TWO Hampshire women are taking part in a plus size beauty pageant to give themselves a platform to speak out about body confidence and celebrate women's curves.

Hollie Jackson, 18, from Fareham, and Rebecca Tasker, 26, from West End are both finalists in the Miss British Beauty Curve 2018 pageant, for women who are a size 14 and larger.

This is Hollie's second time in the pageant, having taken part last year.

Hollie, who wears a size 20 to 22, explains that she wants to inspire other young women and show that being plus size is OK.

"We don't have to lose weight because society says plus size is bad," says the retail worker.

"I have always been confident in who I am. My body is my body. If you don't like it, you don't have to look at it."

Hollie adds that she has been taunted about her size, both in school and by strangers on social media.

"I have always been big," she says.

"I was a chubby baby and in school I got bullied quite a bit. It probably peaked when I was 14 to 15. I got held down in corridors, had people shouting names at me and not wanting to be my friend, all because I was fat.

"But I had my own circle of friends and they did what they could to protect me and as people realised that it wasn't getting to me, they stopped.

"I think my body confidence now probably came about as self-protection. I wasn't going to let the fat shaming get to me so I put up a guard and didn't let myself care.

"In a way, I'm thankful for being bullied, as I don't think I'd be as confident as I am now otherwise."

Hollie has also been targeted by strangers on social media, for instance if she has commented on a message board.

"If people don't like what you say that can come back at you with fat shaming and abuse," she says.

"People say things like I hide behind my profile stuffing my face or that I'm going to die because I'm so fat.

"I don't let it really bother me. I don't know them.

"I'm happy with how I look. Being plus size is right for me. The average woman in the UK is size 16 and that's seen as plus size.

"I am aware of health concerns and I try to stay healthy and do something about it if my blood pressure goes up. But I do love my body."

Rebecca Tasker will be taking part in her first pageant this year.

The full-time mother has struggled with mental health issues for much of her life, and decided to take part so that she could help raise awareness about some of the issues she has faced.

"I suffered with anorexia for a number of years," she says.

"I'm now a size 22 to 24, depending in which shop I go in. I'm aware of the issues that women can face due to their body size.

"I understand the heartache of having an eating disorder and a mental health disorder."

Rebecca suffered from mental health issues as a teenager and at the time was thought to be suffering from bi-polar disorder.

She suffered from depression, self-esteem issues and developed anorexia.

"I was anorexic from the age of 14 until I fell pregnant at 18," she says.

"I was being bullied about my weight and I began over exercising while barely eating. I went from a size 14 to 16 to a six to eight in about six weeks."

It was while Rebecca was receiving support from the perinatal mental health unit that she was given a new diagnosis, of borderline personality disorder.

"If I'm down I want to spend money," she says.

"I still struggle with my self esteem. I have a history of self-harm, but now I use other methods, like running my hands under a cold tap.

"When I'm very low I can hear voices and also see colours, and I have split personality – one is very angry and another is when I go very quiet and go into myself.

"It can be tricky with my children. I love them to pieces and I feel guilty. We explain that I'm not well and that Mummy needs to be left alone for a bit."

Rebecca says that she feels that it is important to talk openly about mental health issues, and wanted to take part in the Miss British Beauty Curve pageant to give herself a platform to speak out about her own experiences as well as body positivity.

"Lots of people struggle with mental health issues, or feel very unhappy with the way they look," she says.

"I want to say it's OK to be that way, and it's OK not to be OK.

"It's important to embrace who you are."

Hollie adds that taking part in the pageant last year has given her even more body confidence.

"There is a swimwear round and that was the first time I've worn a bikini. I assume people don't want to look at it. But having worn one on stage, I have so much more confidence now.

"At the pageant, you are surrounded by other plus size women – we are plus and proud. We have lumps and bumps and cellulite, and we love it!

"The thing that really pushed me to do the pageant again this year is I want other plus or average women to love their own bodies too. If I can inspire one woman to be more body confident, then it's worth it."

Hollie says that her friends have told her how inspiring they find her attitude and are now happier in their own bodies, whether that means wearing crop tops or being comfortable with their cellulite.

And she is encouraging other women to embrace their bodies and take to the stage themselves.

"It's a really good thing to do, whether it's taking part in a pageant like Miss British Beauty Curve or walking down a catwalk at a local charity show. It does change your perspective on your own body and everyone else's.

"I look in the mirror and find fewer things that I hate now.

"After all, if I can get on stage in a bikini in front of more than 100 strangers, I can walk down the street in whatever I want."