Marlyee Copeland, 28

Growing up, I had low self-esteem about the way I looked. Although my mum would tell me how beautiful I was, other sources were feeding me a very different story. I am of mixed heritage (my mum is white British, my dad is black Jamaican) and I grew up in a suburban, majority-white town, so at nursery I didn’t have the same skin colour as the dolls I played with, at primary school I certainly didn’t have the same hair texture as the girls in the books I read, and at secondary school people that were held up as role models didn’t look like me.

"When I was younger, I spent so much time doing everything I could in order to fit unachievable beauty standards; straightening my hair, tweezing my eyebrows, putting on make-up. I remember how gutted my mum was the first time I straightened my hair. She used to tell me I was beautiful every single day just the way I was, and that’s given me so much confidence to be who I am today" - Marlyee, 28

I constantly tried to alter the way I looked. One of my friends once told me: ‘You should make more effort and wear more make-up, that way the boys will like you more.’ So, for years, I would spend hours straightening my hair and disastrously tweezed my eyebrows – all in an attempt to fit in with this unachievable idea of beauty.

The turning point for me was when I got my first job working at a children’s afterschool club. There, I noticed girls as young as five starting to develop their own insecurities about the way they looked, when to me each and every one of them was amazing inside and out. This work has helped me to redefine what I think real beauty is. It’s helped me to realize what is actually important. I am not here to please the eyes of others.

As women, we are always going to be held to unrealistic beauty standards set by the powers that be, so I believe we need to be the change we want to see by challenging what is constructed for us and redefining what real beauty truly means.