21 February 2013

A Chat With Caroline Dawson

Courtesy of Caroline Dawson
Last year, Caroline Dawson charmed the UK, and, well, probably the world, at the Miss BBW International Pageant (now called Miss Plus-Size International). Looking at the confidence that this 27-year-old, plus-size beauty exudes, it’s difficult to imagine that she ever would have doubted herself. But, like so many, Caroline battled those body image insecurities that plague most women. I was lucky enough to chat with Caroline about her life as a plus-size woman, her goals, her time at the pageant, and what it’s like to become a face for plus-size acceptance and a role model to bigger gals struggling with their bodies.

A Bit of Background
“I am originally from a town in Warwickshire called Nuneaton. Small town, not much goes on there, but its home. I’m an ex-hairdresser, learning disability worker and customer service agent.

I was always singled out as a child; I never made many friends, and then as time went on the taunts of 'fatty' started.  By the time I was about seven years old, I already had body issues.  I hated myself. And after looking at my pictures of that age I can see that I was a perfectly normal child.  Life and depression continued as did the numbers on the scales.”

Feeling Like the Black Sheep
“I do not come from a family of overweight people so I was the black sheep.  My school life was one of the most horrendous times of my life; I was mentally abused daily, and I would have gum stuck to me or in my hair, my gym kit was flushed, ink flicked on me, hair pulled, death threats; that was my day to day life.”

Delving into Depression
“I was utterly ill with depression; I even started pulling my own hair out in order to cope, and my head was soon covered in bald spots.  This was all because I was bigger than other girls. Silly huh? Those childhood scars stay with us for years after.  I had issues with alcohol by the age of 15, and was a self-harmer by 19.  All from being bullied.  It took me until I was 25 to get the help I needed.  I had been taking anti-depressants from the age of 16, but I hadn’t ever had psychology.  This was finally offered to me after nine years.”

Life as a Plus-Size Lady
“Being plus-size has affected my life in many ways; in fashion, as I adore clothes but can’t find ones I like in MY size.  In work; as it was assumed I was lazy and I often felt I had to do more than others in order to fit in.  My friendship groups were always kept small, due to trust issues (I feel like I am talking about somebody I used to know!).”

A Support System
“My life is different now; I have learned to deal with who I am, and I have started to find my place in this world. I still have bad days, but I reach out for support when I need it. I have the most amazing best friend; she has been there for me when I had nowhere else to turn.  I feel she is my own guardian angel.  I hope I can repay her one day.  Friends are the ones who can make us break us.  Take care of them.  I am no longer clinically depressed, no longer on pills, no longer have the issues I used to have.  But this only happened by asking for help and working hard. I have goals, and I find happiness from seeing others happy.”

In Love
“I am in a serious relationship; he is a wonderful man who actually saw me through many a bad day, and he helped me believe in myself.  I want to give a little piece of advice when it comes to guys: please do not let them define who you are. I hear of too many big girls ending up in crappy relationships just so they are not alone.  Those relationships are dangerous.  Never settle.  Only give yourself to someone who really knows your self worth.  Being someone’s girl isn’t the be all and end all.  Being single is just as much fun!  As long as you’re not the girl sitting on her own moaning about being alone.  Get your butt on the dance floor and enjoy life!”

Courtesy of Caroline Dawson

A Voice for Plus-Size
“For the past 3 years I have been interested in being a voice for plus-size women, and in the past 18 months I have been driven by being one.  The media love to portray plus-size people as stupid people, and I am not stupid.  I am nicely educated and I can communicate effectively.  Our media trainer for the documentary was kind enough to say I would be perfect for television debates.  I have a quick mouth, I don’t put up with rubbish, and I have the ability to articulate my point without being rude.”

