This beautiful person reminds me a lot of myself. Like many of those I photograph; she is strong yet beautifully vulnerable. She is a beautiful human. Her mind is determined and hardworking. She is a sharpened knife, and she moves beautifully in the light when you photograph her. Her intellect, her raw understanding of how to feel things with beyond your furthest breaking point in the flash of a second. We connected in a way you don’t forget. I felt the pain in her soul when she shared her story with me. And I admire the hell out of her for who she is. A kind, giving, and nurturing leader. I hope you’ll all see what I saw in her through these photographs and her interview.
How would you rate?
At this very moment right now? Five.
What goes into that rating?
I think right now I’m feeling very neutral with my body. Not my life. I’m very happy with my life. I am the heaviest I’ve ever been at this moment but I workout more than I ever have in my whole life and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been physically. I’m at a balance where I see myself being somewhere different than where I actually am.
What made you want to participate in this project?
I really admire your outlook and what you’re doing. That you’re showing all different body types. I met my fiancé about five years ago and he is an extremely body positive woman. He loves women with curves, any curves whatsoever. He changed how I look at myself and I didn’t know people like him even existed. He really encourages all women to love themselves exactly how they are and I really admire him for that. The things I hate about my body, I love the most.
I specifically enjoy focusing on the things that people hate about their body so I can show them my perspective on how beautiful they are to me.
It’s funny, I’ve started noticing more about women’s bodies and how they’re shaped shooting boudoir photography. Things they might be uncomfortable with, I think is beautiful.
Yes! I love those back rolls, half lit. Beautiful.
I photographed my friend, who is quite thin, I had her lean over and she got one of those little rolls. She asked me to photoshop it and I told her “Every single person have that when they bend over.” She came back to me and she told me that it was a moment where she realized it didn’t make her ugly or different to have that; it was just the human body.
Are your nervous, and if so…why?
Oh yes! Haha. Definitely. We’re so conditioned to cover up any additional weight and given clothes that hide parts of our body that we aren’t “supposed” to show. It’s just engrained in me to cover myself. I really feel strongly that I want to take it all off to prove to myself that its okay.
Are your ready?
How would you rate your self-esteem now?
The fact that I could just feel comfortable around you after initially taking off the clothes. You and Chris were also very sweet to me and said things that really made me feel better. Words have a lot of meaning to me.
You know what we just pointed out the obvious right?
Ha! Oh, it’s for someone to see that about themselves.
Why do you think that is?
We’re just way too critical and we don’t feel like what we have is good enough.
What was your favorite part about the shoot?
Getting to know you! Haha. I feel very strongly about making new connections with people. I talk to strangers and listen to peoples stories to figure out why they do the things they do. Making new friends and connecting with people is what’s important to me.
I loved looking at you shooting me and seeing that image that I wanted you to see. Seeing you in a way, that I’d want to share with, and photographing you was something I wanted to give back to you.
What is your favorite body part?
My boobs. I was planning to get plastic surgery. Strictly for the fact that I thought it’d make my body look skinnier. Then I met my fiancé and he changed the way that I look at them and showed me how beautiful that they really are.
Describe your fiancé.
He is the most generous, giving man. He would put anyone else, first, in front of his own feelings and needs. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone else in the room is comfortable.
What things does he do to increase your self-esteem?
He constantly tells me that he loves all my curves and that he would love me at any size that I was. He touches me in places like my stomach, where I’m not comfortable, and he doesn’t let me push him away.
How did you feel about your body before you decided not to get your breasts done?
It was probably the lowest point in my life self-esteem wise. I had gained my weight pretty quickly over the years and I really felt poorly about my body. I was desperate to find something to make myself feel better about it. Which is where the breast reduction came in.
What would you say to yourself at that time, as you right now?
I would say, “Well, you’re beautiful. There are men out there that find you attractive at any size. Be patient until he comes along. You need to work on your perception of how YOU see yourself, rather than making physical changes to make you happy.”
I think a lot of people think it’s normal to change your body for others. That mindset stems unhealthy perceptions of beauty and societal perfection. It isn’t practical, and it makes us sick. It gives us body dysmorphia (viewing your body as larger than or small than it actually is)drives us to the extreme of changing the way we were born to become someone else’s idea of perfect.
