Stina Sanders is a force to be reckoned with. In 2015, the U.K.-based model and lifestyle blogger made waves when she started posting “real”, unedited photos of her daily life on Instagram, shocking her fans while making a major feminist, body positive statement. Today, Stina is using her voice to empower women through her work on her #Unfiltered blog, her book, and several other exciting projects. We’re honored to share Stina’s words with you all in our Winter 2018 magazine!
Tell us about yourself!
I’m what is coined as an ‘honest writer’. I write about my life, sex, relationships and anything I want to get off my chest.
How did you become involved in modeling?
I was 14 and scouted by a photographer. I left school at 18 to pursue modeling as a career, I saved the money I made from that to fund my university degree. Modeling was never a long-term goal, it was just something that helped pay the bills and my education.
What inspired you to use your platform as a way to start body positive, feminist conversations?
There was no real inspiration or drive for talking about the things I felt passionate about. I’ve always been honest online and when I want to discuss a topic that’s important to me, then I use social media, as it’s a great place to start any conversation.
What influenced you to post those ‘real life’ photos of yourself on Instagram? Was it difficult to reveal them so publicly? What were the reactions?
I suffered with depression for many years and it always annoyed me that people had no idea what was going through my head because all they could see was my “fabulous life” portrayed on social media. Of course, none of that is real and it’s only a sneak peek of the bigger picture.
I thought it would be funny to show the bigger picture on Instagram where I would usually post glamorous images of my life. Yes, it was strange at first to post such gritty photos, especially as I hadn’t told anyone what I was doing.
After the second photo, I felt liberated and found the reactions from my followers really interesting. The majority of comments were from women, whereas usually men would comment on my modeling photos. So it was nice to feel a connection with my followers, rather than someone just telling me what they thought of my body.
Your blog, #Unfiltered, is so empowering and touches on so many great subjects. What are some topics you’re most passionate about?
I like writing about things people feel uncomfortable talking about. So whether that’s having IBS, anxiety or hairy nipples, I like to discuss these things in depth and my experience of whatever it is I’m writing about. I know people can relate to me and I like the thought of making someone feel they are not alone. No one is perfect. We all have our flaws.
You’ve spoken up a lot about mental health and your battle with anxiety. What’s the biggest thing you want people to know about mental health?
Anyone can suffer with mental health. Even the most successful, strongest person you know could be suffering with anxiety or depression. It’s not always obvious and I think people need to be aware of that. I also think our understanding of mental health is getting better; people are not as quick to judge anymore but we still need to raise awareness of the issue, especially in the workplace.
You’re extremely transparent when it comes to sharing your struggles with your body and mental health. How do you manage the bullying that inevitably comes with being so public?
Of course, you get the odd comment and troll, and when I do, I just ignore it. I have been quite lucky as the things I’m talking about aren’t controversial in that they will upset people. My articles usually get people talking positively and honestly.
Have you experienced bullying when you were younger? If so, how did you handle it?
Yes, I did. I was born with a disfigured eye and that made for lots of name calling at school. It was upsetting at the time but now I look back and see it as a learning curve. I think it’s fair to say, bullying taught me to accept my flaws and embrace them. I am who I am, regardless of what people think or say.
You’re very honest with the cosmetic procedures you undergo, such as botox. What is your stance on cosmetic procedures in regards to body image?
If you want to change something that is bothering you or making you self-conscious, then go for it. It’s a personal preference and if you seriously believe it will make you feel better and you do your research and find a good surgeon, then I see no issue with doing what you want to do. It’s your body, your rules!
You’ve also spoken up about something extremely personal – being a survivor of domestic violence. How did you begin to rebuild yourself after that experience? What would you like women to learn from your story?
It took me over two years to finally recover from that experience and I can only thank my therapist, family and friends for helping me pull through. Writing something so personal was extremely therapeutic but I also wanted to speak out about it and help someone who could also be in the situation that I was in.
For me, I always thought abusive relationships were physical but they are also emotional. If I had known the signs of an abusive relationship before, it would have helped me avoid or at least escape that experience.
As we’re seeing a major uptick in men being called out for sexual misconduct, you have also written about receiving unsolicited d*ck pics. What do you think is the best way for women to stand up for themselves when experiencing this behavior?
It depends on the situation. I think if you know the sender or have at least been speaking, then by asking them the question, “Do you think this is appropriate when I haven’t asked for this?” is a great way to highlight the issue. If you get random unsolicited d*ck pics, via a dating app or social media, then just report and block. Do not respond. I think it’s a matter of educating people and I think by highlighting the issue or not responding at all is the best way to react to this behavior.
Any exciting future plans or developments in the works?
Lots! My writing and TV/radio will continue, as well as launching an ‘Honest’ podcast next year. Watch this space…
Stina Sanders is an author, lifestyle blogger, activist, and model living in London. In addition to writing her own book, Unfiltered, Stina is also a co-founder of the app Huggle. To see more from Stina and to read more of her #Unfiltered thoughts, you can visit her website and check out her Instagram!
Featured image via Stina Sanders