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Something for the; weekend: How the painted ladies shaped up; Melissa Braithwaite: the florist.

MELISSA BRAITHWAITE, 22, who lives at home with her dad admits to being shy about her 5ft 4in body despite her size 10, 34B-26-37 figure.

"I'm horrendously body-shy - I definitely don't have much self-confidence about my physical appearance.

"At a friend's pool party recently, I let myself be thrown in fully clothed, knowing I'd spend the rest of the night freezing in wet clothes rather than strip off to my underwear along with the other revellers.

"I take care with my appearance and hide trouble spots such as my hips and thighs - although I often need reassurance from my boyfriend that I look nice.

"My shape changed when I went to boarding school in my teens. I piled on the pounds because I was fed stodgy food and put on so much weight my mother hardly recognised me.

"I managed to lose weight by keeping fit playing hockey and lacrosse.

"But my weight went back up again at university when I let my exercise regime slip.

"These days, I'm very careful about what I eat and go jogging as often as possible to stay in shape.

"I was very apprehensive about doing the photo shoot, but thought it would help me get rid of my insecurities.

"But I was still very nervous and had to have a couple of glasses of wine beforehand as I felt uncomfortable and exposed standing in just a thong cut down and glued over my private parts.

"I eventually started to relax as the drawing progressed and feel the experience gave me a much-needed confidence boost."

Rebecca Lewis: the waitress

REBECCA LEWIS, 5ft 7in 21, a language student who works as a waitress during the holidays, was more nervous about being photographed than going naked. But she's confident of her 34C-24-36, size 10 figure.

"I was more nervous about being in front of a camera than of being virtually naked. I hate having my photograph taken because I don't like being watched intently, but I'm quite confident about my body shape.

"This is new-found, however. As a teenager, I always worried that I was fat, although I was actually slimmer than I am now. I think most youngsters experience similar insecurities. I still think I've got a big bottom, but I've grown to love it as I've learned that men find it attractive. God bless Jennifer Lopez, whose sexy image has been largely responsible for altering society's attitude towards curvy posteriors.

"I've achieved my optimum body shape by combining sensible eating with moderate exercise. I wouldn't like to lose or gain weight, so I eat little and often and try not to indulge my cravings for crisps and nuts. I also go to the gym.

"Doing the photo shoot was surreal. It didn't feel exactly like wearing clothes, but I certainly didn't feel naked. In fact, I felt surprisingly relaxed, even though the room was full of strangers.

"The experience won't really change my self-image or make me more confident, as I felt okay with my body before being painted. It was, however, an interesting affirmation of my healthy self-image."

Catrin Livsey: the dancer

CATRIN LIVSEY, 21, is a dance and drama student who wishes she had slimmer thighs, 5ft 3in although she's comfortable with her 32B-25-34 size 6/8 figure.

"As a professional dancer, I have to be very aware of my body and confident. But it's tough in this industry that the further up the career ladder you get, the more pressure there is to be thin.

"I'm comfortable with my shape, but I admit I'd like slimmer thighs. I used to ski competitively and developed big quad muscles.

"Since I've been dancing full-time I've been working my inner thighs more and the tops of my legs look a bit smaller, but they're still relatively hefty compared with other dancers.

"My favourite part of my body is my bottom. It's very toned and men often comment on its pertness. I also like being small.

People associate diminutive stature with a sunny nature.

"It's an unwritten rule that top ballerinas should be tiny. They eat next to nothing, and are so painfully skinny that they practically disappear on a big stage. I would never starve myself to succeed.

"Dancing is so physically demanding that I wouldn't have the energy to perform if I didn't feed my system. Injuries are also more likely to occur when you're tired and run down.

"Fortunately, I'm one of those lucky people who are naturally slim and I have a small frame. Besides, I dance anything up to six hours a day, which keeps me toned and eliminates excess body fat. I don't diet, but I am careful about what I eat. I have three meals a day and rarely snack in between. I drink water all day long to keep me hydrated.

"I'm not an exhibitionist and don't even go topless on the beach, so I was surprised to find I didn't feel self-conscious when I was being painted.

"The whole process took about four hours, but I didn't feel uncomfortable - probably because I'm so used to taking my clothes off in front of other ballerinas backstage."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 24, 2002
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