That’s totally true. I was in the mindset for the wrong reasons. I would lie to people when they asked me why I was doing it. I never told one person the truth.
What made you hide the truth?
The fear of people thinking I wasn’t confident or happy with myself.
And do you think that fear was healthy or normal at that time?
Oh yeah. I mean, my self-esteem was so low that I didn’t even KNOW it was at that time. I came off from an abusive relationship, an abortion, and a divorce from two different men. I was feeling really low and unattractive and lonely.
I used to get a lot of attention when I was younger because I was skinny and blonde with big boobs. After I gained the weight, attention started turning to my friends and not to me. I was constantly looking for things to do to my body and find ways to look more attractive to men and be what they wanted.
When I was younger, I was teased relentlessly about my weight. I was incredibly thin. People who looks at my pictures from that time don’t even think that it’s a picture of me now. I remember feeling that drift away from the part of my life where people embraced my thinness and over emphasized the beauty of it.
I discovered that I was hiding my body in sweatshirts and jeans for years. I finally allowed myself to buy clothes that flattered my body shape for how I wanted to show it off. Not how society thought it should be.
And as a result, you’re in a much healthier place.
Mhm. And dressing way cuter. Haha.
Throughout your childhood, what impacted your self-esteem the most?
My Mom has always been very body positive. Both of my parents have been extremely healthy and in shape. I was in really good shape. But even when I weighed 100 pounds I still felt that I wanted to change my body. I had major body dysmorphia.
What’s your definition of body dysmorphia?
Seeing yourself in a different way than everybody else does. Wanting to change things on your body to help your self-esteem.
Was your fiancé the first to help your question that?
I hadn’t realized men like him existed. I thought all men wanted a Victoria’s Secret model.
Do you think our society needs to focus more on body diversity?
Yes. I think that lately there has been a bigger push for that, and I enjoy seeing that. I enjoy seeing women with more realistic bodies gracing the covers of magazines and ads. I think our cultures is coming around to the fact. More people are openly admitting that not everyone is attracted to VS models. I think it’s going in a good direction.
In what ways could we improve it even more?
More anti-bullying promotion. I think cyber bullying is a big thing. I remember the first time I was cyber bullied. People like to hide behind a computer and make people feel more miserable than they are. Actively being nicer to everyone around you in general.You go out of your way to cheer someone up because they may need more support than you know of.
How do you incorporate body positivity in your life at this time?
One thing I do is…my resolution this year was to compliment one person everyday because I really enjoy the feeling of helping another person feel better. Because we don’t know what each other is going through. As far as body positivity, I like to talk openly about my struggles with my body and self-esteem to help people realize that they’re not alone. I talk to my friends and I have no problem telling them how beautiful their bodies are at any size.
What things do you do to increase your self-esteem?
I love dressing up in clothes that he finds sexy, like lingerie. I love working out right now and feeling my body get stronger everyday. It boosts my confidence everyday.
What made you feel safe and comfortable enough to voice your opinion on your experience with abortion?
I never had a problem talking about it because I knew it was the best decision for me at the time, period. I would…no, people would, make me feel guilty and strange for bringing it up. About a month ago I read an article about this with people talking about abortions through a positive light and it struck me as, “That’s how I want to live my life.”
Besides guilt, what other type of emotional stigma have you felt?
That I had to hide it. You’re not supported to have them. you’re not supposed to talk about them. They are a mistake. And once it’s done; you never talk about it again.
More than ever, women who choose to have abortions need emotional support afterwords because of the way society will choose to look at it.
It’s important to have family and friends who understand that and listen to you when you need to be listened to.
Most people didn’t know what I had experienced and why I made the decision. I felt like I had to explain myself and make up a good reason for getting an abortion. But truthfully; I don’t. And I don’t need a reason.
It’s amazing how many people, just like you, still don’t understand that they don’t need any reason. Anything you want to leave with the readers?
Don’t wait until you lose ten pounds to do something. Don’t wait until you’re a certain age to do something. Do the things in your life that make you happy and if somethings not right with you on the inside; figure out where it stems from and work on it.