My naked self

Five people who bared all for the cameras discuss their saggy, baggy, wrinkly and sticky-outy bits with Hester Lacey
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Clefts, wrinkles, curves, spots, moles, crevices and bulges. Hairy bits, bulgy bits, droopy bits, sticky-outy-bits, dangly bits. Who isn't obsessed with their own sets of the above - and other people's? The human body in the nude is the theme of Naked, a new BBC2 series that starts this Wednesday. The programme-makers have persuaded a variety of people of all shapes, sizes and ages to reveal themselves both physically and mentally. The camera reveals a swirling kaleidoscope of unclothed bodies; the owners reveal their hangups and anxieties, and even the bits they are proud of.

Mike Roberts-Butler, 50, a sales manager, found the filming "a bit of a challenge". "I was particularly down at the time and thought it might cheer me up," he says (though it has to be said that revealing all on national television is probably not a mood-lifter that would work for everyone). "I get a buzz out of making people laugh, whether it's at me or with me," he adds. "Other people of my age will be able to sympathise with me."

He admits he went to the gym three times a week before filming started. "It didn't have much of an effect, to be honest. I have a number of flabby bits. My tummy is worst, and the tops of my legs - and the breasts!" If you have middle-aged spread and lie in the bath, he warns, "you stick like a sucker to the bottom". He doggedly keeps his pony-tail unshorn, even though it is greying now and hangs beneath a definite bald spot. "If I could change one thing it would be a toss-up between more hair and sorting out my eyesight, which is failing quite rapidly." It's head hair he's interested in, rather than the new thickets sprouting in ears and nose. "I'm not bothered by grey hairs in my nether regions," he confides, "because my belly hangs over them."

Dominic Toth, 32, is a supply teacher. He approached the camera bravely. "It wasn't something that gripped me with fear. I figured I had nothing to lose," he says. His particular Achilles heel is his stomach: as a student his charming friends dubbed him Fat Boy and Lardy. "It's just large. People always comment about me and my weight. I always intend to start a fitness campaign but it all tends to die a death after a few days." The trouble, he says, is that while he would like to be svelte and muscular, he would also like to keep drinking, eating and socialising. "The crux of the matter is balancing the two," he says. "It's that Saturday morning breakfast after a Friday night out with the lads," he adds wistfully. At the time of filming, he was slimming for a stag party where he was expecting to meet his old friends from student days. "I want to walk in and for them to say 'Where's the fat boy gone?' "

The engagingly giggly Cindy Hussein (left in picture), 18, was approached by one of the programme-makers at a Jamiroquai concert in London's Finsbury Park. Making the programme, she says, was "a really good experience. I felt really confident in front of the camera." Cindy is retaking her GCSE exams and hopes to be a musician. Her favourite feature is her eyes. "They are light brown, a kind of hazel. I get most compliments about those." She hates, however, her body hair. "I get a lot of body hair and facial hair. I've tried electrolysis but it didn't help. And now I've got bad acne too so I don't want to put anything on my skin at the moment."

She used to worry about her weight. "I'm quite big and I was the only big one among my friends and I really wanted to be skinny. I used to get really down about it and cry." She was upset when a friend gave her a copy of Fat is a Feminist Issue. "I know I'm big, I don't need other people to tell me! A lot of the boys round my age group like skinny girls, they like to have a slim, pretty girl on their arm. But I've found that older men who are more mature prefer a fuller figure. I've accepted my body, and that I've got a voluptuous figure. I think I'm very womanly." Nevertheless, she says, it's not easy being a teenager. "I could wake up one day, try something on, do my hair and think I look OK, then five minutes later my confidence is knocked down and I feel like a prat. A lot of the time I don't feel nice about myself."

Don Backhurst, 73, says that growing old is nothing to be afraid of. "Life begins at 70, darling! All sorts of wonderful things happen." He says the best day of his life was the one he retired as a retail manager with Next and was free to do as he pleased. He is no stranger to getting his kit off: he used to model at art colleges, and has been on the books of the Ugly model agency for 26 years. Life, he says, is wonderful apart from his false teeth. "They're a bloody nightmare. I've just had to pay out pounds 100 for another set. They are so uncomfortable and horrible, I hate the things. Whoever made bodies should have built in three sets."

His best feature, he says, is his long, thick hair. "It's the luck of the draw - I don't do anything special to it, I've never bought hair restorer in my life." He says attitude is the key to enjoying life. "I just go with things as they happen. I was at a Levellers concert on Monday night, and I went backstage and had a good drink with the lads." When he was younger, he thought he didn't want to live beyond the age of 60. Now, he is reconciled to life at a slower pace. "It's like driving a really fast car and then later on you get a little slow car and you think, 'Well, I'm not going as fast as I used to, but the scenery's better'."

Sarah Shipston, 34, worked as a model in her teens. At the time she felt as though she was only valued for her looks. "I didn't feel worth very much. In my early- to mid-twenties I had a very low opinion of myself." Her husband changed her feelings. "It's difficult to retain low self-esteem when someone is telling you day in day out how wonderful you are," she says.

After the birth of her two children, she gradually put on weight until she was a size 22. She runs her own company now, Serendipity Corsets. "I was busy, didn't have time to sit and eat and the weight just dropped off - now I'm a size 14. But it's of no importance, I got quite fed up with people telling me I'd lost weight as if they were paying me the most wonderful compliment."

She is particularly attached to her breasts. "They are not perfect but I like them. I would never have an operation for cosmetic reasons - I sometimes think I'd like my boobs back up where they were, but if you wear a good bra then nobody knows." The thing that irritates her most is women who are obsessed by their bodies. "So what if you have a dimply arse? Take a reality pill! I don't consider myself particularly attractive or pretty, but people respond to me - it's not because of the way I look but how I come across."

She believes that Naked is a programme that will inspire others. "People who see me naked might think, 'She's got a spot on her bum and look at the sag on those breasts', but I think it will give hope to other people and that's very important. I didn't do it as a vanity project!" Beauty, she says, is not as important as we might think. "We're all going to lose our looks, no matter how pretty, how fit and how toned we might be. It all goes south in the end and we end up in a box, so why worry about it?"

'Naked' will appear on BBC2 starting Wednesday 25 November, 9.50pm.

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