“If they provide that choice for young people, it’s an empowered decision and not based on, “I don’t feel good enough but this brand has told me that in order to feel beautiful, I have to buy their product.” Nicole Gibson.
At just twenty years old Nicole Gibson has achieved an enormous amount but it hasn’t been an easy ride.
She suffered the burdens of mental illness a few years ago, sinking into a pit of despair as she battled her distorted body perception. Anorexia, she says, “robbed me of my childhood.”
Thankfully Nicole found the courage to defeat those demons and she is now hell-bent on stopping the cycle of self loathing experienced by so many of her peers by sharing her message through the Rogue to Rouge Foundation.
Martine Harte: Nicole when you looked at your own reflection as a young girl, did you like what you saw?
Nicole Gibson: No. I mean it robbed me of my childhood. It became that thing where every single day I was more fixated on my reflection and what I looked like, more than anything else. It absolutely possessed me pretty much and I wouldn’t be able to tell you now, reflecting back, what I wanted to see. But I guess focusing on losing weight was a good avenue for me to at least focus my energies on something. To kind of alleviate the stress of not knowing how to change myself, because I hated myself that much.
MH: How much do you blame popular culture for you feeling like that? The perfect images staring out from billboards, magazines, on TV. How much do you feel that is to blame?
NG: I think it’s definitely that culture of ‘you need something else to be whole.’ And I think even if it’s interpreted subconsciously, it’s a really toxic thing for young people to be exposed to.
The whole of that industry is built on the premise that you are not whole enough, our products are going to make you whole. And I think that’s really wrong.
MH: So how does the organisation you set up help people see things differently?
NG: We are a charitable organisation that helps decrease mental health challenges within our community, as well as diminish the stigma placed upon these conditions.
The Foundation aims to do this in two ways.
Firstly, through education and youth engagement.
Secondly, by providing financial assistance to those seeking various medical treatments through their journey of recovery. The fund is there for the individual to decide the way in which they feel recovery should look.
We focus heavily on education, running well-being workshops and working with young people in the schooling system to arm them with the tools they need to create positive change both in themselves and their communities.
MH: When you were suffering with anorexia was it a case of trying to control your life?
NG: Yeah I think that was definitely a massive element of it. I pursued acting for a very long time throughout my youth and left school in grade ten to go to an acting academy. I was put in such a competitive environment that I just had this idea of perfection. If I didn’t represent that I’d punish myself instead of showing myself compassion. It was always quite a negative mind frame towards myself.
MH: Was there a moment that was life changing for you? All the women I’m interviewing seem to have a moment which changes their course, was there a moment when you decided, enough’s enough?
NG: Yeah definitely. I had this epiphany when I was in an extremely vulnerable place. I had this experience where I literally had a divine energy flow through me. It kind of made me realise that as people we’re so much greater than ourselves and we are here for a purpose.
MH: How would you ideally like advertisers to pitch to you? As a young woman? Say it was a make-up brand, what would be your ideal campaign to compel you to buy?
NG: You know what would sell me? Transparency. If they didn’t beat around the bush about what they were trying to sell or they didn’t try to create a market based on people’s insecurities. If they just said straight up, “this is exactly our product.”
If they provide that choice for young people, it’s an empowered decision and not based on, “I don’t feel good enough but this brand has told me that in order to feel beautiful, I have to buy their product.”
MH: Can you expand on your idea surrounding your young ambassadors?
NG: When I work with a school, I don’t just like to walk out and leave that contact with the school. So if there’s a young person that’s shown a lot of initiative or is really passionate about the cause, I’ll nominate them to be ambassadors. They have my mobile number and can contact me if they want to run an event or participate in a fundraising program.For me it’s just about raising the consciousness of young people.
If you want to know more or donate to support her idea you can find Nicole here www.rogueandrouge.com
If you need support or know somebody who does contact lifeline www.lifeline.org.au/