For most women, having their picture taken in a bikini is a terrifying prospect. But for Auckland mother Monique Doy, posing for swimsuit shots and then posting them online didn’t feel scary at all. At that stage, however, she didn’t know the photos would be viewed by thousands of people all over the world!
The curvy 33-year-old’s bold, beautiful pictures went viral soon after she posted them on her blog Dressing Up. She tells Woman’s Day, “I didn’t expect it to become as big as it did and spread as far as it did. I thought this would be a nice little post, but it reached about 50,000 people in the first week.”
A size 16, Monique exudes confidence during our chat – and it’s not just her bright pink hair that lights up the room, but her smile too. Despite her bubbly exterior, she hasn’t always been so confident. Monique has battled body issues ever since she was a teen and her insecurities only got worse after she had a baby.
“Becoming a mother really knocked my self-esteem as far as what my body was doing,” tells Monique, who is mum to daughters Willow, three, and Florence, 20 months, and also runs an online clothing store.
“You have this time when you feel really out of sync and out of control with your body because it’s changing so much and it’s changing so fast. It’s not step by step – it’s like, ‘Whoa, big pregnant belly!’ then, ‘Whoa, baby’s out!’ and then, ‘Whoa, this is what your body looks like now.’”
After giving birth to her second child, Monique still didn’t feel confident with her body. But her passion for fashion inspired her to start sharing style advice for curvy women on Facebook.
Then with the help of her tech-savvy husband James, she took the plunge and set up her own blog in 2015. “When you’re bigger than a size 14, you want fashion, but fashion doesn’t want you,” explains Monique. “That’s how it feels. So that’s why I started my blog because I felt that there had to be other women out there like me and I wanted to connect with them.”
Slowly, after a few months of blogging, her confidence began to grow and when the sunny season rolled around, she wanted to take things a step further.
“Going into summer, the number-one thing everyone is looking for is a new swimsuit,” says Monique. “But so many women aren’t confident about their bodies and don’t want to go swimsuit shopping. So I thought, ‘How can I make this as easy as possible?’”
In an effort to show how plus-sized girls can still rock a pair of togs, Monique gathered up her girlfriends Rachel Cox and Chloe Ronaldson for the fun photo shoot and told them to prepare for nasty comments from internet trolls.
But the criticism never came. Monique smiles, “I expected some people to say, ‘If you’re not a size six, then you shouldn’t be wearing a bikini,’ but I never got anything like that.”
Instead, she was flooded with emails of thanks from women who told her they had been inspired by her blog post and had gone out to buy swimwear – some of them for the first time in years.
“I was a little bit nervous that it wouldn’t be enough to break down the barriers for the women that were seeing it,” confesses Monique. “But then I started getting messages saying how much it meant to them to see swimsuits on bodies they recognise.”
Now Monique herself has been inspired – she’s branching out from being a blogger to becoming an author. Her e-book on fashion and self-confidence, Dressing Up: A Style Workbook, came out last week.
Its main message is one she hopes to pass on to her precious daughters: “There is actually no wrong way to be a body. Every size is fantastic just the way it is.”
Words: Ellen MacKenzie