As a fitness influencer, Sia Cooper receives more than her share of online criticism. Since becoming Insta-famous, in fact, the mother of two has been bashed for all kinds of reasons – even receiving death threats as a result of some of her posts. Yet the thick-skinned influencer doesn’t usually let the comments bother her. However, when Cooper was attacked for posting a photo of herself in a bikini, she decided to call a halt to a very specific form of shaming.
Perhaps Cooper felt empowered to stand up to the shamers because, well, being a mom can already be one of the hardest jobs in the world. After all, as a parent, you’re responsible for overseeing every aspect of your child’s life – including the day-to-day business of keeping them safe and well. There’s no manual to teach you how to be the ideal mother, either.
And being a mom may have become even harder since the advent of social media. For now that we live out an ever-increasing proportion of our lives online, and it seems that all of our actions are up for public debate and scrutiny – including our parenting skills. Consequently, so-called mom-shaming appears to be on the rise.
Cooper has experienced an unhealthy amount of mommy-shaming from online followers, too. So what is the influencer’s family situation? Well, the fitness blogger hails from Mississippi, but she later relocated to Florida where she met her husband, Grady. The couple subsequently had two children: a boy named Greyson and a girl named Everly.
Cooper has also worked her status as a mother into her Instagram influencer lifestyle, accruing over one million followers to her Diary of a Fit Mommy Official account. On her page, Cooper shares workouts, motivational posts, recipes and insights into her family life. She further aims to encourage other women to improve their fitness by following her Strong Body Guide.
Cooper initially got into fitness after attending nursing school. After starting her medical training in 2010, you see, she began to put on weight. And by the time she came to graduate, Cooper felt that she was overweight and feeling the impact of a poor diet. As a full-time student who’d also been working part-time, Cooper had been living off cheap fast food to get by.
Consequently “tired of feeling heavy,” Cooper decided to make a change and educate herself on clean eating. And from simply changing her diet, she managed to lose an impressive 45 pounds in nine months. Fortunately, she also documented her weight loss journey in a blog that soon became popular among readers.
Cooper continued with her health regime, even throughout her first pregnancy – during which she gained a total of 30 pounds. Then, after her first child was born, Cooper quit her job as a nurse to become a stay-at-home mom and focus on her enthusiasm for blogging. As more and more people became interested in her fitness program, however, she decided to become a personal trainer – and this in turn led to the creation of Diary of a Fit Mommy.
But following the birth of her son, Cooper felt body insecurities creeping up on her again. In 2018 she told Insider, “I used to edit my images after the birth of my son… I would airbrush my cellulite specifically because the people who I chose to follow seemed so perfect, and I felt the need to be that same way.”
And as a result of the increased attention she received as a personal trainer, Cooper felt under pressure to always look her best. She later realized, though, that editing her photographs could harm her followers. Cooper explained of this decision, “If all you see is a perfectly flawless face and body, you will end up looking at yourself asking questions such as, ‘Why aren’t I that thin?’ or ‘Why do I have so much cellulite?’”
So Cooper stopped tweaking her photographs. She told Insider, “It was not until the birth of my daughter that I realized what a disservice I was doing to the female and male population… I stopped editing. I started posting real-life vs. IG photos to show the tricks I used to use. I now ask myself prior to posting, ‘What would Everly think?’”
In light of this, Cooper vowed to be more open about her flaws. She explained, “As a personal trainer, I have realized the importance of mental health and how social media can dramatically affect that… I want my audience and every woman to know that you can still be fit and have cellulite. These features that have been deemed as flaws are actually pretty normal.”
Yet even while Cooper was using her Instagram page to encourage her followers, there were those on social media who still attempted to drag her down. The influencer faced backlash for all kinds of reasons, in fact. But the criticisms she found particularly hard to take were those that questioned her parenting skills.
Yes, unfortunately, it seems that no one is safe from mom-shaming. According to a 2017 report by CBS, in fact, a poll carried out by a team at the University of Michigan revealed that 60 percent of mothers in the United States had experienced criticism because of their parenting. The subjects most likely to be scrutinized included discipline, diet and sleep.
And with mom-shaming becoming increasingly common, many celebrities have also come in for criticism. Chrissy Teigen, who has two children with her husband, John Legend, is one such famous name. She’s actually been slammed multiple times on subjects as varied as her use of IVF, going to dinner shortly after having her daughter, Luna, and whether or not she was breastfeeding her son, Miles.
