Amy bares almost all to prove point

 

SHE'S wearing barely anything at all, but she's covered in confidence.

A flick of her aqua-toned hair and an effortless twist of her torso, and Amy Sheppard is ready again for the camera to click. With the exception of a few goosebumps on a crisp Brisbane winter's morning, the 28-year-old is relaxed, comfortable.

To an oblivious onlooker, she is a woman completely content with her gorgeous, healthy body - curves and all.

But Sheppard, and her mum Linda watching from the sidelines, know it hasn't always been that way. They know it has taken the Brisbane singer-songwriter a long time to build up this level of confidence; to not care what people think; to not weigh herself daily or starve herself or overexercise to fit into a few-sizes-too-small red carpet dress.

Amy Sheppard poses for U on Sunday. Picture: Annette Dew.
Amy Sheppard poses for U on Sunday. Picture: Annette Dew.

"There have been so many times where I've not eaten a single carb for weeks on end because of an event," Sheppard says. "If you do want to have access to clothes before they hit the racks, you need to be able to fit the sample sizes. Seeing as I struggled to fit into sample sizes at my smallest, this was always a huge struggle for me.

"And nobody even cares if you're a size 10 or a size 6 or a size 14 on the day except for you, and it's a lot of pressure for very little return, I think. It's just not worth it.

"For me, for my body type to be a size 8 is just an impossible feat. I don't want to live that life, I am always miserable being a size 8 because I have to basically starve myself."

She's not alone. Sheppard knows it is an issue that affects many, many women. So as she fights her body image demons, she's encouraging other women to fight theirs.

Amy Sheppard poses for U on Sunday. Picture: Annette Dew
Amy Sheppard poses for U on Sunday. Picture: Annette Dew

Her "cheeky" campaign - #kissmyfatass - is a social media movement that empowers women to ditch the filters and embrace their insecurities, sharing pictures online using the hashtag.

This photo shoot is something Sheppard says she'd "never have done" before the #kissmyfatass campaign, which has now culminated in a new single for her ARIA and APRA Award-winning Brisbane band Sheppard, which includes her siblings George and Emma, and friends Jason Bovino and Dean Gordon.

But when the movement became a national sensation in January she realised there was a broader message she could convey to young women about their self-worth.

"Initially, when I started it (#kissmyfatass), I was just sick of stressing about events or stressing about photo shoots for weeks in advance and making sure my diet was on point and I was exercising every day," she says.

"It's like that Dr Seuss quote, 'Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind'. And it's so true because since I've been doing this it has really changed me. My confidence has skyrocketed. Not because of what other people think but because of what I think of myself.

"I don't care if people see my cellulite because it doesn't make me a bad musician; it doesn't make me a bad person; it doesn't change anything at all. So, if anything, I hope it gives other women the confidence to do the same.

"We are people before we are bodies, and it's very important to look past the way someone looks. At the end of the day, no one really minds if you've got cellulite."

Sheppard says by "putting it all out there" she has "taken the power away" from body shamers and critics.

"Being in the public eye, people always notice when you've put on weight or lost weight and I just wanted to fit into the beauty standards that society had set and fit into what Instagram had deemed acceptable or up to scratch for a photo to be posted - it needs to be perfect lighting and needs to look flawless, so I needed to fit into that and I wanted perfect content," she says.

The Sheppard siblings Amy, George and Emma. Picture: Nigel Hallett.
The Sheppard siblings Amy, George and Emma. Picture: Nigel Hallett.

"But I realised that no such thing really exists and I want people to remember me for what's inside and my words and my music, not the
perfect selfie.

"I want to tell women that 'it's OK, you don't have to pretend you don't have cellulite' because there's nothing wrong with having cellulite,

there's nothing wrong with having stretchmarks, if anything it proves that you've lived ... it needs to be celebrated and not discouraged."

Sheppard - who grew up in Papua New Guinea and relocated to Brisbane in high school - can't remember at exactly what age she first started obsessing about her weight, but traces it back to her primary school days. She says children at her PNG school were publicly weighed and she remembers feeling "ashamed" when her BMI was higher than those of other students.

"I've always been so concerned with how much I weigh. I can look at any old photo and tell you how much I weighed," she says.

"I would weigh myself most days and sometimes more than once a day if I was on a diet. In years past, how much I weighed could determine my mood for months."

While she still loves staying fit and healthy, she says fixating on a number of kilograms or what she ate became an "exhausting" world the Coming Home singer no longer wanted to be part of. So she swapped goals on the scales for new goals, such as visiting new places, writing new songs or learning how to do handstand push-ups or being able to dead lift 100kg.