Best and Worsts
“The best part of the competition would be learning to push myself, learning about how strong and passionate I am.  I got to wear a beautiful dress that my amazing mother gifted to me.  I learned that I could wear a swimsuit in front of the UK viewing audience!  The worst was my asthma attack.  I had this as I was very nervous, as we all were during rehearsal.  Some of the judges saw this and it affected my placement.  I heard when watching the show that they didn’t think I could cope with media work, and it was not my place to argue.  But, I was so sad. I put so such passion and work into the pageant.  I am not bitter as I didn’t need to win a crown; I may have wanted one but I didn’t need one to validate me or my self worth.  But as advice goes, please do not enter if you are not willing to have vile comments about you pasted over the internet.  That was a low point for me; I had a lot of abuse for the newspaper work I did.  I still get nasty comments on my Facebook pictures, but you have to learn to not look at them; that skill takes practice.”

Living in the Limelight
“It’s flattering.  My favourite part is that about 75 percent of my followers are women!  Women rarely like women!  Having followers around the world fills me with pride, and the desire to reach so many cultures is incredible.  I have an inbuilt desire to help others who are in the place I was before I found myself and my confidence.”

Student Life
“I decided at the age of 25 that I wanted to pursue my ultimate goal: university!  I enrolled in a college course which would give me the grades to get into university.  I did that while still keeping my full time job as a support worker for people with learning disabilities.  I worked very hard, and sometimes I didn’t think I could get here but here I am, at one of the best universities: Royal Holloway, University of London.  I read criminology and sociology because I have such a huge interest in crime and TV shows such as Criminal Minds, NCIS and CSI. I liked the idea of helping the community, but now I feel I would like to work in victim support, helping those whose lives have been effected by criminal activity.”

A Dream
“In my dream world things are slightly different; I would ideally be involved in self confidence and self help work, in schools for example, or giving talks at other events. Anything where I could have the chance to talk to someone who needed help or advice with their own self image.  I believe confidence is so hugely important as the lack of it can lead to poor mental health.  I have been there; I had my life ruined because of mental health issues so I would love to raise the awareness of mental health and body issues.”

Famous Now?
“Gosh no, no, I am not in any way ‘famous.’  I have a small number of likes on my Facebook page and a few likes on Twitter, nothing to brag about.  I suppose I am lucky that the platform of the BBC documentary gave me the chance to be known to a few people, and those people were gracious enough to contact me to tell me I made a difference to them, and I was shocked that I had touched just as many slim ladies; not just the plus size community!  I was asked to audition for Big Brother, but I think the show has been ruined by the press.  The most incredible thing happened just last week when Body Gossip, a self confidence organisation contacted me and asked me to be one of their ambassadors.  That made me cry like a baby!  I have not done any work with them just yet but they give talks at schools, universities and at events (sounds a little like my dream job I described earlier!)”

Life Post Pageant
“I get about a tweet a week from ladies thanking me, and I always thank them personally.  I was never one to hunt for a life of fame.  My life is about university right now.  Fame comes and goes in this world; I need my degree if I am going to continue to work in my desired areas.  The only thing I could desire from fame would be to have the chance to reach a larger audience.”

You can follow Caroline on Facebook or Twitter!


  1. I love this woman, and have for a bit now. She is a defining and shining star in so many ways. She makes me glad I do what I do. I cried when i read this and she is such a beautiful person. An example for those, well, everywhere.

  2. Agreed JameyBear; she is simply fabulous. I wouldn't be able to have this kind of blog if not for women like Caroline.

  3. Women like Caroline, and of course yourself, validate my choices and make me so very proud to know women of such high character and wonderful soul.

  4. A beautiful and inspiring read. I immediately liked Caroline's page and sent her a thank you. I hope I live to see the day when body hate is conquered.

  5. [...] this year, because not only will I be competing in the pageant, but I’ve had the opportunity to speak to both Caroline Dawson, a finalist last year, and Gemma herself.  Originally in London, but now living in Essex, this [...]

  6. I am lucky enough to be the mentioned best friend, and quite frankly I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for the love, support and friendship of Caroline, she inspires me each and every day and I would be lost without her kindness and honesty.

  7. Hi Kate,

    I am so glad you and Caroline have the kind of friendship you've both described. It's such a rare thing. I really enjoyed chatting with Caroline; you have a wonderful best friend!

  8. loved this article from head to toe

    she's such an inspiration and such an amazing part of my life

  9. She's an amazing woman! I feel privileged just to have had a chance to speak with her.


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