Similarly, Beyoncé found herself being mommy-shamed when she posted a picture of herself enjoying a glass of wine in 2017 soon after her twins, Rumi and Sir, were born. That’s because some people took this as a sign that she was not nursing the babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though, moms can each have one alcoholic drink per day without any known risk to their infants.
Elsewhere, actress Amy Schumer came under fire for returning to work two weeks after the birth of her son in May 2019. After posting a picture of herself on stage, in fact, Schumer received a barrage of abuse. One such comment read, “Jesus, Amy. Let the stitches dissolve first.” Responding to the negative backlash in style, the comedian simply joked, “I’ve always wanted to be mom-shamed!”
So it’s fair to say that Cooper was in pretty good company when it came to being the victim of mommy-shaming. After all, she was just one of many women who had found themselves in the firing line for any number of perceived parenting misdemeanors. Yet the outspoken influencer was not prepared to take unsolicited criticism lying down.
When Cooper faced backlash online, then, she decided to stand up for herself. So what had happened? Well, the mom had posted a picture of herself in a bikini to Instagram. And while the snap had been intended to promote body positivity, some social media users didn’t take kindly to Cooper’s revealing choice of attire.
The photograph in question is of Cooper on a trip to the Bahamas. Her brunette hair is piled up on top of her head as she leans against a railing with her back facing the camera. She wears an animal-print bikini, with her thumbs hooked on the side of her skimpy bottoms – which show off most of her posterior.
But although many would state that Cooper looks great in the photograph, the accompanying caption revealed that the mother of two hadn’t initially liked what she’d seen in the snap. As a result, then, she had put off posting the image to her Instagram page. And she had seemingly only eventually decided to share the image in an effort to be more open with her followers.
Cooper’s candid caption read, “This photo that was taken of me back in June in the Bahamas. I didn’t share it because I was so worried about my cellulite! I’m sharing it now because I want you ladies to feel empowered and to own your bodies. You are more than your dimples… Wear the damn swimsuit because life is too short! I love you all.”
Yet while it’s hard to take issue with the sentiment of Cooper’s post, the picture soon caused a stir online. At least one person seemed outraged by the fitness blogger’s choice of outfit, in fact. Why? Well, simply because Cooper has two children. So it seems that this individual thinks a bikini is not a suitable choice of attire for a mother.
In one comment that Cooper subsequently saved, a clearly disgruntled user fumed, “To show your gains you don’t have to show your behind like that… You are a mother, think about what your children see… Unfollowed.” And the message clearly got Cooper’s attention – as she reposted it to her page.
In fact, Cooper screengrabbed the comment and pasted it on top of another photo of Cooper wearing the same bikini that the commenter had taken an apparent dislike to. The influencer then used the message to highlight the mom-shaming that she had experienced on account of the seemingly innocuous photo.
So although most of the comments that Cooper received were positive, it was the negative ones that stuck with her. In November 2019 Cooper told Insider, “I wondered, ‘Would I have gotten the same comment had I not been a mother?’… Society seems to expect moms to act and look a certain way, and I think it’s bulls**t.”
Cooper decided that she had to speak out about mom-shaming to show other mothers that they don’t have to put up with unnecessary criticism. The influencer explained to Insider, “I clapped back with my post to support and to remind all moms that they do not have to dress like a nun just because they birthed a baby.”
And in the Instagram post from November 2019, Cooper wrote, “The other day, I had posted a photo of myself in this very same bikini and was told to cover up… because I am a mother. Cue the mom-shaming. Since when were moms supposed to hide their bodies? Since when were mothers no longer allowed to feel sexy? How do you think babies even got here in the first place?”
Referring to her mommy-shamer, Cooper continued, “She went on to say that I should think about what my kids will think of my behind someday. You know what? I want my kids to see a mother who’s body positive. I want my kids to see a mother who’s confident in her own skin. Plus, they love my butt and use it as a bongo when I’m cooking dinner or awkwardly standing in line at the grocery store.”
Cooper also pointed out that there are no rules to state that mothers couldn’t wear bikinis. In fact, she encouraged all moms to be proud of the bodies that had helped them to produce their little ones. Having a baby is quite an achievement, after all, so mothers arguably deserve to wear what they like more than anyone.
Explaining why she feels so strongly about body positivity, Cooper revealed, “I grew up with a mom who hated her body. In fact, she also made me hate mine by nitpicking it apart and pointing out every time it had looked like I had gained weight as a teenager. I fought like hell to finally love myself, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started wearing shorts again in public.”
