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The Women Reclaiming Hot Girl Summer From Beach Body Culture

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The Women Reclaiming Hot Girl Summer From Beach Body Culture

When Megan Thee Stallion released her 2019 anthem Hot Girl Summer, the phrase quickly became an international meme, filling up IG feeds across the globe. But what does a Hot Girl Summer actually involve?

In a tweet, Megan explained: "Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc".

But while the sentiment was admirable, toxic 'beach body' culture inevitably took over, associating HGS with thinspiration Pinterest boards, intense workout videos and crash diet plans.

Women are reclaiming Hot Girl Summer in 2021 (Credit: Instagram/Mollie Quirk/Roshi Grace/Florence Grace)
Women are reclaiming Hot Girl Summer in 2021 (Credit: Instagram/Mollie Quirk/Roshi Grace/Florence Grace)
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However, it doesn't have to be this way. These women are celebrating their bodies and reclaiming Hot Girl Summer so that they can enjoy the sunshine, unapologetically.

"I realised that my body wasn't meant to be thin, instead it was just meant to be"

Mollie Quirk, 23, is a freelance writer from London and founder of Dear Curvy Girl magazine

Mollie ditched diets and ditched the idea of perfection (Credit: Mollie Quirk)
Mollie ditched diets and ditched the idea of perfection (Credit: Mollie Quirk)
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Mollie agrees with Megan Thee Stallion. Speaking to Tyla, she says Hot Girl Summer is about "living my best life beneath the sun, unapologetically."

Mollie also feels uncomfortable with the idea that Hot Girl Summer is used to peddle potentially harmful weight loss practices: "Diets are not the answer and can cause more harm than good, so for them to claim a phrase that's carefree and fun - it just doesn't sit right with me."

Mollie used to have an unhealthy relationship with her body but experienced a turning point in 2017: "I guess I realised that my body wasn't meant to be thin, instead it was just meant to be. So I ditched diets, ditched perfection, read books like Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe, started eating intuitively and tah-da! Here I am."

2020 was the first year where Mollie felt ready to post any bikini photos, something that was a revelation for her. When she was younger, summer was always a period to change her body.

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She recalls: "I can remember breaking up from school in July and trying my hardest to get fit in time for the end of summer and going back to school in September.

"Each and every summer that I can remember, up until a few years ago, was spent trying to transform myself and give myself 'a makeover' so I'd go back to school and be popular."

2020 was the first year that Mollie felt confident enough to post bikini pics (Credit: Mollie Quirk)
2020 was the first year that Mollie felt confident enough to post bikini pics (Credit: Mollie Quirk)

Ultimately, Mollie doesn't see the point hating your body: "Don't waste your days trying to change your body and don't wish your summer away wishing you looked different."

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Instead, she says you should wear what you want.

"Nobody is going to care that you've got a stomach roll or a bit of cellulite, nobody is going to care if your legs aren't silky smooth or if your boobs sag a bit. Enjoy the sunshine and don't hide away."

"You get to choose how you exist in your body"

Roshi Grace, 23, starts her Masters degree in September and has found a new way to appreciate her body through pole dancing.

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Roshi has had an evolving relationship with the internet, but now finds it a positive space (Credit: Roshi Grace)
Roshi has had an evolving relationship with the internet, but now finds it a positive space (Credit: Roshi Grace)

Roshi maintains that Hot Girl Summer isn't about going on crash diets: "I'm very much of the opinion that being hot is just accepting exactly who you are in that moment."

This mindset wasn't always present for Roshi though. "I had really, really bad body image issues all through school. I've never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I like fully had an eating disorder. And I was diagnosed with adjacent things like anxiety and depression", she tells Tyla.

Roshi managed to use the internet as a positive tool. When she was 17, she volunteered as an admin for an online peer mental health support service and later set up an Instagram account discussing body image and documenting her new skill - pole dancing.

Roshi explains that lots of pole moves involve skin grip so you need maximum amount of skin available to execute routines. This meant wearing short shorts, something she wasn't so keen on at first.

"I was like, 'My bum is going to be everywhere. It won't stay in the shorts, this is not going to happen'. And then I think once you do it once, you're like, 'Oh, no one cares. No one's looking at me'."

Pole gave Roshi a sense of liberation (Credit: Roshi Grace/Dan Habershon-Butcher)
Pole gave Roshi a sense of liberation (Credit: Roshi Grace/Dan Habershon-Butcher)

Pole then led Roshi to alter her thinking when wearing swimwear during the summer months. "I think the scariest thing about putting swimwear on and walking out somewhere is 'everyone's looking at me', but if they are, fine. People are going to look anyway even if you're wearing a t-shirt."

Roshi says: "You get to choose how you exist in your body. If you want to spend your life covering up, that's totally okay. You shouldn't be demonised for that.

"But also, you shouldn't do it to please someone else. If you would wear a bikini if no one else was on the beach, then wear a bikini because you ultimately are the person who gets to choose what happens to your body."

"I have never felt as confident in my body as when I was pregnant"

Florence Grace, 25, is a Campaigns & Marketing Officer and gave birth during the pandemic.

Florence used to throw away her packed lunches but now has found an appreciation for her body (Credit: Instagram/Florence Grace)
Florence used to throw away her packed lunches but now has found an appreciation for her body (Credit: Instagram/Florence Grace)

Florence discusses how diet culture has co-opted Hot Girl Summer to encourage people to lose weight, calling it "disappointing but not surprising."

Florence struggled with body image issues from a young age. As a little girl she would throw away her packed lunches at school, convinced she was "the fat friend" and needed to eat less.

However, in 2016 Florence went through a break-up and ended up on social media a lot. She came across influencers like Megan Jayne Crabbe, Stephanie Yeboah and Grace Victory and discovered the body confidence and neutrality communities.

Florence then changed her approach to her summer wardrobe. She had never worn a bikini on the beach in public until she was 22, always feeling like she didn't have the body or confidence to pull one off. But now?

"I literally have so many bikinis. Now they've got their own separate cupboard, I've got so many [...] If you want to wear a skimpy thong bikini and you're a size 18 or 20, or whatever size you are, great. Go for it.", Florence says.

Another significant part of Florence's body image journey was when she was pregnant with her son: "Pregnancy itself was amazing. I have never felt as confident in my body as when I was pregnant."

Pregnancy was a significant part of Florence's journey with body image (Credit: Instagram/Florence Grace)
Pregnancy was a significant part of Florence's journey with body image (Credit: Instagram/Florence Grace)

However, Florence notes how pregnancy can change a body - including saggier breasts, C-section scars and stretch marks.

There's also the pressure to snap back: "Postpartum has been a definite struggle because there's all these changes that have happened that are beyond your control and won't necessarily ever go back."

"You actually created life inside you and that took nine, almost ten, months. Why do you think that you're going to go back to "normal" in a matter of weeks? It's not realistic."

While Florence appreciates her body, she has also realised that it's one of the least interesting things about herself: "You're so much more than your body. If you find it hard to be body confident, or to be body positive, body neutrality is just as good as being body confident because it means you come to terms with your body."

Featured Image Credit: Instagram/Mollie Quirk/ Roshi Grace/Florence Grace

Topics: Life, Real Life, Health

Charlotte Forrester
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