Plus size friendship group set up by Weston women

Jane Mbancele and Mel Ashworth.

Jane Mbancele and Mel Ashworth. - Credit: Archant

PEOPLE are judged by their appearance day in, day out, but plus size models like Tess Holliday and actresses like Rebel Wilson are showing that big is beautiful – with world-famous author JK Rowling even asking if fat ‘is really the worst thing a human can be’?

Now, two women have set their sights on helping people in Weston-super-Mare and North Somerset by setting up a ‘plumpalicious’ group – Mixed By Design Plus – something they hope will become a group of friends of all shapes and sizes, men and women, who can support one another.

Mel Ashworth, aged 52, and Jane Mbancele, aged 50, are both plus size women who have been verbally abused in the street, put down by shop assistants and even criticised by their own family, purely because of their weight.

Mel said: “I have walked into a shop and asked what size they go up to, only to be looked at like I’m an alien beamed down from another planet.

“I have had a doctor who has made sarcastic comments about my weight.

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“I have been told ‘you’re really pretty but it’s such a shame you’re so big’.

“I have been ridiculed about the size of my thighs.”

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Jane has also faced discrimination based on her size, having been told she is ‘not a regular tall person’ when clothes shopping, which resulted in her becoming afraid to buy new outfits.

She told the Mercury: “My family has had an impact on me my whole life, saying I was overweight, or this, or that.

“But then on the other hand they would make me a cake, or a really nice meal.

“You just go further into a pit. My self-esteem has been at rock bottom and my confidence has not been great. I have suffered with depression. It’s hard.”

But Jane found comfort in her friendship with Mel, and said: “I have called her before and she’s taken me shopping.

“I saw this one outfit and I just said ‘that’s amazing’.

“I wore it to a 60th anniversary and everybody said how good I looked. Suddenly I felt confident again.”

The duo’s relationship inspired them to reach out to support others, and Mel said: “Research shows there are a host of issues relating to why people might self-medicate with food.

“Just because our struggles are outwardly worn, for all to see, does not mean we are any worse than other people who have different struggles.”

Mel was inspired by something Harry Potter author JK Rowling said: “I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.”

Together Mel and Jane hope to make Mixed By Design Plus – a new part of Mel’s community group Mixed By Design, which supports people from all cultures in the area – grow into a large group of friends. They want to host events, go on outings and attend conferences around the UK.

Mel said: “There are a lot of people behind closed doors who are struggling and the last thing they want to do is go and get mental help. They need to be encouraged and supported.

“Yes, maybe I have gone home and cried before now, but not any more.”

Anyone interested in joining the group can email Mel at

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