Trigger warning: References to suicide
Plus-size influencer Miah Carter, 19, from Berkshire, had struggled with her weight for years but to help inspire other women she made the brave decision to share her fitness journey online.
She now has over 67,000 followers on Instagram and regularly posts images of herself in bikinis to help other women feel great about their bodies. Despite her positive mission though, she has been brutally targeted by online trolls.
Her journey to becoming a high-profile influencer began with her posting what’s known as 'Fitspo' – aka fitness inspiration.
"I started documenting my journey to lose weight and I shared videos of me going to the gym,” she explains.
"One day, I was struggling, and I shared a video of me crying about my struggles, and it gained a lot of positive attention because people related to me.
"I did get a lot of amazing responses for this, so I started to post more about self-acceptance and body positivity. However, I wasn't prepared for the number of hateful comments.
"The youngest person to say this horrible stuff to me online was a six-year-old!"
Carter admits the collective online abuse affected her so badly she ended up trying to take her own life –multiple times – and needed psychiatric care in hospital to recover.
But somehow, despite the struggles with her own mental health, she remains committed to her mission and has continued to post bold, uplifting content online.
She wants to challenge conventional perceptions of beauty and encourage women of all shapes and sizes to celebrate their figures and love themselves exactly as they are.
Thousands of followers have responded well to her posts – she regularly clocks up over 2000 ‘likes’ per image with Instagram fans telling her, ‘You are beautiful’, ‘You’re a queeeeeeen’ and ‘Girl you are a super star! Your energy is shining.’
But this positive feedback is in stark contrast to the horrifying comments from her trolls.
"It is vile what can come out of a human being’s mouth,” she says, clearly still affected by it.
"People have called me fat and ugly but the worst ones have told me to go kill myself and to slit my own throat.”
Carter freely admits she hasn’t managed to cope with this upsetting side of being an influencer, to the point of letting the insults wreak havoc on her mental health.
"The negative comments started to overcome the positive ones,” she admits, reflecting on the emotional rollercoaster she’s been on.
"Although I do try and remain as positive as I can, people have asked me with how I deal with it.
“The truth is I didn't really deal with it – I have been in hospital four times for trying to end my life."
Many would question why she still carries on using Instagram, knowing the dark – but perhaps inevitable – side of being an influencer, but she is clear on the importance of her mission.
"I continue doing what I'm doing and sharing a positive message about self-acceptance because I have helped so many people," she says.
"Although I receive these horrible comments, people have told me how I have helped them put on a bikini regardless of how they look. It can be difficult to ignore hurtful comments, but you should never let anyone tell you that you're not gorgeous.”
Carter also suffers from a skin condition known as Acanthosis Nigricans which causes her skin to darken around her mouth and neck.
"The comments on my skin condition can really get to me,” she says frankly.
"People comment that I look dirty and that I need to wash. Nobody is perfect, I'm trying to lose weight for my health, not for any other reason – I'm always going to be a big girl and have saggy skin.
"I was 27 stone at my heaviest but focusing on numbers can be too pressuring – the number on a scale depressed me so much that I had to throw them away."
Despite her difficulties and being only 19 years old, the influencer won’t give up trying to normalise all body types. She also wants to show that a weight loss journey isn't as straightforward as people assume, so that other women feel inspired to keep up a healthy lifestyle, no matter how hard it may be.
Through her posts the main message she wants to spread, which also appears in her Instagram bio, is: "The most beautiful thing that you can wear is confidence."
Additional research: Caters
If you're feeling down, remember you're not alone and help is out there. For confidential emotional support contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In an emergency dial 999. You can also find information and support via Mind.org.uk.
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