Kayleigh Atkinson, who was recently crowned Mrs Galaxy UK 2019, visited King James I Academy at the end of term to deliver motivational assemblies on body positivity to students in Years 7-10.

Kayleigh decided to enter the UK Galaxy Pageant to show young people that they do not have to conform to media stereotypes to be a success. As a plus-size lady, she defied the pageant stereotype to claim the Mrs Galaxy title and is set to travel to Orlando in August to compete for the title of Mrs Galaxy International.

Invited to King James by Mrs Cross, Director of Learning for Religious Studies and Co-ordinator of PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) education, Kayleigh delivered body positivity assemblies to students throughout the day. As a fully qualified Paediatric Nurse and Mental Health Nurse, Kayleigh has seen first-hand the negative impact that attempting to conform to an unrealistic body image can have upon young people.

“The increasing pressure from social media and TV to be ‘perfect’ is affecting both the physical and mental health of our children,” she said, “and we have got to do something to stop it. The fact is that this concept of perfection is totally false; young people are pressured into modelling themselves on celebrities whose publicity photographs are manipulated to completely reshape their body, erase blemishes and even create the appearance of muscle tone. It simply isn’t real.”

Students heard about Kayleigh’s personal experience with her weight and the idea that being slim was the key to happiness; however, after dieting to lose over five stones she realised that this was not the case. She talked about how she had spent her life focusing on the image standing before her in the mirror and allowing that to take over and define her as a person. “After my weight loss I was surprised to find that I still wasn’t truly happy,” she said. “I realised then that I needed to look beyond my appearance and love myself for being a good person.”

Kayleigh now has a much more positive attitude towards herself because she has discovered the things in life that bring her happiness and a sense of personal achievement. Each Sunday, she takes to the streets of Newcastle to deliver food to homeless people and she recently travelled to Morocco to donate clothing, toiletries and games to orphans. Helping young people in her local area feel more positive about their body and recognise their value in the world regardless of how they look is also extremely rewarding.

“I want to show everyone that we are not defined by our outer shell,” she said, “but by the good things we do to help others and the part we play in creating a better society. If we can teach our young people to be kind to themselves and each other, and to seek fulfilment from positive acts, we will have a much happier and healthier generation for the future.”