To Glow or To Grow

Michelle Hopewell

Michelle Hopewell

Actor/Writer at Funemployment
Black British, faith filled, curvy actress with a love for food, great music, good movies, life changing literature and awkward moments.
Michelle Hopewell

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So if you’re on any of the popular social media platforms I’m sure you will have come across the phrase “The Glow Up” by now; and for those of who aren’t so familiar with the phrase, here is the definition according to urban dictionary.

“To go from the bottom to the top to the point of disbelief. An incredible transformation.”

An incredible transformation? Visuals matter to us as a society now and so we are talking about a change to our outer appearance. We’ve all seen the transformation Tuesdays on instagram, and I have posted a few of them myself, BUT and there is a big but here, figuratively and literally (jokes), I have to say I think there’s a flaw to how we approach the glow up.

You see to glow up, we have to assume that we were previously in a place of lower status. We’re saying that the person that we were before wasn’t nearly as great and aesthetically magnificent as we are right now. Now, even though everything around us is pointing to that being a fact, let’s play a little with the idea and see if we can’t be a bit better in how we look at things.


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When I was younger, like so many of us I assumed that everything I was wasn’t good enough. The way I looked, the way I talked, the way I interacted with my peers. I felt supremely different to them in every way. I thought they were superior. They were slim, and beautiful and knew how to talk to guys, and knew all the latest fashion trends and went to all of the coolest places and just seemed to be excelling socially.

I on the other hand felt like I was just me, which meant I didn’t stand on the corner of my street and drink, I wanted to finish reading that chapter in Garth Nix’s Sabriel for the 100th time because escaping into a world full of fantasy and possibility was the perfect balm to help ease some of reality of life, and dealing with the difficulties of some of the things happening in my life at the time.

I wasn’t confident in my body, in fact there was times were, sadly, I absolutely detested it and so I didn’t want to dress myself up in the clothes my girlfriends were wearing because not only were they form fitting and bold, but a lot of the time even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to get them in my size. I mean, let’s hold a moment of silence for those of us who we wearing men’s white office shirts as our school white shirts.

Make sure you play something lit within that moment though, we’re not here to rub salt in wounds.

Right, so back to what I was saying.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Maya Angelou

When you don’t relate to your peers or to your body as a young person, and you already dealing with a host of issues and hormones and mental health and family issues, you are just one ball of toe up.

You’re already telling yourself you’re not good enough, you’re ugly, there’s no hope and any other negative thing you can conjure and let me tell you from first hand experience it does not take much. We were and we are bombarded with images and articles that try help solidify those untruths as facts in our young minds. We are at war with ourselves and the weapons we are given are often in the form of our favourite tv show, whatever high street brand is popular, sometimes our friends and family, and sometimes ourselves.

I remember being consumed with the idea that maybe one day I’d get older, and I’d be enough to exist. I didn’t know that the girl who was wishing for those things was already enough. She was waiting on the glow up, when she should have been hungering for the grow up.

I had a host of positive influences in my life, including my mother and my sisters and my brother and my dad, but I couldn’t always hear them. They told me I was beautiful, but when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see my friends or the women on TV and so I told myself, “Michelle, you’re not what the world wants or needs” and that couldn’t be more untrue.

You see whatever stage of growth we are at, whatever age we make it to, the world needs us, even if we don’t recognise that. What I didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter if other people thought I was cool or “beautiful” – I was already all of those things because I wanted to be me, and my future was bright because I was loved and because I wanted to love and bring love into the world.

We think that if we achieve a goal weight or have a certain amount of money or followers or make up or clothes that we will be happy and we would have reached the ultimate glow up, but the glow up is eternal, the glow up is learning to love you, for you. It is being tolerant, it is striving to help each other, it letting yourself be open, it is about making steps to bring balance to your body, mind, soul and spirit.

I wish I could tell 16 year old Michelle that the most important glow up would be an internal one, where her foundations would be in faith, and hope and love and care. It wouldn’t matter if she walked around in a paper bag, she would still glow up to be beautiful.

Talking to a friend recently, I said I felt like I was having a second wind as a woman. Suddenly I was enjoying making my exterior look good, because it wasn’t about doing it for other people or reaching this ideal in my mind because of the things I see around me. I’m not doing my nails or my hair or my make up because I want to be the woman I imagined I should be, I do it because I am happy being me and sometimes that is just sitting in my underwear going over audition stuff but actually using that as a front to watch Netflix, and sometimes its putting my very best wig and my very best heels and going out with my friends. Not to mention everything and anything in between.

I am happy to just be me. That is the ultimate glow up. Who cares if the old you didn’t have great eyeliner skills or acne or was bigger or smaller? It is all a reminder of the war that has been won for your life, all those things make you, you and that is beautiful. They are triumphs and tales of a story that is not yet done. So that’s my definition of the glow up. I hope its yours too.






Michelle Hopewell
Michelle Hopewell

Black British, faith filled, curvy actress with a love for food, great music, good movies, life changing literature and awkward moments.

Find me on: Web | Twitter


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