'Posing in my underwear made me more confident than ever!' Winner of Ultimo's 'real woman' modelling contest says stripping off gave her a body boostSize 14 Sophie Linfield was scouted on a Virgin flight by Ultimo CEO MIchelle MoneReluctantly entered competition – and was staggered to find a month later that she had wonSophie joins 11 other women in Ultimo's real women modelling campaign
09:31 GMT, 20 August 2012
When 26-year-old Sophie Linfield put on her blue British Airways cabin crew suit and headed to work earlier this year, she could never have expected the Transatlantic trip she was working on to end with a proposal from one of Britain's wealthiest entrepreneurs.
But this was no indecent proposal. Sophie, who had been tending to Ultimo chief Michelle Mone in the First Class cabin, made such an impression on the billionaire businesswoman that Mone handed the Virgin employee her details and implored her to enter a competition she was holding to find 'real women' to model the lingerie brand's latest collections.
Bemused Sophie put the experience aside. But when she landed, something compelled her to call Mone's PA, who asked Sophie to send in a natural photograph of herself and fill in an entry form – which she did.
Winning curves: Air hostess Sophie Linfield (left) winner of the Real Women competition and gorgeous Angela Wheeler (right)
'I got my brother's girlfriend to take a photo of me in the garden, just wearing jeans and T-shirt,' Sophie says.
'But I didn't hear anything back for a few weeks, so I just chalked it up as one of those crazy things that happen.
But then after a month, I had a call saying I'd won. I couldn't believe it.'
Sophie, who has never modelled, says she had always felt lacking in confidence when it came to body image.
All natural: Finalist Dal Dosanjh (left) was chosen for her shape next to Becky Davenport (right)
Beautiful: Lisa MacLachlan (left) was picked to be in the top 12 along with Leah Morris (right)
'I had never posed in underwear – I would never have considered doing anything like this. I was terrified ahead of the shoot, and I really didn't enjoy posing. I felt awful, and I was so nervous.
'Fortunately, all ten of us taking part in the shoot had been chatting all week on Facebook, so when it came to posing on the day, I felt like I was among friends.
'The photographer was so nice, and Michelle came down on the day, which was lovely.'
Despite her nerves, Sophie says that posing in her underwear gave her a huge and unexpected confidence boost.
'It made me realise that we are all different. Women come in all shapes and sizes,' she said.
'We can't all have bodies like celebrities – we don't have chefs and personal trainers. But everyone is beautiful in their own way.'
Such was the transformation that
Sophie says she would now be happy to give her delighted fiance Nick,
also 26, a treat ahead of their wedding next year.
have never been one for nice underwear,' she says. 'I have a drawer of
mismatched knickers and bras. But Ultimo gave us the lingerie we were
wearing on the day, and a few other nice pieces, so my underwear drawer
has been transformed.'
Now I wouldn't think twice about posing for my boyfriend in lingerie and heels,' she laughs.
Thousands of women entered the national contest, which is held annually to raise money for charity.
Poster girl: Stina Sanders (left) was picked to show off the lingerie brand's designs, along with Rebecca Barrett
Beaming Laura Sinden (left) was singled out by the judges and Ashleigh Mae Campbell caught their eye
Enviable figures: Donna Evans (left) will star in the Real Women campaign along with Dawn Williams
enter online, but two secure their place through a charity auction – an
event that has raised a total of 120,000 since its launch three years
Michelle Mone whittled down the entries to the final 12 winners, who ranged in size from 8 to 18 and bust sizes from A to G.
The girls, who will join Helena
Christensen, Luisana Lopilato and Rachel Hunter in the Ultimo Hall of
Fame, are part of Ultimo's goal to blur the boundaries of what lingerie models should look, and to show that
women of all ages, sizes and shapes can be beautiful.
Fellow winner Dawn Williams said the
only day that had come close to matching her experience on the lingerie
shoot was her wedding day. 'I felt as if I was dreaming,' she said.
Hear it for the girls! Michelle Mone surrounded by the beautiful contestants of the Real Women competition
The winners will join Argentinian actress Luisana Lopilato in the brand's Hall of Fame
best thing about being an Ultimo Real Women Winner is it has made me
feel special, feminine and more confident. To sum up my experience is
easy: life changing.'
Donna Evans said the experience had made her 'proud' of who she is. 'The best part of being an Ultimo Real Woman is the
confidence it's given me.'
'I never really
believed in myself. But now I'm going to go out there and get what I
want from life and love me for me.'
Michelle Mone OBE, said: 'I love the Ultimo Real Women campaign. It gives us the opportunity to showcase some of the beautiful ladies out there who otherwise might not get the chance to model lingerie.
'It's incredible the feeling the ladies get after the shoot and the new found confidence it gives them.
'I’ve posed in my lingerie and I can vouch that its not an easy thing to do. I want women to celebrate their bodies.
campaign started we have raised an incredible 120,000 for charities
including Breast Cancer Care, Cash for Kids and Children with
The twelve winners were taken to London for a big budget celebrity-style
fashion shoot with the Ultimo ‘glam team’, including celebrity
photographer Dan Kennedy, hair and make-up artists, stylist and lighting
experts – the same team who worked with Ultimo babes Luisana Lopilato
and Sarah Harding.
Ultimo is available at www.ultimo.co.uk and Debenhams stores nationwide.
THE TWELVE NEW ULTIMO WOMEN
1. Becky Davenport, 28 from Wigan size 18 and a 36C
2. Rebecca Barrett, 35 from Cork Size 10 and a 34D
3. Laura Sinden, 29 from Worthing Size 12 and a 32E
4. Angela Wheeler, 31 from Sheffield Size 14 and a 36B
5. Dawn Williams, 38 from Chester Size 8 and a 34B
6. Leah Morris, 35 from Ebbw Vale Gwent Size 16 and a 38D
7. Dal Dosanjh, 39 from Warwick Size 12 and a 34D
8. Lisa Maclachlan, 32 from Glasgow Size 12 and a 32E
9. Sophie Linfield, 26 from Hampshire Size 14 and a 36F
10. Donna Evans, 41 from Welwyn Garden City
11. Stina Sanders, 21 from Western Super Mare Size 8 and 32B
12. Ashley Mae Campbell, 23 from Dunblane Size 8 and 32B