Anyika Onuora Wants You To Know Body Image Can Affect Anyone, Even Olympic Athletes

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She's is the athlete from Liverpool that helped team GB win a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, her success hasn't stopped Anyika Onuora feeling the outside pressure to look a certain way that many of us experience growing up. Anyika Onuora's struggles with her body image and confidence as a young athlete, which she revealed on the podcast she co-hosts for BBC 5 Live, The Sista Collective, left her feeling understandably confused, and her openness in discussing her experience is a powerful step in spotlighting the challenges that young women encounter.

Onuora was part of the women’s relay team who won the 4x400 meter relay in Rio in 2016. She currently has her sights set on the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. She revealed that growing up on the track did not exempt her from the pressures that many of us feel when it comes to our appearance. On The Sista Collective she said, “when you want to get better and you want to perform at your best, but then you’re being told by, I don’t know, the people up top that maybe you need to lose weight. In your mind you’re doing everything in your power, you think you’re good enough and in reality, because of what they perceive as someone who is small and petite and is going to run fast, you’re not their ideal fit.”

She continued:

“At times you kind of feel objectified, because you’ve got like all this excessive body at such a young age…I didn’t know how to feel about it.”
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Rather than opting to wear shorts and crop tops like her peers, Onuora said she opted for baggy clothes that hid her body a bit more because people “felt entitled to touch it.” She also admitted that she chose to wear more black so not to draw attention to herself. She said, “when you're around a bunch of white girls and their bodies look the same, and then there is yours, it messes with your self-esteem so much."

Using her platform, Onuora has come together with journalist, Jessie Aru-Phillips, co-founder of BlackGirlFest, Paula Akpan, finalist of the Apprentice, Joanna Jarjue, and many other celebrity guests to launch The Sista Collective. The weekly podcast on BBC 5 live promises to be “real talk by women of colour— lit, lively, and always honest” and so far in the series they have covered everything from dating to Brazilian butt lifts. These women are funny, intelligent, and very engaging. This podcast is not one to miss.

As well as speaking up on The Sista Collective, Onuora has made the move to go out and speak to girls, to inspire and instil a little bit of body confidence. She said, “I go into schools and do public speaking, and I have no issues with that because I know, as a black woman, I have been in the exact same position where you're told 'your body features aren't good enough,' 'you're too fat,' or 'you need to put your body parts away.” In a time when we are still bombarded with idealised images of women it is incredibly inspiring to hear women coming together to discuss their own experiences and build each other up.

You can catch Onuora and the girls on The Sista Collective on the BBC Sounds website and believe me, this is not one you want to pass up.