As a result, Cooper is eager to teach her children how to love themselves through her example. She wrote, “I would’ve given anything to have a body-positive mama, and I make sure that my kids see and feel this positivity every day – not just with looks, but with it all. Sometimes, all a mother needs is to truly FEEL herself.”
However, Cooper did acknowledge that it is sometimes hard for moms to be kind about themselves. She added, “Let’s face it: motherhood can make us feel less than sexy. It leaves us drained, depressed, exhausted and staring into a mirror, looking at a former shell of ourselves that we barely recognize anymore.”
So Cooper wants other moms to defiantly celebrate their “stretch marks” and “loose skin” in all their glory. Issuing a rallying cry to other women, she said, “So mamas, put on your bikinis. You’ve earned it. Every woman deserves to feel comfortable in her own skin without society’s judgy opinions.”
Finally, Cooper finished her heartfelt Instagram post with a word to those who are so quick to put mothers like her down. Signing off her message, she pleaded, “Let the mom-judging stop. Motherhood is already tough as it is. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t, so stay true to yourself.”
And it appears that Cooper’s take-down of her mommy-shamers resonated with the Instagram community. Within just a matter of weeks, in fact, her post had been liked almost 35,000 times. She also received a barrage of support from social media users – many of whom hailed the fitness influencer as an inspiration to them and others.
One positive comment that Cooper’s post attracted read, “As a mom, I follow the s**t out of you! You inspire me so much. And you know something, my kids have noticed how much more body positive I am since I’ve started getting my gains! You can’t make that woman happy, and that’s okay – she ain’t for your page, then. But don’t ever forget, you do help so many others!”
Another message of encouragement for Cooper read, “Mom-shaming sucks. I wish I had the confidence to rock a bikini like that. You do you! One of the reasons I followed you was your message to love yourself and how you show the ‘tricks’ of the trade, so to speak, to help us all feel better and more confident about ourselves. Keep it up, and screw the haters and mom shamers.”
Then, after Cooper’s post had gone viral, the fitness influencer revealed that she had dealt with anxiety and depression as a result of mom-shaming. In her opinion, the practice is damaging to mothers’ confidence, making them doubt their parenting skills. And as a consequence, Cooper wants to put an end to such criticism so that women feel empowered to tackle motherhood their way without fear of judgment.
Finally, Cooper told Insider, “I did not make [the post] to call someone out. I made it to call out the problem… Many women and mothers face this type of negative commentary every day from strangers, families and coworkers, and I want them to know [that] it is okay to stand up for themselves.”
Being noticed for our beauty can be a wonderful thing, of course. Whether it’s receiving compliments for stunning blond hair or attracting blushes for a chiseled chin, acknowledgment from strangers regarding our radiance can often lift our spirits. But what about when those comments we receive are anything but pleasant? And worse still, what if we suspect that someone is making fun of our appearance? Ferrin Roy can certainly relate to that – not least because she bears a four-inch-wide birthmark.
Currently a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Roy actually spent her childhood in the southern city of Rayne. And she now plies her trade as a counselor for those struggling with their mental health. But prior to that, the churchgoer learned to live with her distinctive feature as she grew up at home.
Refreshingly, Roy went about her business at school with few problems – and even her classmates accepted her appearance without ridicule. Thankfully for the Rayne youngster, too, she wasn’t exposed to any cruel teasing over the course of her education. Outside of the classroom, however, the girl wasn’t so fortunate.
Indeed, Roy experienced her first awkward encounter in the most unlikely of places. Yes, before she turned ten, she was subject to a shocking ordeal – the details of which we will return to later. Following that incident, though, Roy became incredibly self-conscious and even toyed with the idea of getting rid of the birthmark. But the young woman eventually changed her mind, leading to a big moment on her wedding day some two decades on.
Now, for people all around the world, looking good can be incredibly important. Hairstyles or body shapes can sometimes help define who we are as individuals, after all, while “looking our best” can be a confidence booster in public scenarios. But there are also those born with physical differences that make them stand out from the crowd – whether they like it or not.
Well, birthmarks definitely fit into that category, as they affect people in various ways over the courses of their lives. These distinctive blemishes usually crop up on different parts of the body, with some appearing on backs or torsos; lesions can form on a person’s face to boot.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) provides an in-depth look at the skin condition, however. On its website, the NHS says, “Birthmarks are colored marks that are visible on the skin. They’re often present at birth or develop soon afterwards. There are several different types of birthmark, and some of them are very common.”
