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Standing Tall Against Body-Shaming

Until a few years ago when the modeling and beauty industry celebrated the likes of Oluchi Onweagba-Orlandi and Agbani Darego, being so tall was an issue for which young girls suffered untold body-shaming and many tagged derogatory names.

Even today, some thin, tall or plump, young girls still suffer this fate, crushing their self esteem with some developing suicidal tendencies.

A group of six Footers women who suffered bullying and body-shaming as young girls and overcame, have come together as an advocacy group under the aegis of 6futasclub to put a stop to this disturbing development, and to create a platform to help girls build their shattered confidence back and turn their height into an advantage.

Allure spoke to three of the members of the newly-inaugurated 6futasclub, who share their experiences about being bullied and body-shamed.

KEMI OTEGBADE: Not only fat people are body-shamed

She stands at 6”.3 tall, a height she gained at only 13! The Founder and President of 6futasclub, she is also a seasoned Administrator, Human Resources expert and Public Relations practitioner.

What was it like growing up as the girl who was taller than her peers?

Growing up as the tallest everywhere was not a good feeling, everyone including adults who should know better, derailed you as if it was your fault. It was okay for boys to be tall but it was a major problem for tall girls whose legs started shooting out very early.

How did your peers react to you being different?

Most of the time, they feel you make them shrink in size, some don’t mind though.

Did they criticize your appearance or were you openly criticised in front of other people?

Definitely, Yes. Almost all the time. I attended a mixed secondary school and the names classmates were calling me behind my back and in my face were quite humiliating. It almost made me dread going to my classes.

Would you say that experience damaged you as a child? If yes, how?

It definitely did ab initio. I thought it was a crime to be tall, and that people would be angry once I showed my thin, long face as I was then.

Many children today get suicidal when bullied because of their appearance. For how long were you body-shamed before you realized you could put your height to good use?

Yes, they get suicidal because they do not confide in anyone. I think it is mainly because parents do not talk to their children. Height-shaming, part of body-shaming, has not been discussed in our clime. People think it is only fat people who are body-shamed, tall people especially women have been body-shamed from childhood and nobody talks about it, not even their parents. They only worry about who will marry her, they miss the real essence and pain.

What was the turning point for you?

Turning point was from my NYSC camp. I was admired by all and encouraged by both new friends and the military personnel that, it was actually, an asset. After NYSC, modelling became popular for girls with long legs, and I find many modelling agents stopping me on major roads, asking me to come to their office for casting for roles in modelling. At first, I thought they were trying to get fresh with me, but I later realized it was a professional talk.

Today what is the sweetest thing you have been told about your height?

“You get noticed,” “you have a commanding personality,” “doors will open for you anywhere.” Some still tell me that I intimidate them though.

What are your plans for the club?

Founding 6 Footers Club is my way of giving a voice to that young girl out there; that, she is not alone. The response has been amazing, so we know we are on the right track.

We look forward to partnering with many agencies related to sports, paramilitary, clothing brands in order to take good advantage of our height.

IYABO GARUBA: My height now commands respect

This project management professional holds a Higher National Diploma in Public Administration from Kogi State Polytechnic. She stands at an impressive 6.”0.

What was it like growing up as the girl who was taller than her peers?

Hmmm….it was a great challenge for me being 6ft tall at the age of 18. I was never very comfortable being around my peers; seeing the top of everyone’s head was weird. Then, there was the challenge of finding clothes, fitting into cars and airplanes and blocking others’ views at concerts or movies.

How did your peers react to you being different?

Atimes they will intentionally not call me by my name, they rather call me by those annoying names like “tally,” “longy,” when they feel the need to let you know how tall you are.

Did you criticize your appearance or were you openly criticised in front of other people?

I never did. I believe God’s creatures are beautifully and wonderfully made. I’m beautiful the way I am and I’m surrounded by lovely people who always get my back, and stand up for me if need be. Atimes, some men will say in public that I intimidate them. If you are intimidated by my height, it shows you are weak as a man.

Would you say that experience damaged you as a child? If yes, how?

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Yes. Lack of self confidence. Till date, I’m still not very bold enough to address a crowd.

Many children today get suicidal when bullied because of their appearance. For how long were you body-shamed before you realized you could put your height to good use?

Are you tall, short, fat or skinny, you will be bullied. My advice for growing up children is for them to believe in themselves. that they are the most beautiful creature. Know this, know peace. I was body-shamed all through my childhood.

I didn’t know what I got until I got into higher institution and started getting modeling opportunities, beauty pageants, sports and more

Now, I get more compliments and the ability to command respect automatically.

What was the turning point for you?

Becoming a model was the turning point for me.

Today what is the sweetest thing you have been told about your height?

Why fit in when I was born to stand out.

How do you help other young girls now?

I always make them know that what they’ve got is a great asset. I help build their self confidence and make them discover that being tall is a greatest opportunity to become a lot in the future.

RACHAEL AIREWELE: I was beefed for no reason

She is the Managing Director, Rakell Airez Fashion Home. The fashion designer who holds a degree in Geography Education from Delta State University, Abraka stands at 6.3”.

What was it like growing up as the girl who was taller than her peers?

Initially, it was quite challenging being the tallest amongst my friends. Any activity I participated in back then, I was always at the back. I used to sit at the back of the classroom just because sitting in the front or the middle row would make my classmates complain about how my head is obstructing their view. And you know, the bullies and the noise makers usually sat at the back; so, most times, when my teachers wanted to flog the students making noise at the back, I was always among those to be flogged. I was probably the youngest amongst my peers but just because of my height (being taller than most of them), they felt I was older than them.

How did your peers react to you being different?

I would say some were really welcoming, wanting to be friends with me, while others just had instant beef with me for no reason at all. They even went to the extent of calling me by some funny names ( laughs).

Did you criticize your appearance or were you openly criticised in front of other people?

I never criticized my appearance. I think I would say I knew what I got right from time and that it was an asset. But as for being openly criticized by my peers, oh yes, they did.

Would you say that experience damaged you as a child? If yes, how?

No, it did not.

Many children today get suicidal when bullied because of their appearance. For how long were you body-shamed before you realized you could put your height to good use?

Yes, and that’s why we should say no to bullying. When one bullies another person because of their appearance, it affects the person mentally and can result in the person having low self confidence. All these can lead to the person being suicidal.

I wasn’t body-shamed for too long because my elder sisters, back then, used to tell me how I’m going to go to Paris when I’m of age and go into modeling. So, I always knew I was going to make use of the height one day.

What was the turning point for you?

It was after I finished my secondary school examination (WAEC and NECO). I signed up with a modeling agency and I started getting modeling jobs, signed a few contracts, did some musical videos and even ushering jobs. All these are my life experiences that shaped me into who I am today–a fashion designer, a paint artist, a writer and also a model.

Today what is the sweetest thing you have been told about your height?

That I am uniquely blessed because of my height, I know that it’s true because most of the time, my height starts conversations for me.

How do you help other young girls now?

I encourage most young girls I come across, to embrace and accept themselves for who they are, for it’s the way you carry yourself that’s how others will take you too. Raise your shoulders high and walk tall. I have also encouraged some to go into modeling. I know a few that are signed with some international modeling agencies now and are living their best lives.

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