It was during her daughter’s party at play centre Krazy Kaves that mum-of-three Charlotte Joines came up with the idea of being a model.
In this everyday setting, busy Charlotte – feeling a little frazzled and not at her most glossy and groomed – asked pals to join her in entering a swimwear modelling contest.
Fellow mum Camilla Andersen wasn’t sure – at five foot she had never imagined herself posing in fashion shoots.
And Ellesha Newton and Rufaro Nyakatawa were equally sceptical. They were ordinary girls with regular lives and ordinary curves, weren’t they?
Even Charlotte – as the one who came up with the idea – wasn’t feeling particularly confident.
A decade earlier she had been rejected by the mainstream modelling industry for not being the required size and shape – even though she was a super-slim size 8 at the time.
Now she was a trim but curvier size 12 – and had given birth just two months earlier.
But the four friends decided to overcome the sort of personal hang-ups most women have and enter the contest anyway.
It was just that they never expected to be on a rooftop terrace in Ibiza a couple of months later modelling the Curvy Kate range of swimwear.
‘We couldn’t believe it,’ says Charlotte, 32. ‘To be honest we were thinking of a holiday. We’d been wanting to go to Ibiza together on a girlie holiday and obviously – with children and work – things always came up.
‘We had that in mind when we entered but never expected to win.’
After being crowned winners on live television, Charlotte, 32, Rufaro 30, and Camilla and Ellesha, both 28, ended up a world away from Krazy Kaves and their busy lives at work and home.
They were jetted off to the Mediterranean isle where they stayed in a top hotel and modelled stunning swimwear for Curvy Kate’s glossy catalogue.
The contest – called Model Mates and run by ITV’s Lorraine show – asked for groups of friends to enter.
Charlotte, Rufaro, Camilla and Ellesha received the most public votes, beating competition from 4,000 other UK women.
Curvy Kate – which produces lingerie and swimwear in cup sizes D to K and designs for bigger women and shapelier figures – champions a positive body image and diversity.
There were no age, size or height limits for the photoshoot as the company was looking for a wider range of women from which to choose their next swimwear ambassadors.
Charlotte, Camilla, Ellesha and Rufaro fitted the bill. They ranged from five foot to five foot 11 and sizes 10 to 14.
Looking great in the swimwear, the girls nevertheless say they would have been rejected by the mainstream industry, which favours sizes six to eight and a certain body shape.
And they’re delighted to represent women with curvier figures.
‘We’ve been getting so many positive comments on social media. Women are saying it’s great to see normal, average girls,’ says Camilla.
The women were understandably nervous before the shoot.
But they were lucky to have each other for support. ‘To be honest, I don’t think we would have done this on our own,’ says Rufaro.
The women say they all now feel differently about their bodies.
The night before the shoot, Portsmouth mum and beautician Charlotte had a bit of a meltdown and needed plenty of support from her Model Mates.
It was just four months since she’d given birth to daughter Nahla and she didn’t feel ready to be a model.
‘I never expected to be in a swimsuit that early on and for the world to see so I was really worried,’ she says.
But looking at the pictures, she can’t believe she felt that way.
‘Like many women, I’m my own worst critic,’ she says. ‘But I’ve learned to look at the good things rather than my imperfections.’
Charlotte, who lives with partner Floyd and their children, was told that her thighs were too big by modelling agencies 10 years ago and the criticism left its mark.
She’s delighted that companies like Curvy Kate are showing their products on women of different proportions.
And she hopes the pictures will one day set a good example to her daughters.
Mum-of-two and nursery school teacher Camilla also hopes the pictures will have a positive impact on her children.
She says: ‘Never in a million years did I think I could do this. But I think we’ve learned to love our bodies and realise we don’t have to fit a stereotype.’
Ellesha, from Portsmouth, is a dancer and has faced comments about her weight before, even though she’s a trim size 10.
So the moment when they found out on live telly that they had won was amazing. ‘ We were practising our disappointed but happy faces. We were in total shock when they announced the winners,’ she laughs.
PA Rufaro has worn everything from a size 12 to an 18. ‘I’ve worried about my weight and tried every diet there is.
‘But I’ve accepted that I’m never going to be a size eight, although I’d like to tone up,’ she says adding: ‘I don’t really look at magazines that bombard us with impossible body shapes any more.
‘And I’m really proud that our pictures present a different image.’
Curvy Kate has teamed up with breast cancer charity Coppafeel! to develop a fundraising, awareness-raising bra.
As well as providing a feel-good fit for women with larger cup sizes, the bra reminds wearers to check their boobs. Plus £1 from every product sold is being donated to the charity.
The CoppaFeel! signature hand print decorates the outer cup while reminders flourish the insides.
Although the product is fashionable and fun, the core message of breast cancer charities is at the heart of the idea. These potentially life-saving, boob-checking messages will be seen every time the bra is picked up and worn.
CoppaFeel! was founded in 2009 by Kristin Hallenga who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age 23, and now lives with secondary breast cancer.
The Curvy Kate Coppafeel! bra is available in 28-38 D-J cups. Retailers include Shop Direct, Simply Yours and Figleaves.