Series 6 of Gok Wan's 'How to look good naked...with a difference' starts at 8pm tonight on Channel 4. The difference being, you guessed it, it's all about disabled women.
I was actually contacted by several people to suggest I apply when the series first advertised for disabled women. As naked is one of the few states I'm completely confident in I felt that I probably wouldn't be the best person to apply, but rest assured when 'How to look confident in clothes as an impossibly big breasted shortarse' advertises for applicants I'll be there. Until such time I'll continue to worship Dolly Parton and Babs Windsor from a distance whilst ignoring their fashion 'sense'.
I'm not sure what I think about 'How to look good naked....with a difference'. Part of me thinks it's absolutely fantastic, building on the success of shows such as Britain's Missing Top Model it is great to see disabled women being featured more on television. Another part wonders, if this is already a series about teaching women to love their bodies the way they are, then why the need for an entire 'special' series featuring disabled women, shouldn't they simply be included as women who've had mastectomies have previously been.
I'm unusual in that I have gained most of my body confidence through becoming disabled. Like so many teenage girls I was eaten up with hatred and disgust for my body, which being bullied for my size and shape undoubtedly amplified. For many years I swung between hiding my shape under big baggy clothes and displaying it with tightly fitted clothes. It seemed not to matter which I did, I'd get equal amounts of abuse, as frequently from the people around me as strangers. I'm not sure what would have happened had I not started to become disabled in my early 20's.
Something changed in me the first time I needed assistance with personal care. I was working as a camp counselor at the time, living in the woods where fashion or appearance were so far down the list of priorities I wore pyjama bottoms and hiking boots until both fell apart. Whilst happy to be scuzzily dirty in an environment where we cooked over open fires and spent most of our days in and out of a lake, going to the doctor demanded a higher standard. Especially as my doctor was seriously, seriously sexy. And had mistaken me for a small child the first time he met me.
If he was to remain my surgeon I needed to get clean, which is not easy to do when you've just dislocated your shoulder and are forbidden from moving it around much. It's also a very embarrassing situation to be in. Not just for the cleanee, but often for the cleaner too. There was a distinct lack of volunteers to assist. Eventually the 16 year old girl employed to do the laundry offered to help, she had previously worked in an elderly care home and was used to assisting people with personal care. I've never forgotten her kindness helping me, she was so at ease with my nudity in a non threatening, non sexual way that I couldn't help be at ease myself. Over the following years I spent so much time having to strip to my bra for various medical professionals that I became used to being semi clad in a room full of strangers, which was later cemented by working as a glamour model.
That's also the secret to the success of 'How to look good naked'. Someone who is completely comfortable with nudity offering a sympathetic and supportive ear to enable and support women to address their body issues. For disabled women there may be other, more specific concerns such as suitable clothing for a wheelchair user, or how to be comfortable naked with drains or bags, but ultimately it's all about helping women become happy in their own skin. My hope is that next time there won't need to be a special, different series, just one which features all women disabled or not.