Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella, is one of the most well-known figures in the YouTube community. Known best for her fashion and lifestyle videos, holiday-themed vlogs, successful beauty and homeware lines and bestselling books, Zoella could easily be referred to as a household name. Recently, however, this influencer took to her platform to talk about something entirely different than what put her on the map — and entirely different than the content that can be found on any big creator’s channel, for that matter. She made a video about cervical screenings.
Titled “Live Smear Test, Q&A With the Nurse & Office Group Discussion,” Zoella’s video discusses the importance of young women attending their cervical screenings in an effort to quell fear and embarrassment that many individuals experience when it comes to getting their test.
Inspired by United Kingdom-based organization Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Sugg noted how important she felt it was to encourage women to attend their smear tests. In the UK, 1 in 4 women skips their cervical screening. For women aged 25 to 29, the proportion rises to 1 in 3. And in low-income areas, the statistic rises as high to 1 in 2 women skipping their screenings. Although many of the stats surrounding cervical screening and reproductive health have been conducted in the UK, it’s safe to assume that numbers in the U.S., Canada and many other areas of the world would look the same.
Usually recommended to women who are 21 or older in the U.S. and 25 or older in the UK, smear exams, also referred to as pap smears, test for pre-cancerous cells in the cervix that are often caused by STDs like HPV that could potentially lead to cervical cancer. You might then be saying, wait, I’ve had the HPV vaccine, doesn’t that mean I don’t have to go? Well, not exactly. As explained in Zoella’s video, even if you’ve had your HPV vaccinations, you still need to attend a cervical screening as the vaccination does not cover all strains of the virus. So, in a society where 81% of women feel too embarrassed to attend their cervical screening and 71% are flat out scared to, a video like Zoella’s was crucial in helping women to get a better understanding of what a smear test is so that they might be inspired to book their next exam.
In the video, Sugg sits down with a nurse, Jenny, at her OB/GYN to open a discussion about what exactly a smear test entails. With inquiries generated from fans on her Instagram, Sugg and Jenny touched on just about every question someone might have when it comes to cervical screenings and reproductive health. Many of the questions, it seemed, had to do with women feeling nervous or embarrassed about the prospect of attending an exam. Jenny noted, however, that while it is okay to be anxious, there is no real need to be. She stated, “It shouldn’t be a horrible experience. It’s not a pleasant experience, but it should never really hurt anybody.”
It’s understandable that many women might still feel nervous or uncertain about these exams, as the topic of smear tests is still somewhat of a taboo. As agreed upon in Zoella’s video, nobody really talks about them enough. There was never a discussion about it in health class in school and few to no women would say that they even grew up knowing exactly what a smear test was. For many women, attending a cervical screening was just something they realized they would have to do at some point. Because so many of Sugg’s viewers are women in their teens or early 20s, her video provides education on the topic that so many of them likely missed out on. She informs and reassures at the same time.
After the first Q&A with nurse Jenny, Zoella took the camera into the examination room and essentially showed what a live smear test is like. Jenny discussed and showed the different tools that are used during the screening, such as the various sized speculums and brush used to gather the sample. Here, she also went into a little bit more detail about the different factors that might alter the exam. The actual time of the test itself? Forty-eight seconds. Yep, it takes less than one minute for a cervical screening test to actually take place. When so much about reproductive health isn’t public knowledge, it’s easy to believe that thousands of women and girls, including the ones who watched Sugg’s video, had no idea that the exam was that quick and painless.
When the live smear test portion of the video was over, Sugg sat down with Jenny one last time to discuss what happens after the smear test is taken, as well as a variety of other ways women can stay on top of their reproductive health. Zoella and her team concluded the video with a roundtable talk about cervical screenings, discussing how they felt about the first time they had one or even their nerves about the prospect of going. The general consensus, however, was that smear tests are not something people should be afraid of. Cervical screenings and the doctors and nurses who perform them are there to help.
Upon the release of the video, the comments section was flooded with subscribers thanking Sugg for posting the video and sharing their stories as well as discussions about how important and informative the video was. One fan even commented, “Just booked the smear test that I have been avoiding for years and I’m 31. Thank you, Zoe.”
By stepping out of her comfort zone and breaking the norm of her channel, Zoella helped hundreds of thousands of women get the knowledge they need about the importance of smear tests. Cervical screenings are absolutely essential for women’s health, and by creating this video, Sugg gave them the spotlight they deserve. Not to mention, all the ad revenue from her video is donated to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. As we move forward, one can only hope that the stigma around reproductive health as a whole is dismantled so that people can get the life-saving help they deserve.