"One of the best changes I've made in this whole process is saying goodbye to the scales," she says.

Her partner of five years, Lachlan Stuart, is a men's performance coach and founded The Man That Can Project, which helps men overcome mental, emotional and physical suffering.

Amy Sheppard and boyfriend Lachlan Stuart. Source: Facebook
Amy Sheppard and boyfriend Lachlan Stuart. Source: Facebook

He's been a staunch supporter of her music career - turning up to their Eurovision: Australia Decides performance early this year wearing a shirt supporting their competing single On My Way - and her movement.

"Having positive people who lift you up every day is imperative,'' she says.

"Lachie is my rock and he's never made me feel as though I'm not enough."

Sheppard says self-love doesn't always come easy, but she's getting better at beating "the bully in my head".

"Learn to love the parts you've been told to hate because it will free you and it will heal you, and being self-conscious about your body your whole life is just hindering your mind," she says.

"You can't concentrate on anything except how you look and there's so many things to worry about in this life and to take one pressure off is really relieving. I have days where I'm not feeling as confident and I have bad-body image days but it is also important to have tools to get you out of those ruts.

"So now I just try to beat the bully in my head, she's still there and she comes up every day but you just have to shut it down before it beats you."

The Geronimo hit-maker describes Instagram as a "scary" place, where the use of photo editing apps and strategic poses to create perfect skin and bodies is rampant.

She says her best advice to other women struggling with their self-confidence is to "stop comparing yourself to strangers on the internet" and "unfollow anyone who doesn't bring you value or anyone who makes you feel less than".

She admits she has done it herself, using apps and filters to put her best face forward, but stopped when she realised many of the young girls looking up to her may not appreciate how she was achieving those "perfect" images.

The Sheppard siblings Amy, George and Emma perform during Eurovision - Australia Decides at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.
The Sheppard siblings Amy, George and Emma perform during Eurovision - Australia Decides at Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images.

"I thought, 'They're comparing their real skin or their real butt to my butt, which is Facetuned and it's not real', so I just decided that I didn't want to do it anymore, I didn't want to portray that I was this person when I'm not," she says.

"With Instagram, it's the girl next door, it's the best friend, it's all of these beautiful women showing their highlight reel and then you don't realise that they're actually doing all this retouching and using filters and perfectly posing.

"Everyone just wants to fit into this society where we're all perfect, and we're not perfect and we're never measuring up, and we're basing our worth on how we look more than ever, I believe. Just be aware that what you're seeing isn't real life."

Beauty, to Sheppard, is kindness and generosity -

the traits she sees in her mother Linda, and her grandmother (Baba). Linda says she had her

own body image issues as a teen and is so proud

of her daughter for being such an extraordinary role model.

Sheppard says she wants to make other women feel as "liberated" as she does, penning Sheppard's recent single Kiss My Fat Ass along with brother George and bandmate Jason Bovino.

Amy Sheppard poses for U on Sunday. Picture: Annette Dew.
Amy Sheppard poses for U on Sunday. Picture: Annette Dew.

"I was thinking, 'What can I do to make a difference and how can I get this message out to as many people as I can?' so I did what I knew how to do and wrote a song out of it," she says.

"I'm actually just very proud of this whole project because of the support that it has received - everyone has been really willing to participate and support me in it and I guess it's a testament to how much it's needed and how much there is a demand for people wanting to see normal bodies.

"It's all about celebrating individuality. It's something that we're super proud of and it's probably the most proud I've been of a track. It's rewarding because I know it's helping other women and men."

One of the "lovely" things that has happened since she launched the #kissmyfatass movement is the steady flow of messages she's received from people detailing their body image wins.

"I've been getting messages every day from women and men saying thank you because for the first time they went on holiday and wore a bikini or they didn't care what people thought," she says. "Comments like that really help me to keep going."

The video clip for the song features the likes of Paralympic swimmer Monique Murphy, former Biggest Loser trainer Tiffiny Hall, CrossFit athlete Kara Saunders and The Body Image Movement leader Taryn Brumfitt, who all strip down to nude-coloured underwear.

"It (filming the clip) was one of my favourite days I've ever had - there were no egos, everyone was just really supportive of each other," Sheppard says. "I'm just bursting with pride for this video clip. Your worth isn't in how you look, your worth is in how hard you work at your passions and shifting that focus is going to be the key out of your rut.

"I think if you strive for kindness and generosity that's what makes a person beautiful."



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