воскресенье, 12 марта 2017 г.
'I went from anorexic teen to plus-size model'
Rejected by model agencies for being too fat, teenager Mellissa Laycy developed a lethal eating disorder. Now 22, she's curvy, confident and on the catwalk
Striding down the catwalk wearing nothing but a lacy bra and matching knickers, Mellissa Laycy oozes confidence and attitude.
She's achieved her schoolgirl dream of modelling. But she's not your normal stick-thin model. Mellissa is a size 16, with 42in hips and 32GG breasts.
Far from hiding her curves, the statuesque blonde flaunts them and she's the star of the show at this lingerie event.
With designers such as Vivienne Westwood and hot newcomer Mark Fast using 'normal' sized women to promote their clothes, curvy girls are making their mark on the catwalk from London to New York.
And, just like the American supersize supermodel Crystal Renn, Mellissa is in demand because of her size 16 figure.
But six years ago, it was a very different story. Mellissa was in the grip of anorexia.
After spending two years starving herself, Mellissa's body had started to shut down. Her periods had stopped, her skin was lifeless and her long blonde hair was falling out.
Her eating problems began at the age of 13 when, 5ft 9in tall and a size 8-10, she was rejected by a modelling agency for having too much puppy fat.
Desperate to become a model, the teenager took drastic action. Surviving on just diet cola and a small plate of steamed vegetables a day, Mellissa's weight soon plummeted to just 7st.
"I thought thinner had to be better, so I dieted harder," she remembers.
It was all to achieve her modelling dream. But it could have killed her.
Melissa and her friends used to pore over fashion magazines dreaming of becoming models. Then one of her classmates was signed up to a modelling agency.
"She'd go on fashion shoots and tell us all about getting her hair and make-up done," Mellissa remembers. "It sounded so exciting."
It was a world Mellissa wanted to be part of. So she convinced her mum Elaine, now 63, who had modelled in fashion shows locally in her 20s, to take her from their home in Hampshire to meet model agents in London.
Excited, the teenager was convinced this would be her big break.
"We saw nine agents, and every one of them said the same thing - to come back when I'd lost my puppy fat.
"I was so shocked. I'd never thought I was overweight. But if the model agents said I was, then I must be. I decided to lose some weight and try again."
Mellissa embarked on a strict diet, swapping junk food for fruit and veg. Within six months she'd dropped down to a size 8. She headed back to London, certain this time she had the perfect figure for modelling.
Sitting in the agency offices, she compared herself to the girls on the walls.
"I didn't think I was as skinny as them, but I hoped I'd lost enough weight to be taken on," she recalls.
But Mellissa was still rejected. "They said I was pretty but my body shape wasn't right. To me, that meant only one thing - I was still too big. I was devastated."
When her mum saw how upset she was, she begged her to drop her model dreams.
"Mum said most models weren't happy. Did I really want to be like them? But I wouldn't listen," she says.
Mellissa cut down her diet to barely 600 calories a day, surviving on veg, black coffee and diet drinks.
"I'd take ProPlus to keep me going," she says.
"Everyone dieted at school, so no one thought it was odd if I just brought in an apple for lunch."
She lost another stone, but she was fixated with calories and started skipping meals altogether.
"I became very deceitful. I'd shove crumbs from the toaster on to a plate and dirty a knife with butter so my parents would think I'd had breakfast," she admits. "And I'd tell Mum I wanted to eat dinner in my bedroom, then I'd flush my food down the toilet.
"Food had become my enemy. It stood between me and my dream."
Meanwhile, to lose even more weight, Mellissa started exercising obsessively - doing hundreds of leg lifts, stomach crunches and press-ups in her room. Every day she would study her body in the mirror to see if she looked skinny enough.
"I'd pore over catwalk pictures, scrutinising models' bodies to see where I could improve," she says.
By the time she was 15, Mellissa weighed just 7st 7lb and wore size 6 clothes - painfully thin for a girl of her height.
By then she had downy hair on her face, her hip bones and ribcage jutted through paper-thin skin and her hair was falling out.
"I couldn't sleep because my bones stuck out and hurt me when I lay down. But I was still convinced I was fat."
Her parents were beside themselves with worry and her mum was often in tears. But their pleas fell on deaf ears and, by 16, Mellissa was a tiny size 4 and 7st. It was only when the head teacher noticed her dramatic weightloss and contacted her parents that they were able to convince her to see a doctor. She was diagnosed with anorexia and referred to The Priory Hospital in Roehampton for treatment.
"I wasn't ready to get better, though. And my parents wanting me to didn't make any difference to me," she says. "I read on the internet about how to trick the doctors at my monthly weigh-in," she explains. "I'd wear ankle weights under my jeans to pretend I was getting heavier."
