Shelina Janmohamed

BeYOUtiful: Radiate confidence, celebrate difference and express yourself
Shelina Janmohamed

About Author

Shelina Janmohamed's BeYOUtiful guides us through the idea of beauty and who decides what is beautiful, reminding us that it is up to us to choose to be 'beYoutiful'.

As the vice president of advertising agency Ogilvy, Shelina sees first hand how ideas of womanhood, beauty and image are created.  Shelina is also a newspaper columnist writing for outlets including The Guardian, The Telegraph and The National UAE. Her previous books include Love in a Headscarf, Generation M and The Extraordinary Life of Serena Williams.

As a mother of two young girls, Shelina will help shape their ideas of beauty, self-confidence and their place in the world. You will already find her writings tackling subjects of importance to girls and young women and how we need to address ideas of self-perception, confidence and voices. She lives in London.

You can find Shelina on Twitter @LoveInHeadscarf and on Instagram @LoveInAHeadscarf



BeYOUtiful  (Wellbeck Publishing)

May 2022

BeYOUtiful is about beauty, but don't expect to read about makeovers or diets! In BeYOUtiful, you will discover what is meant by 'beautiful' and how ideas of beauty change, along with tips to build your self-confidence so that you also feel beautiful in your own body - just as everyone should!

We asked Shelina Janmohamed to tell us more about BeYOUtiful, what inspired her to write it, and what she hopes readers will take from the book.

Read an extract from BeYOUtiful

BeYOUtiful Activities

Q&A with Shelina Janmohamed

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career to date?

I was born and grew up in London. I started my career in marketing, and accidentally turned into an author because I thought it was so important for women to express themselves. Now I work in advertising and communications, and think a lot about women's roles and representation. I've discovered a new passion - writing for children! (They are the best readers and the most fun to write for!)

What is BeYOUtiful about, and who is it for?

As a woman I think about what I look like all the time, it's drummed into us as girls from a young age. We try to make ourselves feel better with platitudes or dismiss the subject of beauty as trivial. But the truth is, it's important to all of us, so why don't we talk about it in this way? As someone who has spent decades as an expert on women's representation and identity, as well as working in the advertising industry, I wanted to share what I'd learnt about how our ideas of beauty are created and how we can enjoy beauty rather than it making us feel down about ourselves.

It's for girls aged eight to teenagers asking what does it mean to be beautiful, and exploring how girls can decide for themselves. It weaves culture, society, history, science, social media, amazing diverse women's stories with lots of humour.

I would like every girl aged eight plus reading this, and every parent or guardian, too, so they can understand and explore the world the girls live in, and be able to support them. In fact, secretly, I think every woman should read this as well - we need to unlearn everything we've been taught and see the world through fresh eyes and on our terms!

What made you decide to write it?

I am a mum of two daughters, and I see how much joy it can be to find fun ways to express yourself when you're out in the world. But I also was worried about the negative impacts of the media on young girls. More than a third of girls aged seven to 10 think they are rated more on their appearance than their abilities and by the age of seven, more than one in four children have tried dieting. That means we need to give girls the tools at a young age to understand how ideas about beauty are formed, so they can decide for themselves. There simply aren't any other books out there for this age - so I thought I'd write it myself!

How much of your own childhood and teenage years have made it into the book?

I've written this book from my heart, as though I'm talking to the reader in front of me. There's a whole section at the beginning about my own story, and throughout the book I've woven my own experiences, including ones I found difficult and how I overcame them. I hope this will show girls how even grown ups struggle with beauty, and there's nothing wrong with being worried. But if we support each other we can make a big change - a revolution!

Why did you want to bring examples of other girls and women into the book, and how did you choose who to include?

The book was a blank space to reimagine what our world could look like if we celebrated all the different ways to be beautiful, instead of the very limited range of beauty ideals we see around us. So my goal was to stuff the book full of amazing women's stories. In fact I had so many, my editor had to gently ask me to reduce the number.

One thing that was very important for me - while focusing on showcasing as many different kinds of beauty as I could - was to show that women's accomplishments are what we should celebrate. So every story shouts out what she has achieved.

You also look at examples from history of how to be beautiful - why is it important to have this context?

It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking there's only one way to be beautiful. But as we explore in the book, ideas change throughout history and in different cultures. Sometimes it's about being voluptuous and curved and others about being rake thin. We know that science, art, fashion, even philosophy all have views about what is beautiful. But ultimately, what is beautiful represents what is considered the ideal woman, and that depends on the time and culture.

The book is about deciding for ourselves what we think is beautiful, but more importantly understanding there isn't just one fixed meaning - there are many ways to be beautiful. And no-one should tell us otherwise!

Which section of the book do you want everyone to read?

My favourite chapter of the whole book is the final one "Be the boss of your own beauty" because that's exactly what I want all of us to do! I explain beauty ideals, how they reflect ideas about a woman's role, how to deal with other people's opinions and how to find your own style. Plus there's an amazing science experiment where I can actually change the way your eyes see!

Which bit of advice from BeYOUtiful do you wish you had had as a child or teenager?

The whole entire book is the advice I wished I had as a child. I talk about my own personal experiences in the book, especially how people felt they could give me their opinions about my looks. I wish I'd known that others aren't always right, and that I can have my own opinion!

Who are your own BeYOutiful role models?

There are SO MANY inspirational women all around us. Every girl and woman I meet has something that is beautiful about them, just as so many famous women do. There are so many ways to be beautiful. Everyone is a role model - even you!

The book itself is gorgeous, too. What did you think of the illustrations by Chante Timothy?

I actually asked my publishers if Chante could illustrate the book. I love her vibrant colours and bold unapologetic female characters. But what I love most of all is how the people in her illustrations have beautiful colours all around them, reflecting the aura that I want all of us to see around others, and around ourselves.

Are you writing any other books for young people?

I have some secret projects up my sleeve. Watch this space!

You have a very busy schedule - so how do you enjoy yourself when you have time to relax?

I love to hang out with my girls, and eat ice cream with them - the more toppings and chocolate sauce the better!

Author's Titles