Cheshire local, Sophie Hughes, on the decision that changed her life for better

Sophie Hughes Hd

Absolutely Cheshire talks to body positivity model, Sophie Hughes

The first time I came across Sophie Hughes, I hate to admit that what immediately caught my eye was a scar on her midriff. The vast majority of us, I am sure, always look to hide away elements of our bodies that we don’t like. As a teenager, I was hugely embarrassed by a large mole on my right cheek that, when chatting to the opposite sex, I tried to make sure they were always on the left of me. That, perhaps, my wit and charm would mean by the time they saw the mole I would have already won them over.

The wit and charm never really worked, but then again my mole never sent people running to the hills. But I was still amazed when I saw the Cheshire-based Sophie modelling underwear, with her scar proudly on show. “I honestly don’t even notice my scar when I look in the mirror anymore,” she insists when we sit down for a catch up. “I know clients get really excited to book my scar and it makes me proud when I see the photos, but more importantly, I love that it shows little girls with scars that they are perfect just how they are.”

Sophie Hughes modelling for Autumn fashion shoot
Sophie Hughes is showing her scar in autumn shoot

Sophie’s Story

There are not enough words to explain how inspiring Sophie is to talk to. Today, she promotes body positivity and confidence to nigh on 50k followers on Instagram, but the story of the Sophie we see today began with a personal sacrifice. She was already in the midst of a blossoming modelling career – more of that later – when she moved out to work in Australia, and soon discovered that her six-month-old nephew, Oscar, desperately needed a new liver. “Once I found out I was a match, I put everything on hold to fly back to the UK to donate part of my liver,” she says. “After the gruelling eight-hour surgery, I was left with the seven-inch scar up my midriff. The recovery was the most challenging experience of my life and my weight quickly jumped 4 dress sizes and I was riddled with insecurities after the operation, refusing to let anyone see my scar.”

Considering her vocation, putting herself through this, you’d think, was a tough decision to make, but talking to Sophie you don’t get the impression this was the case. “Fashion has been in my life for as long as I can remember, I used to lose myself for hours playing dress up in my mum’s wardrobe,” she laughs. “I’d make the family sit down as I staged a fashion show in her oversized blazers and high heels. I must have been five or six and it was my absolute favourite thing to do.”

Fast Forward

A decade later and she was doing the fashion shows for real. “I look back on my early years as a model with a little sadness if I’m honest,” Sophie admits. “I was exposed to things I shouldn’t have been, my troubled eating habits were encouraged, the industry was incredibly toxic and as a 15-year-old I didn’t know myself well enough to stand up for myself. They’re not my fondest memories.”

She took time away by deciding to explore the world. “I went backpacking aged 22, travelled Asia, New Zealand and landed in Sydney for a six-week stint. I did the typical backpacker thing of falling in love with an Aussie and stayed for nine years until we went our separate ways. Life in Australia was beautiful and I have the most incredible memories that will last me a lifetime.”

That wasn’t enough to stop her returning to the UK, however, to help Oscar. “The impact on my body was huge,” Sophie says about the period post-surgery. “Physically I couldn’t lift a kettle or wash my hair and I was sleeping 20 hours a day immediately after surgery, my body was regrowing a liver. Recovery took me a long time and I gained quite a lot of weight in a short period of time which came with its own challenges mentally. However, the scar really acted as the catalyst for helping others feel confident exactly as they are and really start their self-love journey.”

Soon enough, the fashion industry came calling once again. “I got scouted as a curve model by Bella in Sydney,” she explains. “They are an incredible agency and I was excited to have the opportunity to model with my new scar and curves. I fly the flag for body positivity because I spent 15 years at war with myself. I hated every inch of my body and it was like living in a prison. I never ate a meal without guilt and I never felt good enough. I have been able to find peace in myself and now I want to help other women do the same.”

Sophie Hughes lingerie, body postitvity
Sophie Hughes models for brands such as M&S, Asics and Porsche

And the response to Sophie has been unanimously positive. “I’m having the most incredible year so far and I couldn’t be more grateful,” she says. “This year has seen me shoot campaigns for M&S, Porsche, Asics, Lounge Underwear and so many more. I really feel like this has been my best year yet, and I’ve been modelling for 17 years.”

The Second Phase

It was during the second phase of her career that Sophie also moved back to the UK, with Cheshire at the top of her list to settle down in. “I grew up in Marple and had such a beautiful childhood,” she looks back, “full of bike rides, adventures in the woods, trips to the sweet shop and local swimming baths and lots of love. I feel like my childhood was simple and I’m very grateful for that.

“I came back to Cheshire post-covid, and I felt ready to be closer to my family again and use Cheshire as a hub to explore Europe,” Sophie continues. “I’m writing these responses from Paris where I’m shopping for a campaign and I’m loving the opportunities that being back in Cheshire is bringing me. Being Auntie Sophie is also my favourite thing in the world to be and seeing so much of my nieces and nephews is bringing me so much joy.”

I am left in no doubt that Sophie couldn’t be happier than where she is today. Her modelling career is hitting the heights, and she is also working with Milk Education, an education recruitment agency that also delivers inspiring school speakers, speaking to young people about learning to love themselves and social media safety.

But it’s all just a start. “I have so many ambitions I haven’t even gotten started yet. I want to continue thriving in modelling and with my work on social media (@sophwithlove) helping others on their own body positivity and self-love journey – I want to help others understand that there is no need ‘to wait until you have lost a few pounds’ to feel like you can start focusing on your life and what you want out of it.”

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