Colostomy campaign star attacks 'body perfection'

GIRLS Aloud star Nadine Coyle has said she wants to help to "smash the taboo" surrounding people who have to wear colostomy bags.

The Irish singer said yesterday that the "pretence of body perfection" made it difficult for patients recovering from bowel surgery to feel sexy or confident.

Coyle, 21, has become a celebrity ambassador for Vanilla Blush, the Glasgow-based "designer colostomy knicker" company which makes underwear for people who wear colostomy bags. She spoke out after her friend, hairstylist Connor Grant, had an operation leaving him needing a colostomy bag for life.

The singer, who is now based in Los Angeles, said: "This was a big worry, especially in our industries where there is so much pretence at body perfection.

"I was amazed at the negative connotations that surrounds people with a stoma and also shocked at the lack of exposure in the mainstream media.

"This is one taboo which I am right on board in helping to smash."

The company Vanilla Blush was founded by Glasgow-based Nicola Dames, 33, after she had to undergo major bowel surgery in 2006, leaving her needing an ileostomy bag.

Ms Dames wanted to help men and women who have had bowel surgery to cope with the aftermath of treatment and rebuild their confidence with "sexy" underwear and swimwear, turning a "medical problem into a fashion challenge".

Her underwear comes with a built-in pouch to conceal the bag.

Coyle said: "Nicola has turned people's lives around with her underwear. You can still look and feel gorgeous while having a colostomy or ileostomy."

The singer is to appear at a nursing conference in Arizona in the United States with Vanilla Blush models to promote the firm. Mr Grant will also be there as a model and hairstylist.

Ms Dames said: "If I can make one person feel better about their body image, then that is my mission complete."

She added: "I just want to do something positive from a negative situation.

"I have gone from someone who didn't want anyone to know about the colostomy bag, to someone who can now speak about it openly."

She added: "I am nervous about the modelling, but Nadine is coaching me and helping me.

"She really likes the campaign, and that means so much to me."

Ms Dames said she wanted stoma nurses to understand the psychological benefits that wearing attractive underwear had on people with colostomy bags.

"I am so excited to have Nadine on board," she said.

"It's phenomenal to have such a celebrity figure supporting Vanilla Blush and helping to raise awareness."

'I've adapted, and I don't let it hold me back'

I WAS fitted with a colostomy bag five years ago after a Crohn's-related cancer. I had been ill for many years and was grateful to have a bag, rather than end up in a box.

But I knew that, while it was going to save my life, it was something completely new to me which I'd have to learn to live with.

I was single at the time, as I am now, but I've had some relationships along the way since then, and at the very early stages I mulled over how I was going to approach the situation.

I decided I'd tell a new partner, "There's someone I haven't introduced you to yet and she's called Grace". That's what I call my colostomy bag, and it breaks the ice in a very easy manner.

I always got a positive response, with my partners wanting to know where the bag was, as they didn't want to hurt me. In practical terms, I might need to change the bag once a day or three or four times.

I don't let it hold me back and go swimming quite a lot with no problems at all, as the bag is completely sealed.

The Vanilla Blush range of lingerie and swimwear makes me feel feminine and sexy. There is even an intimacy range that has crotchless knickers, which shows you can be gorgeous even if you've had a colostomy.

&#149 Vanessa Denvir, from Glasgow, is a campaigner and model for Vanilla Blush.