AS former reality TV stars with huge social media followings, Kate Ferdinand and Montana Brown know only too well the pressure on women to look a certain way.
But to mark International Women’s Day today, the pair urge teenage girls to embrace their own uniqueness instead.
Montana, 27, admits she got dodgy fillers after being cruelly trolled about her appearance following her stint on Love Island in 2017.
During a panel debate at The Sun’s HQ in London yesterday, she said: “On the show they were talking about Botox.
“Being 21, 22, I was like, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ because I’d grown up not knowing what it was.
“Then people were trolling me, saying, ‘You should get this done, you need to go get that done’.
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“I was really disheartened.
“I went through a phase of being really into social media.”
Montana added that she thought if she got Botox and fillers, the trolling would stop — but she continued: “I ended up getting this really bad filler.
“Bearing in mind I was 22, I did not need it at all.
“I started getting negative comments like, ‘What have you done to your face?’.
“So that was one of the really low moments for me and I thought, ‘Actually, I can’t please everybody, I’m just going to have to be happy with the way I am, then everything else will come’.
“I think the self-love journey really started there.
“So if there’s one thing I’d say, especially with social media, just take it with a pinch of salt.
“Everyone’s beautiful in their own unique way.
“And I think we all strive to look like people on Instagram or celebrities, and actually beauty is within your uniqueness.”
Kate, 31, who shot to fame in The Only Way Is Essex in 2015, also told the panel’s audience of more than 90 teenage girls from two inner-city London schools: “You have to remember, people put up the best versions of themselves (on social media).
“People don’t really share the real moments.
“I think it’s very important to be honest and open and share the really good parts of life but also the not so great times.”
The pair were speaking as part of The Sun’s I Am Fabulous panel debate and were joined by Conservative MP Sarah Dines and Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams as they discussed how they have fought for equality in their careers.
The Sun brought together teenage girls from Greig City Academy, Haringey, North London, St Angela’s Ursuline School, Forest Gate, East London, and The Prince’s Trust to listen to the group’s inspiring words at the event, chaired by TalkTV host Vanessa Feltz.
Record-breaker Nicola, 40, who became the first woman to win Olympic boxing gold at the London 2012 Olympics, said she ignores comments on social media.
She added: “I only listen to the people closest to me.
“They’re the only ones who matter to me.
“The rest is just noise in the background.
“I never take it to heart.”
Sarah, 57, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Safe-guarding, has been repeatedly trolled since becoming an MP in 2019.
She said: “You’re trolled for everything, it’s not just about what you look like.
“One person said I wanted to kill dogs, which is ridiculous.”
The mum of four added: “Social media can be useful but it can take a lot of your time. It’s not all real.
“Use it, enjoy it, but step back from it, girls.”
Kate is expecting her second child — a girl — with her husband, Man Utd and England hero Rio Ferdinand.
The couple, who married in 2019, are already parents to two-year-old son Cree, and Kate is also stepmum to Rio’s children Lorenz, 16, Tate, 14, and Tia, 11, from his marriage to his late wife Rebecca.
Kate also believes it is important to know when to turn off social media, and added: “Tia is obsessed with TikTok but I think it can become a little bit much sometimes.
“I just want to teach that she can do whatever she wants, not to put herself in a box and not to let the judgement of others define her.”
And host Vanessa, 61, said: “I’ve been on Instagram for a year but I have the comments switched off.
“So if someone calls me a big fat Jew, I don’t have to hear it.”
The TalkTV host said social media can also be a force for good — as was shown after her recent split from partner Ben Ofoedu.
She told the audience: “I recently had a bad break-up.
“I have my DMs open and I have had literally thousands of incredibly nice messages from women all over the world.
OLYMPIC gold medallist Nicola told how she has helped to empower young women by launching a free boxing course, in partnership with The Prince’s Trust.
Nicola, who is also an ambassador for the youth charity, said: “I met a few of the girls and just to see where they come from, where they started, to where they are now is amazing.
“One girl didn’t have the confidence to even leave the house, and to then make new friends and have this whole world opened up was amazing to see.”
She also reunited with women from the course.
Law graduate Hala Zein, 24, from Ealing, West London, suffers from an auto-immune condition that has led to brittle bones.
She said: “The programme was life-changing. It pushed me to a goal and challenged something in my mindset.”
Safeguarding Minister Sarah grew up in Basildon, Essex, and attended the local comp before becoming a family law barrister – despite being urged to try hairdressing or nursing instead.
She said: “I came from a very normal background. I remember a careers adviser saying people from around here don’t do that.”
And she added: “If you work hard, take every opportunity, then the world is your oyster, girls.”
“At night it can be hard to sleep so I read those messages, those kind words from other women, and it definitely helps.”
The panel offered relationship tips, and Vanessa made the young audience laugh by joking: “Don’t ask me for advice on relationships.
“Don’t do what I’ve done!”
Montana, who is expecting her first child with partner Mark O’Connor, recalled her first experience of relationships: “I went to an all-girls school from the age of seven.
“I was an ugly duckling.
“Then, aged 15, we had a disco with the boys’ school.
“I thought it would be really easy to get a boyfriend.
“It was the worst experience because when you’re young you have this confidence.
“All you have are your mum and your teachers telling you you’re amazing.
“Then a horrible, crummy boy comes along and tears you down.
“He told me I had a moustache.”
But she added: “Obviously now is so different, once you know who you are, once you have that self-confidence.
“When you’re younger it’s a lot harder to cope with judgment and you think you have to just look amazing for a man.
“I’ve really channelled that in my relationship now.
“If I don’t want to do my hair then I’m well within my rights to do that.
“It’s not going to affect relationships.
“And that’s taken years to learn.
“I’ve always thought you had to look impeccable for a man but I’ve realised I don’t have to any more.”
Nicola also spoke movingly about how she came out to her family.
She said: “I was in my early teens.
“I was trying to figure out how I was going to tell my mum.
“I decided to tell her in the break of Coronation Street but I thought, ‘What if a main character gets killed and she’s angry?’. So I scrapped that.
“I told her in the kitchen and she said, ‘I already knew. Put the kettle on’.
“It was nice she was chilled about it.
“It felt like a big weight lifted off my shoulders.”
In 2018 Nicola met her partner, model and influencer Ella Baig, 23, and they have a seven-month-old son, Taylor.
Nicola said: “When you’re a celebrity, you never know what people’s intentions are, whether they’re just interested because you are famous. I was quite lucky really.
“When I met Ella she had no idea who I was, which was awesome because I felt like there were no ulterior motives there.
“She was just getting to know me.”
Kate is now a podcaster and author, and hopes to help blended families like her own with her new children’s book, The Family Tree.
And she said her “supportive husband” Rio had helped her to embrace her true self.
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She continued: “I have had a few relationships over the years and I’ve never felt as empowered and as happy as I do now.
“He’s helped me to be the best version of me. Be with someone who loves and supports you. I’m so grateful I have got that.”
Power of love
TO celebrate International Women’s Day this year The Sun has created nationwide campaign We Define It.
We asked readers what they think are the different empowering qualities that make up modern women.
Mum of seven and personal assistant Vikki Cade, 49, from Bucks, said: “Being loved is what sustains me.
“As a mum to seven amazing children, our shared feeling of love is the glue that holds us together.”