01.12.2022

Body confidence influencer Chessie King on her experiences of trolling

Despite using her platform to spread body confidence and inspiring posts, she’s sadly still subject to trolling – and she’s not alone. According to a recent and shocking YouGov poll, 55% of 18-24 year olds have been bullied online.

With over 600,000 followers on Instagram, Chessie King is an influencer who’s using her platform to uplift us all. Her pictures – and voice – are unfiltered in the best possible way.

In light of this, Chessie has teamed up with cyberbullying charity, Cyber Smile, for their banter or bullying campaign which talks about the fine line between bullying and banter.

Dan Raisbeck, co-founder of Cybersmile gave us more insight into what the campaign is about, saying: “We urge people to think about when they are overstepping the mark, and to challenge others who do so. By talking openly about this issue, we can help ensure that banter is kept safe from the bullies.”

We spoke with Chessie about her work helping to empower women about their bodies and how she deals with social media when it can be all-consuming, especially in light of the infamous In The Style campaign she starred in.

What’s that journey been like exposing and telling your story about how you feel about your body?

I posted my first ‘real’ photo about 3 years ago and back then there was just no post that I could relate to and I just thought it needed to be out there. It was obviously very vulnerable and it was exposing, but I think over the past three years since I’ve posted that photo, the more I’ve shared, the more it’s helped people, but the more it’s also helped me with my relationship with my body.

I can be that thing that breaks up someone’s feed, the thing that breaks up the negativity in their life and the person that can make someone smile and say ‘oh Chessie’s going through it too’ or ‘I can get through this too’. I just want to be that big sister role model, I want to be that body confidence figure that hopefully young girls can relate to.

What is ‘being real’ on Instagram for you?

I think it’s quite difficult to be fully ‘real’ in posts. That’s why I do a lot of videos because I feel like you can’t hide behind a video, and it shows more of me. With Instagram stories, you have that freedom to be more real. The meaning of real has changed since I first posted about three years ago. It’s more just being open and relatable and open to all kinds of opinions. I think it’s also being brave because courage is vulnerability.

What kind of changes would you like to see with social media restrictions?

The campaign Instagram have just done, Create Don’t Hate, I think that is amazing and the awareness around that is brilliant, but I also think they need to add something. When you go into blocking a user or blocking an account, there isn’t actually an option to block because they’re bullying. There’s just block because they’re pretending to be someone else and because they’re posting harmful content, but actually there’s not an option that they’re bullying and I think that would be such a powerful change for Instagram. I feel like you can block a user, but they can always come back at you, because they’ll create another anonymous account, so I think that would be an amazing next step.

At first I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t hurt me. It’s another world. Obviously bullying at school was something that happened at school, and you could escape it. You wouldn’t actually have the accessibility and you wouldn’t be open to that bullying, whereas now, it’s so easy for trolls. With trolls it can happen to people with 23 followers, it can happen to people with 2.3 million followers and in between. I worked with Cybersmile and we did a series called ‘What Strangers Say About Me’. It was me reading out the comments out loud, taking on the persona of what I thought the person sounded or acted like. All of the hate comments, I’d try to give them a bit of personality, it gave me power, it empowered me and made me take back control that the trolls had taken from me.

It’s silenced me. I haven’t posted for weeks because of trolls and I’ve been scared to say things. I think anything you say on social media now, you’ll have at least one person coming at you and disagreeing, but there’s a line between disagreeing and being a troll and being rude and malicious and it has really affected me negatively. I never used to overthink what I’ve said, but now I’m so aware that anything I say with be brought up, scrutinised or commented on, so I think it’s made me hyper-aware of what I say, which isn’t always the worst thing, but it has affected my confidence hugely.

Does being a role model feel burdensome?

I do feel like there is pressure, speaking out and using my voice and using my platform. I never set out to do what I’m doing now, it’s kind of just evolved from what I’m doing now and from me just sharing experiences, so it’s never really changed to way of me thinking of how I’m sharing stuff, but as much as I do online, I try and do just as much offline and I go into school and I’m campaigning and trying to change the curriculum in school education.

Can you tell me a bit more about the work you’re trying to do to change the curriculum in schools?

In June, I really just wanted to put it out there that I believe there should at least be an hour every week talking about different topics every lesson. Maybe an hour one week talking about body confidence, maybe an hour on mental health awareness, an hour the next week on body hair and acne and periods and sex and contraception and all the stuff that I feel like we just weren’t taught. Now I think more than ever, students need that support, the teachers definitely need that support, because they have such a huge responsibility to teach all of these subjects and then speak about these things that are life issues and they’re not qualified to do that and it’s so much pressure. I feel like I can bridge that gap between parents and children and then students and teachers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.