The NHS post then focuses on several of those “common” marks. It continues, “The two main types of birthmark are vascular birthmarks (often red, purple or pink), caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin, and pigmented birthmarks (usually brown), [which are] caused by clusters of pigment cells.”
The NHS site then lists some examples of vascular and pigmented birthmarks, including the salmon patch and Mongolian spot. However, one type really stands out from the rest. Indeed, nevus flammeus – otherwise referred to as a port-wine stain – is arguably the most eye-catching variety of birthmark that someone can have.
“[The port-wine stains] can vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter,” the NHS revealed. “Port-wine stains often affect one side of the body and usually occur on the face, chest and back (although they can occur anywhere). Most are permanent and may deepen in color over time.”
So how do people develop birthmarks? Well, according to the NHS, it’s a query that still doesn’t have a definitive answer. And for an individual with a birthmark, this lack of an answer may be pretty frustrating. Nevertheless, the NHS post did offer further insight into how port-wine stains are formed.
The NHS explained, “Port-wine stains are thought to occur because the nerves that control the widening or narrowing of the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) don’t function properly, or there aren’t enough of them. This means that blood is constantly supplied to the skin in that area, which makes it permanently red or purple in color.”
But while the NHS reassured people that birthmarks are usually “harmless” and can become less prominent as the years progress, that’s not always the case. Those who have nevus flammeus will likely require treatment or surgery, for example, if they want the marks to go away.
And decades ago, Roy gave serious thought to that particular idea, as she has a rather distinctive, visible birthmark. Not only is it very obvious, but it’s also on her face. Yet while Roy didn’t go through with the removal in the end, her journey since then has undoubtedly been a fascinating one.
Roy actually wrote up a lengthy post on the lifestyle website Love What Matters. In it, she said, “I was born with a nevus birthmark, otherwise known as a pigmented skin lesion, on my right cheek. I refer to it as my beauty mark. The journey to accepting the way I was created has certainly been one of self-realization.”
Following that introduction, Roy looked back on her childhood in Rayne – and in doing so, she raised an important point. She continued, “Growing up, I can’t recall a single Barbie doll, action figure, cartoon or teddy bear that resembled my appearance. Having a birthmark like mine is a constant feeling of being in the spotlight.”
However, Roy’s life was made much easier during her time at school. In a welcome twist, she managed to avoid any issues with her fellow classmates, who accepted her unique appearance. And while speaking with TODAY Style, the Louisiana native explained why things had gone so smoothly for her during that period.
“I attended elementary, middle and high school with the same students,” Roy said in September 2017. “It made my childhood extremely easy because I grew up with the same children, and they were used to seeing me with my birthmark, so it wasn’t a big deal. I was liked. I had friends.”
Sadly for Roy, that comfortable period was brought to a shuddering halt after a trip to her local church. The southern resident was just a girl, in fact, when an adult “shamed” her in front of an audience. Incredibly, the youngster was put in a horrible position by one of the parishioners, who gestured at her sizeable birthmark. And while talking about the significance of that formative moment, Roy later reflected on what had happened next.
As Roy went on to explain to Love What Matters, “I was just nine years old. I was a part of a youth choir group, and I made eye contact with a lady who made a hand gesture for me to remove my birthmark from my face. I ignored her, but every time I would gaze in her direction, she would make the same gesture.” The excruciating awkwardness didn’t end there, either.
In fact, it became even more of a public display, as Roy went on to highlight. She added, “At the end of the service, the pastor asked if anyone had any final remarks. [The lady] stood up and stated, ‘I wanted the young lady to remove what was on her face, but I realized she couldn’t.’”
So, off the back of that encounter, Roy reached the point where she thought about getting rid of the birthmark. Unsurprisingly, it was a difficult decision to make, although she ultimately changed her mind – thanks in part to her mom. As it turned out, Roy’s mother had long encouraged her daughter to embrace her birthmark, styling her hair to show it off.
Roy revealed, “[My mom] taught me that my birthmark was a part of me. She was my voice and defended me when strangers would make derogatory comments. I personally can’t recall all of the times I was teased, but my mother remembers a few incidents that dampened my self-esteem.” What’s more, as Roy told TODAY Style, “[Mom] didn’t comb my hair a certain way to cover it.”
As Roy got older and ventured out of Rayne, though, she experienced more awkward encounters, prompting her to follow her mom’s lead. But although the Baton Rouge resident stood up for herself during those incidents, they began to take their toll. And the young woman therefore developed a new routine to help. So what was her strategy?
