By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Striving to be a swimsuit model all her life, Talmesha Jones struggled to accept her post-baby stretch marks when she gave birth to her only son, Chase, five years ago.
Talmesha’s confidence was at an all-time low – often receiving abuse online, she would refuse to look at herself in the mirror.
But when best friend, Johnathan Benton, convinced her to take part in a photo-shoot for the first time since giving birth, freelance model Talmesha decided enough was enough and that her stretch marks actually made her unique and special.
In the wake of her newly found self-confidence, Talmesha launched a popular Instagram hashtag called ‘Tiger Stripes On A Tuesday’ – challenging the stigma attached to stretch marks and encouraging women from around the world to post pictures of their post-baby bodies.
Talmesha, 27, told Barcroft TV: “Being pregnant, it changed my body a lot. It resulted in me getting stretch marks, wrinkles and extra skin. The stretch marks are pretty much everywhere now.
“It made me very self-conscious. I didn’t like to look at myself in the mirror. When I did, I would just cry and sob about it. I would continuously suck my stomach in or like stretch my skin out.
“I started to realise they weren’t going anywhere and constantly bringing myself down about it wasn’t positive, it wasn’t helping me in any way.
“So my hashtag all started out as a photo of me embracing my tiger stripes and it was Tuesday – so I was like tiger stripes on a Tuesday.
“And basically what I do is every Tuesday, I share a story from a different woman anywhere in the world telling people how she got her tiger stripes.
“I’m trying to teach people that it’s more than just a mark. I’m trying to teach people that it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Talmesha, who resides in San Antonio, Texas, was taken aback with the amount of support she received online and how many women were reaching out to share their own experiences with stretch marks.
She said: “I like to share body positive posts that encourage other mothers to be comfortable with their skin.
“I never imagined that there would be so many stories from women telling me how I have made them be comfortable with their stretch marks and be comfortable with their body image in general.
“I’m very proud of what I have achieved so far. I never in a million years thought that I would impact so many people and have this influence over anyone.
“Especially coming from a low self-esteem place before.
“I mean the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to me would be, ‘Why does your stomach look like that?’ – I think that one really hurts the most because it’s like I have a son you know? So how dare you.”
Photographer friend, Johnthan Benton, has supported Talmesha throughout her career and knows exactly how far she has come.
Johnathan said: “I first photographed her back in 2009.
“After the baby, she was really-really body conscious. She got into a little bit of a depressive state.
“What made her change her outlook was realising that it could be something that makes her unique and makes her special.
“You know stretch marks – everybody has them. I think they are stigmatised so much because of the perception in the media.
“It doesn’t make sense to me, like I said, everybody has stretch marks so why not just bring them out?”
Although Talmesha’s stretch marks have caused her great distress in the past, she now admits she wouldn’t change them – and hopes that many other women will begin to have a similar outlook.
“I absolutely believe that one day everyone will think that stretch marks are a sexy thing, that they’re beautiful and it will no longer have a stigma behind it,” Talmesha said.
“If I had a chance to get rid of my stretch marks, fully – would I? No. I wouldn’t.
“It would feel wrong to erase such a huge part of myself and it has helped me find who I was.”