. Soul mates. But…

CRAP. This is a disaster. I’m basically never going to see her again.

I’m going to die alone. Alone, old and friendless, after a life of solo Harry Potter marathons with no one even to share a tub of Phish Food with when Sirius dies.

Still, it’s early days. Could all be over by Christmas. After all, she’s never been entirely sold on his eyebrows, and they’re only going to grow closer together as time goes by…

Jeez, what am I saying?! I’m a MONSTER! This. Is. Good. News. In fact, it’s such good news I am going to Whatsapp her right now and INSIST we go to the cinema together, the three of us, so I can get to know him. If you can’t break ‘em, join ‘em, that’s what I say….

Or dinner. Yes maybe dinner is safer. Then I don’t have to listen to them making out halfway through Wonderwoman while I sit there trying to mask the sound of lip-on-lip action with my own aggressive munching on single-portion popcorn crying my own quiet tears…Oh GAD.

Woooahh, hang on. Why am I so stressed? It’s 2017. There is an all-female superhero on our movie screens. I’m not going to let a man, or the absence of a man, stand in the way of my own happiness. I’m an unconquerable warrior. I am Diana, princess of…

I. Am. So. ALOOOOOOONE.

Wait, maybe Bex’s bae has friends! Man friends! He could set me up with one of them, and then we can double date, and all make out in the cinema together!

I mean, not in that way, obvs. Five rows apart at least.

Joint weddings – are they a thing?

I’m going to ask her to ask him, for real. Let’s get this ball rolling. What’s that quote grandma says, about doors closing and windows opening? Just goes to show you.

Might look a bit desperate though, asking out the blue like that. Should probably get to know him before treating him like some kind of man vending machine.

Mmm, man vending machine. Why has nobody invented one of those yet?

They’ve probs got them in Japan, tbf. Maybe I should move there.

Wait, what if he hates me?

What if I hate HIM?

This is the beginning of the end. It starts with plastering couple selfies over Insta, and it ends in me peering through a church window at their nuptials, having been cancelled for revealing my true feelings ten years previously.

Damn! She’s just whatsapped me, demanding to see my face in Starbucks asap. Is it because she can hear my thoughts? Oh. No. She wants some girl time. Some friend time. Some ‘me and her’ time.

I am an idiot. THIS ships’s for life – boy or no boy.

@clare_finney

Image: Mean Girls

Dear Me,

All that stuff that makes you different to the other girls at school? Being brown, Pakistani and Muslim? You don’t have to hide any of it.

Don’t be embarrassed about praying at home with family, learning Urdu, going to the mosque and wearing shalwar kameez. Those family moments that you purposefully kept separate from your school life will make the sweetest of memories that will one day brighten up your homesick soul. Also, if other people haven’t realised that a shalwar kameez is as comfy as a pair of pyjamas and doubles as an acceptable form of daywear, it’s their loss.

I understand why you hate speaking up and try to hide among the many, instead of standing out amid the few. All this uncertainty is necessary right now because you’re choosing who you want to be and listening before speaking. But, that doesn’t give you a free pass to edit out your opinions and experiences because they don’t match everyone else’s. Like a ghost hiding in the shadows, don’t be left shapeless and voiceless. Be seen.

Remember this: those who are the loudest in the crowd haven’t always got it down. Say what you want even if it first comes out in a whisper – softly speak the truth and people will listen harder until you gain the confidence to shout it out. Once you can shout, make it a point to listen to others.

Your unique voice is the very thing that will fuel your career. I know you want to be a postal clerk working in a quiet back office in solitude listening to Bollywood songs on headphones; but tough luck, one day you’ll be a writer with an attitude. You’ll write for the Muslim girls of today so they don’t feel like you did (as out of place as a baguette in a gluten-free pantry) because if you don’t, who will?

Believe in yourself. One day you’ll lecture university students and be on the radio, you’ll pitch to magazine editors and move on after every rejection while fighting the urge to vomit after putting yourself out there (unfortunately that feeling never goes away so you may as well get used to it). Get all the comfort you need from family and friends, but be bolder and do the scarier stuff at school. It gets less terrifying the more you do it.

Work on improving your Urdu vocabulary because it will give you the tools to communicate better with your relatives and learn about your history. Make your dad another cuppa. One day you’ll be too far away to do it and miss sprinkling sweetener in his tea and dipping a digestive in it while he’s not looking. Believe your mum when she tells you that you’re beautiful, even though you feel like you look like a baked potato with curly hair. She may cook stinky food that makes your clothes smell and put a sour spice mix on her fruit salad, but soon balsamic strawberries will be all the rage and her Pakistani habits won’t sound so weird anymore.

Some girls will never ‘get’ you and criticise everything over the next few years, like why you wear a long skirt to school, don’t have a boyfriend and don’t drink alcohol. They are not your people. Instead of bootstrapping your way through those conversations, make friends with like-minded girls.

That empathy that you’ve got in spades? Hold on to it. Feeling affected by people’s pain is a good thing. Being sensitive is not a character flaw despite what the arrogant know-it-alls might tell you. Sensitivity is a route to compassion, to understanding human nature and to a better awareness that everything you say or do has a direct impact on the feelings of others. Next time someone tells you that you are too sensitive, remember it’s just because they don’t like your valid reaction to their unacceptable behaviour. Thank them for the compliment.

Not everyone experiences the special sweet spot between two cultures. Your perspective is rare and interesting so don’t make a secret of your superpower. Instead of dimming your brilliance, shine like a star.

Love,

Me x

@javaria_akbar