This month we caught up with model, podcast host and body positivity activist, Malene Riis. We talk about social media, self-love and the way women are changing.
As a fashion model, have you always been confident about your body, the way you look and how others perceive you?
“When I was younger I often had negative thoughts about my body and I think there are a few different reasons why. I started focusing on my body and weight at a young age because my parents have always been into running and being healthy and fit. They would go on the scales and complain if they had gained weight after a holiday and back then they would talk about how unhealthy it was being overweight. As a little girl this was not healthy for my own body image and I automatically thought being skinny was the only right thing you could be. Unfortunately in elementary school the girls in my class weren't very nice. I got bullied for a few years and at one point I felt like I didn’t have any friends. This made me lonely, so when I came home from school I’d eat to comfort myself and displace my feelings. I became so ashamed of my own body that I pretended to be sick, so I didn’t have to go to school when I was in 5th grade when we went to the school nurse. We had to stand on the scales and my biggest fear was that she would tell me I was overweight and not good enough. When I got a bit older I went from being the chubby kid to being a young woman with curves. Still I wasn’t happy with my body. I would compare myself to the models in advertisements and I looked up to the Victoria’s Secret models. They were my ideal body. I compared myself with them which made me feel too big and ashamed of my size, which at the time was a 10-12 UK. All I wanted was to be skinny so I could feel true happiness and be accepted by society.”
The term “body positivity” seems like a relatively recent concept, birthed with the rise in social media use. When did you first hear about it, and how did it make you feel?
“I remember the first time I heard about body positivity. I was 23 years old and scrolling on my Instagram explore page when I suddenly saw a photo of a girl my own age wearing a crop top and sitting relaxed so you could see her stomach fold. I was in shock. This girl looked like me. I felt like I was looking in the mirror. Her caption was very positive and she used the hashtag, too. This was the first time in my life I had ever seen a photo of someone showing the world her “imperfections” and being okay with them and embracing them. This inspired me so much because I looked at her and saw only beauty. This made me realise, if I can adore another girl despite her imperfections, it’s also possible for me to embrace and love myself despite my own imperfections. When I found the body positive movement on Instagram I discovered a whole new world. This is how my self-love journey started which completely changed my body image, self esteem and how I present myself to the world.”
How do you practise self-love and what would you say to someone who isn’t feeling so great about themselves?
“I have noticed that when I’m stressed I forget to practise self-love which affects my mental health a lot. What helps me in my everyday life is to do guided meditations, deep breaths, write in my gratitude journal, work out, walk in nature and swim in the sea all year round. Of course it’s super cold swimming in winter when the sea is only a few degrees but the rush I get from it is incredible and I feel so good afterwards. For me self-love is all about having a self-loving mindset. When I decided to work on reprogramming my negative mindset I noticed that my body image changed for the better. We can’t control the first thought that comes to mind, but what we can do is consciously choose what our second thought should be. So my advice is whenever you get a negative thought about your body you need to do two things, notice the negative or self criticising thought that comes to mind and be aware of how you talk to yourself and secondly, consciously choose to replace the thought with a more self-loving and body positive thought.”
What do you do to feel good on days where you might not feel as positive?
“It depends on the situation. If I’m feeling down about things I can’t do anything about, I tell myself that it’s okay to feel whatever I’m feeling. I will take it easy and not force myself to feel happy. Instead I will practice self-love and pamper myself doing a home spa with skincare, eating popcorn and watching a girly movie. If I’m feeling down because I have negative thoughts about my body I will try to find gratitude because there is always something to be grateful for. I will look into the mirror and say to myself something like “Dear body, I accept you, embrace you and love you as you are. I appreciate all the things you do for me every day. You keep me alive and make it possible for me to achieve all my goals and dreams. Thank you!”
As women, do you think the relationship we have with ourselves is changing? If so, how?
“I believe there is a movement of female empowerment going on all over the world right now. Women have been suppressed and society has made us feel ashamed of our bodies, periods, female sexuality and pleasure. Now more women than ever are fighting to break the taboos and are such inspirations for others so that we all can liberate ourselves from shame. This is the time where we as girls and women need to take up all the space we need, express our opinions (including the unpopular ones), demand the same salary as men, take the seats from men in the boardroom and be proud female founders and leaders embracing our warm and feminine energy that the world needs. I’m grateful to live in this time in history.”
Tell us about Embrace Podcast, and how that came to be and what you want to achieve with it?
“I started Embrace with my friend Vickie that I met in university studying journalism. We connected on a deeper level because we discovered that we have the same passion for personal growth, self-love and a mission to empower other girls and women. We have both been on a transformational journey and wanted to be the inspiration that our younger selves needed. Growing up we were these super shy girls who always felt like we weren’t good enough, ashamed of our bodies, trying to blend in, hide our opinions and please everyone because we were so afraid of not being liked by others. I think many girls can relate to these feelings in one way or another, and in Embrace we see so much potential in those girls. They have no idea how much power they have within and it’s our mission to empower them to get out of their comfort zone, embrace themselves and find the courage to show the world who they truly are and follow their biggest dreams unapologetically. With Embrace we have created both a podcast and physical events for young women. In the podcast we talk about everything that has to do with personal growth, insecurities, self-love, body positivity and female entrepreneurship. We believe that vulnerability is a superpower and we also try to break down taboos such as body shame, loneliness, stress, depression, eating disorders, periods, female sexuality and pleasure. We create events in Copenhagen inviting girls and women to yoga, winter swimming, cocktails and networking, workshops like public speaking and goal-setting to empower them to stand stronger, connect through vulnerability and be a part of a loving sisterhood. This is truly my passion and life purpose.”
Malene wears the Ember Lace High Apex Underwire Bra with matching High Waist Knicker, the Greta Graphic Lace Underwire Bra with matching High Waist Knicker, the Noelle Organic Cotton Underwire Bodysuit and the Raven Lace Balconette Bra and matching High Waist Knicker, all in a size 36D and UK14.
Find Malene here.
Find Embrace here.