“I would talk to myself in the mirror. I would compliment myself and recite daily affirmations,” Roy explained to Love What Matters. “I recall my mom asking me so many times, ‘Ferrin, who are you talking to?!’ I would simply close the door in the bathroom and stare at myself and talk.” And that reinforcement of strength really mattered, as we’ll soon learn.
Roy actually explained what she got out of that particular practice. The counselor continued, “While looking into the mirror, I could escape the unpredictable comments and stares. In the mirror, I was the only one with an opinion. Most importantly, I was the only one with an opinion that mattered.”
Thanks to those private sessions in front of the mirror, Roy’s confidence shot up, as she accepted her physical appearance. After that, the Louisiana native put herself forward for a number of roles at her school, including a club presidency. She even joined the cheerleading team as well – truly putting herself on public display. In her mind, the birthmark wasn’t going to hold her back from living a normal life.
Roy then switched her focus to more recent times, reflecting on her positive mindset. She wrote, “Nowadays, people look at me and wonder why I’m confident or why I am not ashamed. I’ve had my days of embarrassment and my days where I wondered why my face was not ordinary.” And Roy’s thoughtful observations didn’t end there.
Roy told Love What Matters, “The person I am today is one who has continued to strive despite obstacles. My birthmark is a part of me, and the moment I accepted it as a part of who I am, stares or comments did not bother me. I live my life no matter who is watching.”
Roy’s life took an exciting turn, too, when she met her future husband. The couple actually seemed to hit it off quite quickly, as they had plenty of similar interests. And the birthmark wasn’t a problem for her partner, either, with her admirer describing it as “exquisite” during their time together. He also told Roy that she was beautiful.
Roy and her man then tied the knot in the summer of 2016 – but few could’ve predicted what happened next. In keeping with her confident attitude, the bride didn’t hide her birthmark at the nuptials, instead embracing the lesion on her cheek. But following the celebrations, she then stumbled across some news articles talking about her. It seemed that journalists had picked up on an Instagram post of her in her wedding dress.
As Roy recalled on Love What Matters, “Shortly after [the wedding], there were headlines that read, ‘The bride who refused to cover her birthmark on her wedding day!’ Yet, covering my birthmark was NEVER A THOUGHT! It’s a part of me, why would I cover it?!?” She also shared a number of photos from her big day on social media – all proudly showcasing the mark.
Now some three years on from the wedding, Roy and her husband are still going strong with their two young daughters. And as a result of her outlook, the mom noted that her girls weren’t shy in coming forward about her appearance. In fact, the duo have made some heartwarming inquiries regarding their own looks.
Roy told TODAY Style, “[My daughters] tell me [the birthmark is] pretty. They ask me if they’re going to get one when they’re older.” In addition to that, the girls have been keeping an eye out for people with similar appearances; they even spotted a dancer on television who had her own birthmark.
Roy also shared her positivity through the book The Mark She Kept: A Woman’s Journey to Living her Purpose Courageously! The publication was released in March 2017, and it’s since received plenty of praise. The work has earned a number of five-star reviews on Amazon from happy customers, for example. Yet the southerner acknowledges that not everyone who has a birthmark has to adopt her specific mindset.
But Roy told Love What Matters that her approach had changed her life, making her a better person in the process. She said, “Choosing to embrace my birthmark was my decision. I decided to be BOLD AND COURAGEOUS! Throughout my journey, I have grown. Every situation is different.”
Roy continued, “Some birthmarks have to be removed because of medical reasons. My removal would have been strictly cosmetic. I encourage you to take time to love yourself and do what’s best for you. If that means covering your mark or scar with makeup, that is okay too. Continue until you are ready to break the cycle. It’s OKAY to be different.”
At that point, the mother of two explained why she felt the need to share her story with the world. The Baton Rouge resident concluded, “I hope this… sparks the attention of anyone who struggles with being different. My ultimate goal is to encourage you because I understand the struggles you may encounter. And I’ve lived them as well.”
Roy’s inspiring message certainly had an impact online, with the story being shared on Facebook more than 28,000 times. The mom also highlighted the piece on her Instagram account in August 2019, with that particular post picking up more than 340 likes on the social media website.
Touchingly, after reading her tale, one Instagram user even got in touch with Roy in the comments section. And she left a particularly heartfelt message, writing, “I was drawn to your page from this article. You are so beautifully you! I love the energy and confidence you exude; you inspire me! Your beautiful daughters are so lucky to have such a strong force behind them. Thank you for sharing your story!”