Summertime is around the corner and most of us can’t wait to hit the beach or lay by the pool to work on our tan. But what means enjoyment and simple fun-in-the-sun for many meant distress for British teenager Paris Harvey, who recently tweeted a photo of herself at the beach that went viral.
“I get bullied a lot because of the way I look,” Paris, 13, tells Yahoo Style. “I hadn’t been to the beach in ages because of the anxiety I feel when I go.”
This time she wanted her beach experience to be different. Paris faced head-on her “biggest fear”: She wore a bathing suit to the beach.
Omg so I faced my biggest fear today and went to the beach in a swimsuit☺️????️???? pic.twitter.com/eeSKUE581x
— Paris⬇️ (@ArtHopeAlly) May 27, 2017
It was a hot day in Gillingham, a town outside of London where she resides with her family. Paris built up the courage to put on the bathing suit her mom got her at Asos and take a train to nearby Margate beach with a friend.
“When we got there, I initially had shorts over the bathing suit,” Paris explains. “I love swimming. As we went in and out of the water I decided to take the shorts off.”
I addition to feeling insecure about her weight, Paris gets teased for having hip dysplasia. She was born with the condition, meaning her left hip is dislocated, and it affects the way she walks. Paris has already had over eight reconstructive surgeries, and her hip is held together by metal pins and plates.
“I walk with a limp, it’s hard for me to do things normal people do, but I always find ways to do them,” she says. “I like to tell people about it. The best thing I can do is raise awareness of this issue.”
Since she faced her biggest fear of wearing her swimsuit in public, Paris’s Twitter post has gone viral, accruing more than 331,000 likes and 45,000 shares.
“I only see thin people posting beach selfies in a bikini. I think it’s nice to see something different,” she says. “I feel there’s a stigma against people who want to feel comfortable who are bigger. I thought if I covered myself up then people wouldn’t bully me.”
Once Paris began enjoying her day at the beach with her friend, she noticed something else.
“People at the beach were minding their own business,” she says. “I should’ve done it a long time ago.”
Her act of bravery received praise from many — 5,500 comments and counting — and has inspired other people to follow in her footsteps.
— Paola (@sxtitoff) May 29, 2017
Paris’s biggest inspiration, Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke Hernandez, reached out to her and showed support as well.
@ArtHopeAlly IM SO PROUD OF YOU MY BABY ????AND YOU LOOK SO BEAUTIFUL!!!!! YES QUEEN ????????????
— AllyBrooke Hernandez (@AllyBrooke) May 28, 2017
Paris met Hernandez and the rest of Fifth Harmony last year in October for her birthday.
“Like me, Ally struggled with self-image issues growing up. She has been incredibly supporting to her fans letting us know that it’s okay to love the body you are born into,” says Paris. “She [direct messaged] me, I was so happy!”
On what advice she would give people struggling to accept the way they look, Paris says, “It’s important to embrace who you are and be free to love yourself. People growing up latch onto certain superficial things but you should look within yourself and let that define you.”
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