KAZ Kamwi starred on the 2021 series of Love Island.
Here, the islander, 27, discusses how she learned to love her body.
From the age of 15 I had stretch marks on my thighs. I was so embarrassed by them that when I had PE lessons at school, I’d cover them with foundation.
My mum Malilwe, now 53, would always say: “Stretch marks are beautiful”, but I’d do everything I could to hide them, even wearing tights or leggings under shorts in summer.
When my friends asked why, I’d just laugh it off or pretend I didn’t realise it was going to be so hot. The women in my family are taught to carry themselves with confidence and my mum tried to encourage me to be more comfortable with myself, but I wasn’t ready.
It wasn’t until the summer before I went to study Sociology at Birmingham City University, aged 18, that I thought: “I’m about to go to Freshers’ Week and it’s time to confront the things I’m not confident about.”
So, in the weeks before I went off to uni, I started wearing shorts to see if anyone looked at me weirdly or said anything – and nobody did!
By the time I got to university, people were actually saying I had nice legs. I was still putting foundation on to hide my stretch marks, so I had to slowly ease myself out of that habit.
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It wasn’t an overnight change, but once I got comfortable I stayed in that place. Plus, I was getting make-up all over my clothes!
When I decided to go on Love Island last year, I’d been single for two years. Dating apps are not for me – I much prefer the traditional way of meeting people in person, and though being on a reality TV show isn’t traditional, it is in person.
By then, I’d made peace with my legs and was actually comfortable with the idea of being in a bikini all day. The thing I was most worried about was nip slips!
I was also worried about people noticing if I looked bloated, so I packed some sarongs to help hide the bloat if needed, but I also just made sure that I didn’t let those thoughts override everything.
Naturally, you can have moments where you question whether you’re good enough – everybody has them.
But comparison is the thief of joy, and if you compare yourself to other people you lose sense of who you are. You get yourself into a hole you don’t want to go into.
HIDING STRETCH MARKS
I think it’s really important for people to be able to watch TV shows and to see themselves through someone else.
Casting needs to be diverse, so that it’s a more accurate representation of the population we have here in the UK. We live in a multicultural society and people should be able to relate to what they see on TV.
Since coming off Love Island, I joke to my family that the word “ugly” doesn’t affect me any more.
I read it about myself so much online and I’m like: “Give me something new!”
I don’t need everyone to tell me I’m stunning, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when people go out of their way to express disdain, I don’t understand where it comes from.
You just have to find a way to ignore it and make it background noise, but it is really difficult.
STOPPED COMPARING MYSELF
My boyfriend [fellow Love Islander Tyler Cruickshank, 26, who she coupled up with on the show] compliments me all the time on my physique and smile.
As humans, we appreciate being appreciated, but it’s dangerous if you solely rely on others to build up your confidence. I think if you build yourself up and people are adding to it, though, that’s fine.
The relationship with Tyler is going really well. We’re not living together yet, because we decided it’s not the right time for us, but we’re working towards that.
For now, the most important thing for me is that I’m comfortable and stay close to my true self.
I try not to keep up with or compare myself to what people often deem as beautiful on Instagram. I don’t want to succumb to that kind of pressure.
- Follow Kaz on Instagram @kazkamwi.
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