Gbemi Nadi, 22, from London, said that growing up she faced cruel taunts from classmates about her size, and never imagined she would one day embrace modelling.
But now Gbemi is carving herself a successful career as a lingerie model and hopes to be an inspiration to all women, regardless of body shape.
When she was younger the healthcare assistant was always told that she should be a model but she never believed that she could because she didn’t think she was slim or pretty enough to succeed in the industry.
At school, she found herself developing quicker than her classmates which left her feeling insecure of her size 16 body.
Gbemi would hide behind black clothes and received cruel remarks from peers about her size.
And three years ago Gbemi’s life was turned upside down when she was sexually assaulted by a man she believed was her ‘boyfriend’ and went through another sexual assault three years later by two men.
After the first assault when she was 19, Gbemi locked herself away for two months but her father helped her to see her worth again.
She said: ‘I wasn’t looking after myself. My father was the one who got me out of the depression. He forced me to get new clothes, make up, paid for me to go to the hairdressers.’
After the second assault, she was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and with that went through a period of self-hate which she has now managed to overcome after finding an inner strength and embracing religion.
She explained: ‘This is really when my anxiety, especially social anxiety started but I had to push through. I started working again, hanging out with close friends slowly but surely.
‘I have always said that I won’t let it define me. I went through a stage of self-hate not valuing myself because that would be me letting them win but I say I am not a survivor, I am an overcomer.’
Gbemi, who is a UK size 20-22, entered her first Ms Curvaceous competition in 2015 after her friend encouraged her to take part and has embraced her size ever since.
For Gbemi, body positivity isn’t just for plus size women, it’s for everybody, regardless of weight, gender, or height.
She said: ‘Growing up people used to always tell me I should be a model. I never took much notice of it. I never thought I was pretty enough, slim enough, photogenic enough so I did nothing about it.
‘Ever since I can remember, I recall thinking that I was different. I started puberty early, so my body developed quickly compared to my class mates and this made me feel really insecure. I didn’t understand why my body was different to everyone else.’
The 22-year-old, who shares her glamorous photos on her Instagram account, now hopes to inspire others through her snaps.
She added: ‘Personally, I tell myself every day I am beautiful, I’m sexy and no one can tell me otherwise.
‘I make an effort of wearing what I want to wear, not what society is telling me to wear.
‘People always praise my confidence on my clothes but I wear what I feel makes me feel good.
‘I use my photos to inspire others. For me body positivity isn’t just for plus women. There is a misconception there because body positivity is for anybody. Everybody is beautiful no matter the height, weight, gender or race.’
Gbemi explained how she was bullied at school for her size 16 frame and found hanging around with her peers who were ‘pretty size eight to ten girls’ was ‘traumatic’.
‘I didn’t really take care of myself because I felt worthless because I wasn’t like everyone else. I used to feel that I was the ugliest person on this planet.
‘I never thought I would have a normal life. If you told me then about that I would be doing this today, I would have laughed in total disbelief.’
After her first modelling competition Gbemi said she felt inspired by the other women who were also taking part.
They all had a story to tell but there was a common denominator to all that brought us together. We didn’t feel accepted by society.
Gbemi, who has recently been signed to MerriMaid Models, took part in a special shoot in Birmingham to show how she is working towards breaking society’s perception of what beauty is.
Gbemi said the photoshoot was the ‘ultimate confidence booster’.
She added: ‘They have beautiful clothes up to a UK size 26, the fact that they stock clothing up to this size shows how many plus size ladies are having these sorts of shoots now.
‘I was given advice on styles and colours as to what would suit me and when I made my final choice, I felt so attractive and glamorous – and just look at the results of the photos – I was walking on air.’
Gbemi posts her body positive pictures on Instagram and now receives messages from people saying how her confidence has inspired them.
‘At first, I did have people saying I should cover up and I don’t think people who knew me personally took me seriously. But now I get such a positive response,’ she added.
‘From my Instagram followers to my friends and work colleagues. People will message me to tell me that I inspire them and they wish they had confidence like me. It’s overwhelming at times.
‘No matter what you go through in life, take care of yourself. Look after your heart and soul.’
Gbemi believes that regardless of your size, people should ’embrace yourself, tell yourself you are beautiful, you are unique and you are you’.
She adds: ‘Self-love is the best love because it allows you to love others.
‘I want to be an inspiration to all women. Not just plus girls. Of course, I’m waving the flag for plus girls.
‘But I want to inspire everyone, so we can get rid of labels and accept each other for who we actually are not whether we are tall, short, big or small.’