Despite her illness, Mellissa managed to pass seven GCSEs and earned a drama scholarship at a college in Guildford, Surrey.
But, surrounded by other confident girls her age, she felt increasingly insecure about her looks - especially when she overheard some of her classmates commenting on how skinny she was.
"I was about to go into the classroom one day when I heard two girls saying I looked sick," she says. "I was so embarrassed. Had I gone too far?"
Torn between wanting to look 'normal' and her fear of putting on weight, Mellissa began to binge.
"I'd eat anything I could get my hands on - peanut butter, ice cream, cakes, crisps - then I'd make myself sick," she says.
One afternoon, feeling miserable, Mellissa embarked on another bingeing session.
After stuffing herself full of food, she made herself sick as usual. But this time, there was blood in her vomit.
Panicking she'd done some serious damage, she called her parents and begged for help. "I've got to stop this," she sobbed to her dad, who answered the phone. "I need help - I'm scared."
She was admitted to hospital - by now she was 2st underweight for her height. Part of her treatment included group therapy, to understand why she felt the need to diet.
"I explained that I felt there was no connection between me and my body. I felt disgusted by my attempts to control what I was eating, but I couldn't stop myself."
Mellissa was forced to eat three regular meals a day.
"The first night they served cottage pie for dinner. I didn't want to eat it because I knew they'd be watching me closely to make sure I didn't throw up. But three nurses sat with me until I'd finished the lot.
"Each mouthful was so difficult, a fight with myself. But deep down, I knew it was for my own good."
With six weeks of intensive therapy, Mellissa finally accepted that she needed to get better and learn to eat again. After getting her weight up to 10st she was discharged and went back to live with her parents.
They ensured she stuck to her recommended three meals a day, and Mellissa continued to put on weight. She developed breasts, hips and a curvy bottom. But she hated her new voluptuous figure.
"I felt disgusted with myself," she remembers. "So I started dieting again because I still hadn't given up on modelling." After losing more than a stone, taking her to a size 10, she felt confident enough to go out for drinks with friends from school.
It was at a London bar that she met Gaven Orlando, a 31-year-old property developer.
"I thought he was gorgeous. He asked me out and we started dating.
"I couldn't believe he found me attractive. Every time he told me I was beautiful, I just went on about how I needed to lose weight."
With Gaven's support Mellissa realised she needed to get to grips once and for all with her unhealthy attitude to food.
"I'd go out for dinner and just order salad and I didn't drink much alcohol.
"It was difficult for him - he could see that I wasn't really enjoying myself. And I was sometimes snappy with him because I constantly felt hungry."
One day, flicking through a magazine, she saw an advert for a hypnotherapist who treated eating issues. Mellissa made an appointment.
"I'd had so much therapy that hadn't worked, I thought anything was worth a try," she says. At £500 for two hours, the treatment wasn't cheap, but Mellissa believes it was worth every penny.
"Under hypnosis I was taught how to reassess my relationship with food," she says. "I explained I wanted to think positively about food and to see it as fuel or a treat instead of something destructive."
And, to Mellissa's astonishment, over the coming weeks, she began to relax about her diet and to enjoy food.
"The therapy helped me to stop worrying about my weight and to accept my natural curvy shape."
Mellissa's now 12st 3lb and is a size 16. And she's never been happier.
Last year, she applied to be a plus-size model.
"I wasn't worried about rejection - I knew I looked good," she says.
And this time, the response couldn't have been more different.
"They all wanted to sign me," she grins.
Choosing to join the London-based Hughes Models, Mellissa has been working ever since.
"I've worked for Evans and Spanx and done magazine shoots and TV appearances, including GMTV and How To Look Good Naked," she says.
"Being taken on as a plus-size model has given me a feeling of total acceptance. In a way, I'm glad I went through what I did because it got me to where I am now.
"When I look at old photos of me it's like looking at another person. I can't believe how thin I was, yet I thought I was fat. In reality, I was slowly killing myself."
Mellissa's friends and family all love her new look - especially Gaven.
"He adores my curves," she says. "And he says my personality has completely changed - I'm upbeat and I've got more to talk about than dieting!
"For the first time in my life, I love my body. Modelling could have destroyed me, but instead I'm doing it on my own terms. I still go to the gym and look after myself, but now I celebrate my body. It makes me sad when I see models who are so skinny. I know what sacrifices some of them have to make to stay slim.
"But it doesn't have to be that way. I'm healthy, happy and a model."
Gaven says: "Mellissa is a lot more confident now she's happy in her own skin. She's sexier now and she has curves in all the right places."