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Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning

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Dana Stevens | 17:32 UK time, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

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I have to confess that I'm guilty of obsessing about that 'healthy glow'. Sun beds, accelerators, fake tan, spray tan and tinted make-up - yes I've tried them all. Not to mention going out in the sun without sun cream even when I know I shouldn't.

So I was both shocked and moved when I watched Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning and I've vowed to get the SPF out next time I'm in the sun.
In the programme Nicola takes a look at our obsession with tanning culture, the lengths we'll go to get that tan and talks to people who've been left devastated by the effects of skin cancer. So I went to meet Nicola to ask her some questions about the show....

So Nicola, how did you end up making the documentary? Was it your idea?

It was my idea. Basically what happened was about 9 months ago I became very aware of how wrapped up we are in the way everybody looks. I felt like it was getting out of control and there was so much pressure. Magazines are putting so much pressure on young people. Not just celebrities but young men and women in general. It seemed to be that your life would be better if you were better looking and that was very much the message. And of course if you can't keep up with that then it leaves people feeling very sad and I wanted to make sure people were aware of how bad it had got. There are more important things in life and I wanted to highlight that whole positive message of just being pleased with who you are really.

I wanted to use my personal journey that is what inspired me to make the documentary. I used to be really insecure about being pale and I used to really, really do a lot of excessive tanning. I used fake tan every day and I just couldn't let one ounce of my body be seen to be pale as I just thought it was unattractive. And I know that there are lots of women out there who feel like that and they'll go to any lengths to have a tan. It's not just about picking fake tan up anymore; it's the things like the tanning injections and excessive use of sun beds. People sometimes go on sun beds twice a day in order to be browner because they're that unhappy with the way they look. And I wanted to really document that and show that this is the length that society is pushing them to. And obviously knowing that skin cancer is the fastest rising cancer in UK it just seems to be getting worse and worse and I just wanted to put it all in one bundle and portray that in the documentary.

You show surgical procedures in the programme and some of it's quite harrowing. What was the most shocking thing that you saw or discovered while making the documentary?

I interviewed one lady, and witnessed her having surgery and before I was always under the impression that if you have a cancerous mole, I just thought it was very easy. You just kind of scrape it off and you carry on then with the rest of your life. And in actual fact she was having fistfuls of tissue, like body fat and meat, actually taken from her body and her lymph nodes removed. I didn't realise that it was as gory and intrusive as that. I was definitely under the illusion that you had the mole removed and then it goes off for tests and you carry on.
Also I interviewed a lady whose brother was just dying basically, because he had malignant melanoma and there was nothing they could do. And I just thought that was really shocking.

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The young guy from Wales, Tom, who features in the documentary, is clearly a tanning addict. Do you think there should be some sort of formal support for people to help them deal with the addiction?

If you go to the root of the problem, people like Tom are addicted because they need to feel better about themselves. So because Tom is so unhappy with the way he looks, he feels so ugly when he's pale. He's a young man, very much in the gay community who likes to go out and party and he just wants men to find him attractive. So if you can kind of go to the core of the problem and solve that, then people won't feel the need to be constantly going on the sun bed and picking up the fake tan bottle because they'll already be happy with who they are.

So how can we make that happen? Do you think that is down to other people in the media and role models, like yourself, being honest and not using fake tan as well?

Everyone needs a role model, but I think that for you to kind of put yourself on a pedestal and say I'm going to be a role model is just a bit much. I'm proud to be pale and I'm proud of who I am and I'm more confident now. And I've done this documentary to highlight the dangers and to try to send a positive message out, but I mean I'm not a hero for pale people or anything. That's just not what it's like. It's a bit ridiculous. It's almost like people are talking about it as if I've got green skin and I'm confident to be green. It's just skin tone; people don't need to be so obsessed with skin tone.

MPs have been trying to pass a new law to ban under-18s from using tanning salons and you were filmed attending the launch of the bill. Is that something you are going to continue to support?

Yes I'll always support it as it's something I'm very passionate about. Fingers crossed the government do push it through and we'll be able to protect our children if they can't protect themselves.

And finally we've decided to encourage BBC Three fans to reject the fake tan and post photos of themselves for our 'Pale and Proud Of It!' photo gallery....

I love the idea of a Facebook campaign. That's an excellent idea! I'd love it if we got loads of photos that would be brilliant.

Have a look at our 'Pale and Proud Of It!' photo album on Facebook now to see our first photo, yes it's lovely Nicola of course. Just add your photos to our fan page and we'll add them to the album.

Find out more details about the programme Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning.

Related links:
BBC News: Government and Girls Aloud star back under-18 tan ban (BBC News)
BBC Search+: Skin Cancer

(This interview first appeared on the BBC Three Facebook fanpage.)


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