Global silver-haired curve model Rachel Peru discusses stepping out of her comfort zone to change career in her 40’s and how she is now a body confidence activist, championing other midlife women and inspiring them to become more confident.
Since turning 50 last year I’ve had time to reflect on how much I’ve changed and experienced over the last decade. During my twenties and thirties, I lacked confidence in myself and my body and it became a real barrier to embracing life and living it to the full.
40 – The Next Chapter
After my divorce at 39 I knew I wanted to start the next chapter of my life with more bravery, so for my 40th birthday I took part in a tandem sky dive, despite my fear of heights. While I didn’t conquer that particular fear, that experience marked the start of a new journey for me which has completely changed my world around. I went to university, gained a BA in Education Studies and became a nursery teacher, a job I absolutely loved.
Then a close friend asked me to model in a local McMillan charity show and although nervous about it I agreed. This was just the thing to help me regain my confidence, because it took me out of my comfort zone, and it was exhilarating. I had also decided to stop colouring my hair after dying it for over 30 years – I have had grey hair since I was a teenager.
Participating in the fashion show was a realisation for me. My confidence grew, and for the first time I truly felt like me. After volunteering for MacMillan for a few years, I was brave enough to send my photos off to modelling agencies. To my eternal surprise contracts came my way
New Career As A Curve Model
At the age of 46 I began my new career as a professional model and it’s something I would never have imagined doing when I was younger. I lacked confidence in myself and had always struggled with my body image. I used to try every new diet out there and every new exercise class. All in the belief that if I was thinner with a smaller bust then I would be happy. I didn’t plan to do this; it happened when I least expected it.
I am now signed exclusively with Bridge Models in London and I love my new career. I get to meet so many different people, travel and wear some fabulous clothes, including swimwear and lingerie. Sometimes I have to pinch myself with the campaigns I’ve been in. For example, I was in the ground-breaking Swimsuits for All campaign with Ashley Graham. I modelled activewear alongside Davina McCall and numerous lingerie campaigns for leading international and national brands.
Loose Women – My Body, My Story
My lightbulb moment came after I had already started modelling. The Loose Women released their ‘My Body My Story’ campaign. We saw untouched images of the Loose Women team in underwear to highlight how we are all different. We all have our own stories and we should stop our judgement on each other and ourselves. A local photographer, Mya Fawcett, placed an ad on Facebook for any women up for recreating the image. Anyway, I decided to say yes.
So off I went one Sunday afternoon to meet 14 other women that I had never met before to spend the afternoon being photographed in our bra and knickers. I came away realising that we all spend so much wasted time worrying about our bodies and what we see as imperfections. This group of women embraced each other, we all had different stories, some more obvious than others, but we all had that common ground of massive insecurity. That day had a profound effect on how I saw things.
I have continued to challenge my body confidence in different ways; from taking part in the Real Catwalk wearing my bikini in the middle of Trafalgar Square, to standing in shop windows modelling swimwear.
What drives me to do this is talking to other women who really struggle with their own body confidence. If the media portrayed a more diverse fair representation of women in midlife, then fewer women would have these confidence issues.
Out of the Bubble Podcast
This led me to starting the Out of the Bubble podcast to create a platform where women over 40 can share their stories and be heard. I’ve interviewed over 86 women to date and have had the pleasure of talking to so many interesting and inspiring women who are starting new careers, taking up new hobbies and really embracing this next chapter of their lives. It’s a fantastic realisation that we all have so much to offer and we certainly shouldn’t be written off.
I’m passionate about helping to spread some positivity around midlife and share inspiration to others that may be feeling a bit lost as they hit their fifties. I know from my own experience that stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things in life can lead to all sorts of opportunities and bring a new lease of life for this next chapter.
I have used my time wisely during this last year and am about to qualify as an accredited life purpose and body coach so I’m excited to be launching my new Rediscover You- Midlife body confidence courses later this month. I really do feel like I’m just getting started and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve in this next decade.
Main photo by Stevie Roy photography