VERSUS: There are so many barriers to young girls and women accessing sport, and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about skin consciousness before, especially in football. Why do you think that is?
The issue with this subject is that no one talks about it generally. Everything today is so visual and forced upon us – girls and women especially – that we feel as if we have to accept and apply a standardised version of what’s ‘beautiful’. Consequently, it feels like we have no power to go against it and be ourselves. That’s not necessarily why we haven’t spoken about it, but I know that campaigns like this one bring certain topics into everyday consciousness. And on a wider societal note, ensure that there aren’t as many barriers so that everyone can live the way they want to.
VERSUS: I still have a love-hate relationship with my skin, so if I were to have something like this growing up, in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t have cared as much about my appearance. What do you want the lasting impact of this campaign and this programme to be?
Firstly, I’m really sorry you feel that way about your own skin but hearing you say that, just reinforces why this campaign is so important. In terms of what I want the lasting impact of this work to be, I think it’s that we continue to talk about skin consciousness. The young girls who’d been through the ‘Validate It’ programme with FBB felt heard and proud. It’s important that they feel like they can be who they’d like to be and move how they’d like to move.
I was taken aback when I sat down with them earlier this year. So, if their voices can echo across the whole world, then I know that every woman would feel a lot more confident in the way they move and feel in their skin.
VERSUS: Can you tell us a little bit more about the ‘Validate It’ programme?
It’s an eight-week curriculum model that FBB implements with participants aged between 12-13 and it’s all about them feeling comfortable in their own skin. It helps young women to address and hopefully overcome barriers associated with skin consciousness, body image, self-esteem and everything the world projects onto them in regards to appearance.
VERSUS: What were the young people’s reaction to this campaign?
I mean, the fact it’s already reached 200 young people and young women in London is amazing. I think, when you look at school education as a whole, a lot of it is extremely rigid. It’s Maths, English, and Science, and we don’t teach our young people to actually live.
This curriculum being embedded in schools provides a breath of fresh air. I’ve heard so much about the excitement around it for young people, and needless to say, I’m also extremely excited about the number of people it’ll continue to reach.
VERSUS: As you say, school can be quite rigid, and over the years, there’s been a lack of funding towards the arts and sports as a result of that rigidity. So, if we can give young people another avenue to access that element of self-expression, then why not!
Yeah, I think there are a lot of tangible barriers that you see regarding women’s sport, especially football. But, I feel what’s often overlooked are the intangible ones; the societal barriers that have been plaguing us for years for example.
I think that makes women’s football unique in terms of how it can grow, and it’s something that inspires me to spread the message because there is so much more that we can do. It’s just going beyond the thinking and conversations, and instead implementing lasting change that can be seen and felt by as many people as possible.
VERSUS: Is there a specific part of the school’s programme that you find particularly impactful or inspiring?
When the girls first get introduced to the curriculum, they’re given a safe space to talk, which doesn’t happen often for young people. We’re often told to be quiet or be careful, which as a way of growing up, I find to be quite unhealthy. So, already being able to talk about your skin with other people allows you to celebrate it, as you’re all in the same boat. That’s really important to me.
VERSUS: Do you think that skin consciousness is something that professional players talk about?
From my own experience, without a doubt. As athletes, too, you’re prone to thinking about your physical appearance because of how much you’re in the public eye. You question whether you should post one picture instead of another because of how you might look, and those pressures come from wider societal perceptions and expectations of how women should look. Social media and the imagery we are all subjected to online perpetuate those damaging narratives for example, and make it really hard for people to accept and appreciate who they are.
The photographs that make up this mobile exhibition are of beautiful women who are moving with confidence and feeling proud in their skin. These are the images we should be encouraging, not the ones that leave people with questions about themselves.
VERSUS: This campaign plays a crucial role in getting more girls and young women to play sports. Let’s talk about grassroots football. What is it that you love about it so much?
One of the most beautiful things about grassroots football is that it doesn’t have to be serious. It is not about thinking: “Ah, I’m going to go and use this to play professional football”, it’s about just playing for fun, enjoying it, being around your mates, and being able to shout, scream, and move in a way that isn’t as if you’re about to be told off by a teacher.
I also like to think it’s accessible, particularly for young women. The opportunities that young kids have nowadays are far greater than the ones I had, and that’s definitely something that’s being worked on and developed as time goes on.
VERSUS: What I personally also love about this campaign is that I know this very cage, as it’s where I used to play out with my friends and kick a ball. And so, I just love the idea that it now has all of these images of women being themselves – in a space where I grew up – where I was one of maybe two girls in that court at the time. It’s a super powerful depiction of the change that’s happened in the last 10, 15, 20 years, so well done for being a part of that.
And congratulations on being selected for the World Cup! Has that sunk in yet?
Yeah, it’s amazing to say I’m going to it. I’m very proud, but my family and friends are probably even more proud, which makes me really happy. The fact I’m one of only two, maybe three, Londoners in the squad is also a big achievement for me.
I’d like to think that it’s going to be a good summer, and I’m sure it will be, regardless of what happens, purely based on the amount of hard work, love and enjoyment we’ve put in. So, I think being excited is an understatement.
VERSUS: You’ve always got our support, but to have someone from our area go to a World Cup, it’s amazing to see. Big up E3.
You’re absolutely right and I really appreciate that, it means a lot so thank you.
Images taken by Ellie Ramsden for VERSUS.