Muofhe Manavhela is a 17-year-old student in Johannesburg, South Africa who is determined to change the way youth in her country perceive body image and flaws.
The young woman created a movement called Beauty With A Flaw in October 2016, which revolves around profiling different men and women who struggle with body image insecurities. The posts on the @beautywithaflaw Instagram account illustrate how a wide range of individuals have worked to overcome viewing their insecurities as flaws.
“The movement was solely inspired by my story,” she tells Yahoo Beauty on how the idea came about. “I did struggle a lot with my body image growing up. I was very plump and chubby. I was always told that I’m big or I’m fat — mostly by people I knew. Obviously hearing words like this wasn’t beneficial, as I was still a child and I was still developing.”
She says that she moved towards a point of acceptance as she grew older. “My teenagehood is where it all started. All the things people had said about my body only started catching up to me. I didn’t feel comfortable or beautiful in my own skin at all. Luckily, when I was 15, it became something that I started working on, and I think I could say from that time I was getting back on track.”
Reaching this point in her journey with self love brought about the body positive campaign and portrait series. “Most of the people featured on the account are friends of mine or people that I know,” she shares.
“They meet up with me for a photoshoot, and the captions are written by them,” she says. “The captions basically explain either their stories or something they want to say to inspire others. The opportunity is available to anyone who is interested in doing a photoshoot, but the hashtag is open for those who can’t,” she shares on the idea behind ‘#beautywithaflaw.’
“My biggest aim for this movement is helping and motivating young people,” she explains.
“I feel that teenagers struggle with their self confidence a lot and are under the pressures of our society. I just want to provide a platform where the youth can feel as if their free to be themselves — regardless of what they consider as their flaws.”
Manavhela believes youth in South Africa can help change what is considered “beautiful” by society versus what is not. “I want to create a space where the standards of ‘beauty’ are being challenged and people are forced to think about that. Ultimately, I want to create a safe environment for young people,” she says.
“In my country, I truly believe that the real power and strength to change and develop lies within the youth — but our youth is so restricted from success because of a big underlying issue of self-worth and confidence. I want to change that. South Africa is great, but our youth can make it greater and I want to unlock that power.”
Along with the portraits, she posts inspirational quotes to spread positivity with her followers.
“When people look at Beauty With A Flaw I want them to take back a feeling of empowerment, where they feel liberated to question and challenge all the beauty standards set by society,” she says. “To feel a sense of relief that they are not alone and to find the inner strength to find and look for the beauty within their flaws.”
Manavhela says the ‘Beauty With A Flaw’ movement has built a tremendous following since its creation in 2016. “I’ve been able to engage and connect with many people, and I’ve had a few photoshoots now. I’m very proud of the growth. I didn’t expect it to grow this much and to impact so many people — so I’m very happy and grateful for that.”
The growing support system has contributed to her own journey with loving her body as well.
“Currently, I’m loving myself and I’m learning each day to be comfortable with myself. But yes, I do have my bad days where I struggle with my body image. Although — compared to where I was 5 years ago — I’ve really progressed on my self love journey.”
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