I remember at playtime in primary school, the girls played jump rope, while the boys played football, then one day, a girl decided to play football with us; we were around the age of 9. The boys stopped her from playing because she was a girl and that’s it; no further explanation was needed – but she played on regardless. From a young age, it has been engrained in us how boys and girls should behave, and any behaviour deviating from the “norm” will be discriminated against. Where did we learn this behaviour from?

Melissa Henry’s goal is not to challenge stereotypes; but to redefine and empower people to live a healthy and active lifestyle, with her self-made brand, Her Royal Thighness. During our conversation, Her Royal Thighness, Melissa, touched on women in sports, binge eating, the perception of women and their bodies, and why it’s important for them to feel comfortable._mg_6104

What inspired you to become a health and fitness enthusiast?

Growing up in school, I was always weight conscious rather than health conscious; I remember going on the Atkins diet at just 13 years old, I was obsessed with losing weight and would try all the latest fad diets. When I got to my second year of university, I was tired of feeling so lethargic, and the binge eating followed by dieting and not eating much took its toll on me, so I decided to do things properly. I went to the gym and started eating properly, and since then I’ve seen how much it’s transformed the way I feel and look, and I’ve never looked back.

American football is not typically associated with British sports to partake in, especially for girls & women. 

American Football is now the biggest growing sport in the UK, and the UK women’s league have around 15 teams. Needless to say, it is still a sport people are surprised to hear about in this country. I love the fact that it works both my body and mind and as a team it welcomes pretty much everyone. There is no ideal shape or weight for American Football, whether you’re tall, short, large or slim; there is a position for you in the sport, and so it brings together a diverse group of people which I think keeps it interesting and more family-like.

Why do you think women are judged more on how their bodies look compared to men?
I think there are lots of reasons culturally and historically as to why women are judged a lot by their looks. What started out as innocent flattery to women, and us being seen as the ones with beauty and elegance is almost being tainted overtime with pressure to maintain a certain look.
Do you think it is important for women to love their bodies? 
I am comfortable in the skin that I’m in – it’s important because that self-confidence channels through everything that you do. It could be the reason you have the confidence to go and speak to someone at a networking event or pluck up the courage to go out with friends and have a very good time socially – being comfortable in your skin is so important, and I don’t think we encourage it enough in society.
Do you think there need to be more women that look like you in mainstream media and the fitness industry? 
The media should appeal to the public, and we should have a variety of sportswomen representing women as a whole. Right now a lot of fitness imagery screams: “if you don’t look like this, you’re not doing it right”, which isn’t true. Every woman has her shape and uniqueness about her, and until we see more diversity in the fitness industry, we can’t encourage women to be mindful of that.
Why are you embarking on a journey to educate secondary school pupils on healthy living? Are you targeting a particular group of students?
When I look back to the time when I felt most insecure about my body, it was when my body was changing the most as a teen during secondary school. At the time I felt quite alone with how I felt because my friends never vocally shared a dislike of their bodies.
“So many young women go through eating disorders and body confidence issues on their own, and I think secondary schools are a great place to start encouraging them to think differently about themselves.”  
If you could give go back and tell your younger self one important thing, what would it be?
Don’t apologise for who you are.
When you’re not playing American Football and at the gym, what do you do? 
Ha, I’m asked this all the time, people think Football and Gym are my life. I’m a Social Media and Marketing Manager, technically work a 9-5, but from home, it’s like having two jobs so yes it is exhausting. My partner helps to keep me focused; he inspires me to be better every day, and I’ve always had a drive never to quit, so I guess that helps. I also love watching documentaries; The Hunt is my favourite at the moment. I could watch a documentary on absolutely anything. I love to travel, I went to Morocco two weeks ago, and I’m going to Norway this weekend, I feel like everyone should take the opportunity to travel when they can, there is so much to see and learn.
What does Her Royal Thighness hope to achieve?
There is so much that I want to do in fitness, football, with young women, schools and charities. I want to leave a legacy and hope that my future children will be proud and continue in my steps plus more. There is no end goal in my mind, I don’t have a cap on what I feel I’m capable of doing, so it’s almost a personal challenge for me to see how much I can do before God says it’s time up lol.
Do you feel free?
Yes! And I hope you do too 🙂
Be inspired and being your healthy journey by following Melissa’s Instagram page @herroyalthighness
Subject – Melissa Henry
Hair & makeup – Latenda Hair Salon
Photographer & Writer – Kofi Dwaah