“Brave Miss World”

In my work as a Psychotherapist and Body Image specialist, I am often asked to talk about the complexity of the relationship we have with our bodies, the extent to which the way we feel about our bodies affects who we are, and to what degree we are able to distinguish between our physical and intellectual selves. In our modern, highly visual world, that relationship has become more and more complex, and I am often struck by the extent to which the relationship between each individual and the body they inhabit is a critical part of all human experience.
Last night I participated in a Jewish Film Festival event for the UK premiere of Brave Miss World – an Emmy-nominated documentary charting the experience of a former Miss World, Linor Abargil, who was the victim of rape at the height of her pageant fame, and who has spent the subsequent years, finding her role and voice as an activist and women’s rights champion. The film is both moving and inspiring, and Linor’s strength and inner beauty really stands out. Her campaigning work empowers other victims to speak out about their horrific experience, to work to cast aside the stigma attached to being a victim of rape, and to ensure that the critical eye is firmly on the perpetrators of these terrible crimes. The site has 500,000 visitors who post testimonials, support each other, and find resources. This really is a deeply moving story and a very powerful piece of film-making. I would recommend that people catch it either at the Jewish Film Festival on 20th November or through Netflix, where it is now available on demand.
One of the areas explored in Brave Miss World, is how Linor’s relationship to her own body altered as a result of her experience. A model and Miss World Winner by the age of 18, she was propelled into the public as a result of her physical beauty. As the film charts her experience into her late 20’s and 30’s, her growing personal strength and campaigning agenda is accompanied by a change in her response to her physical self. Linor embraces religion and chooses to observe the Orthodox rules of keeping her body and hair covered and strictly limiting physical contact with men outside of her immediate family. This transformation reminded me how important it is to recognise the significance of the relationship we have with our bodies. It is not a vain or trivial concern. It is at the core of who we are and how we relate to the world – indeed, our physical self is the way, rightly or wrongly, that the world first views us.
As part of the APPG on Body Image, I was gratified to be involved in the launch, last month, of the Be Real campaign – a government-backed initiative, supported by brands, individuals, charities and young people’s organisation to champion greater body confidence in UK society and to re-focus attention on health and wellbeing rather than simply 100% on aesthetics. In short, to encourage all of us to nurture healthy relationships with our bodies because is critical for good physical and mental health. Linor’s story in Brave Miss World was a powerful reminder that we must protect and enjoy our bodies and what they enable us to do, for ourselves, first and foremost. And try to dispel some of the pressure we feel, especially as women, to present a perfect body for the objectification of the outside world.



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