Introducing Rachel Evagelou, co-founder of The Just Be Revolution. Rachel is the director of The Local Larder and former co-owner of Shop Handmade. At 45, she's only recently come to accept and love herself for who she is. Through The Just Be Revolution, Rachel is on a mission to spread love, kindness, positivity, and acceptance in the world, and to help people find their own confidence and self, regardless of their age or who they are. She lives by the motto 'You only have one life, live it for YOU'. Below is her inspiring video interview, and then Rachel's story, in her own words, about how she was bullied throughout school for her athletic, gymnast's figure.
“Deadset, you’re the ugliest chick I’ve ever seen in my life’, to which I replied.. ‘Ohhh thanks Joe”. He followed it up with “honestly you should do us and yourself a favour and go kill yourself”. I was 13 and the new girl in school.
At 14, whilst visiting my father, a group of boys whistled at me. My father shouted back to them “why are you whistling at her she is ugly”.
At 15, at the school swimming carnival I was sitting in line, with my head down in my arms preparing for my race. My hair was up in a cap, I was wearing a tank top and shorts. A group of boys came up and kicked me saying “Dude are you racing?’ I looked up and they recoiled in horror. They thought I was John. “Look at your muscles, you look like a bloke. You are never going to get a boyfriend looking like that. GROSS.”
“Gymspastic” was my nickname at school. I was an elite gymnast and I was built like a tank. It didn’t get any better after the health and fitness tests were rolled out that year. The AIS were scouting for new rowers after the success of the ‘Awesome Foursome’. I beat every boy in school in flexibility, the BMI fat test, (with less than 10% body fat), and at every strength exercise, including push ups and sit ups.
Rachel the gymnast, age 18.
I was strong, I was fit and I was “GROSS”. Indeed, when it came time for the year 10 school formal, I didn’t have a date. Even finding a dress to fit me was impossible. My mum and I had to make one from scratch to fit my 120cm shoulder circumference and my 51cm waist. Got the visual? I was a tank!
At the time, I didn’t care too much. I was focused on my training. In fact, I thought I was weak, despite the evidence. I didn’t care about their opinions. I was focused on something bigger. I was a really good gymnast and I had been undefeated in the ACT and at Nationals for three years.
Then, everything changed. I sustained a nearly paralysing spinal injury that ended Gymnastics for me. it was then, without my security, without my focus and pretty much all alone, that the words and taunts started to get through.
This was the beginning of years of self-loathing, lack of confidence, and insecurity.
Rachel, age 20, before she'd learnt to love herself and her body.
I am happy to report that now, at 45, I don’t feel that way anymore. How did this happen? How at 45, with considerably more body fat, a mama belly, stretch marks, and wrinkles, do I feel sexier and more confident that I did at 16,when I was the the peak of my fitness?
A combination of many things. A wonderful partner of 25 years who has loved me unconditionally. Great family and friends who constantly worked with me on positive self talk. But perhaps it was becoming a parent and recognising that my body is amazing, that it created and carried two children. It was at that time that I started to respect my body for the incredible machine that it was. As my children grew, so did the importance and responsibility of being a good role model to them. After all, they are what I leave behind in this world. It’s my job to raise children who are kind, respectful of others, and confident in themselves.
It’s a bit weird, I have always accepted others to be themselves, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation or identification, yet I couldn’t do it for myself.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I was watching my then 7 year old daughter playing the game of life with her brother and my mother. As she was going around the board in her car with 2 parents and kids in the back seat, one of the characters fell out of the car. My mum said “whoops you’ve lost your husband” to which Ruby replied “ that’s not my husband, we are lesbians”. My mum looked up at me, reached over, and gave me a high five.
So I think I’m doing a pretty OK job with the kids.
Now that I have learned to love and respect myself I feel like a whole new person. I want others to feel the same way. I want others to love themselves, and to be who they truly deserve to be. I want them to be safe in this world. I want to pay it forward.
This is why I want to be part of the Just Be Revolution. I want to spread kindness, acceptance, and love like glitter everywhere. I want to see it in every crack, embedded for years to come!
Big Love Rachel
P.S I did eventually get my Disney moment with Joe… 20 years later at the High school reunion he came up to me and said “holy S#$t is that you Rachel? Jesus you turned out all right.” To which I just replied “Hello Joe yes it’s me”, and just kept walking.
Rachel today, confident and happy with who she is. Photo by Lori Cicchini
Thank you for being part of the Revolution Rachel and for sharing your story. Vicky x