Hackney body image charity shortlisted for national award

A Hackney charity, backed by TV stylist Gok Wan, which promotes a positive body image especially to teenage girls at risk of eating disorders, has been shortlisted for a national prize.

Body Gossip, based on Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton, is up for two awards in the campaigns and education sections of the government’s first Body Confidence Awards.

Founder Natasha Devon, who lives in Hackney, set up the group to tackle low self esteem amongst teenagers after battling with an eating disorder herself.

She said: “Self esteem is an issue that affects the overwhelming majority of teenagers.

“It is totally normal to go through some insecurity in your teenage years but now there are so many more aggressive influences on teenagers and so much pressure on them to look perfect. If they don’t there are so many things around that tell them they are a failure.

“If you do feel bad about yourself one of the easiest things to do is take it out on your body.”

So she and co-director Ruth Rogers, from Stoke Newington, set up Gossip School; a self-esteem class which has recently visited City Academy and Haggerston School.

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Hour-long sessions tackle bullying, self-harm and eating disorders and question pupils’ negative beliefs about themselves. They also look at advertising and air-brushing.

She said: “It’s totally overwhelming the response I get. I was expecting it to resonate with young women but I was really taken aback by the response from young men.

“I don’t think teenage boys have the same network and support as girls and I think we are one of the only campaigns in the country that reaches both genders. I would never change that as it’s so important.”

Winners will be announced on Thursday April 19 at the awards ceremony in Parliament.

Visit http://bodygossip.org/ for more information.

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