"Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you."
Do you remember hearing that as a kid? I do. It didn't make sense then, and it sure as hell doesn't make sense now. The truth is what we say to each other, and to ourselves, can, indeed, hurt. Criticizing and judging anyone is not cool. It's hard to believe in the year 2020 that grown-ass adults need to be reminded of that, but apparently they do. Choose your words carefully, because they will come back to bite you, and that is a promise.
Body-shaming is a term I learned about not too long ago. Here's the official definition, according to Google Dictionary: expressing mockery or criticism about a person's body shape or size.
There was a revolution in the modeling industry in 1998, when Emme became the first mainstream plus-size model to achieve commercial success when she was contracted by Revlon. (By the way, the term plus-size isn't used anymore in the professional modeling industry.) Models, Ashley Graham and Tyra Banks became very vocal about their distastes of the label, and prefer the term Curve or Curvy model. But why have labels at all? A model is a model, period.
This is where I come in, and why I'm writing this blog.
I stumbled into my modeling career quite by accident seven years ago, when a photographer/friend wanted to test out some new lighting equipment. If you follow my blog, you already know the rest of the story. However, for those of you who are not familiar with it, here's the short version: the photo shoot in January of 2013 gave me the gift of being able to see myself for the first time, and I'm not talking metaphorically. For those of us who suffer with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, it's a real thing. I literally, physically, saw myself for the first time through the lens of my friend's camera.
Anorexia is no joke. I have never met an anorexic that chose it on purpose. And I have definitely never met one that wished it on anyone else. It is a horror show in the mind. It is a psychological disease with physical symptoms, like starving, purging, over-exercising, and a whole slew of other things. In my experience, it became a life-or-death decision to choose recovery in my early 40's.
Recovery has not been easy, and even into my 12th year, symptoms still creep into my mind. The results can be catastrophic. I make the decision to live my life deliberately, every single morning when I wake up. I choose it every day, because if I don't, I can spiral quick. The rabbit hole is never a healthy place for me to go.
I earned every single pound, every stretch mark, and every roll. Let me say that again:
"I EARNED EVERY SINGLE POUND, EVERY STRETCH MARK, AND EVERY ROLL."
I am alive and well, but it all came with a price. The disease left me with permanent physical damage, something that I am made aware of every day. I chose self-care and a healthy lifestyle.
Why do I model? Actually, I model nude more often than not, and there's a really simple reason why: body acceptance. Yep, that's a term too. It is accepting one's body, regardless of not being completely satisfied with all aspects of it. With recovery comes acceptance, and for me that meant accepting the one thing I despised the most - my body. Modeling, in general, keeps my therapy moving forward. It has nothing to do with vanity or the photographs themselves, and has everything to do with mental health, feeling comfortable in my own skin, practicing self-care and learning to love myself on a daily basis. Modeling is all about the experience of it, how I feel about myself during it, which is always positive.
I blog about this subject a lot, and I post some of the photographs online and on social media, because they always, always reach someone out there who is struggling or suffering in the same exact way I was. I am all about empowering women, every shape, size, age, ethnicity, no matter where they are in the world. We are a sisterhood, we are here to build each other up, not tear each other down. This is one of my life-missions, to share my experience, hope and strength with those who haven't found theirs yet. A young lady contacted me this morning, after seeing the short-version of this (including the photographs) on Facebook. I responded, because that is another way we help each other, by being present and in the moment, offering a listening-ear and directing those in need to a safe place to begin a healing journey of their own.
With all of that said, I have never received any type of negativity about what I do, or why I do it.... till now.
I'm human, and what I would really like to say is, "I'll call the bitch out because, well, she deserves it!" But when I read her message a couple days ago, what I did instead was, said a little prayer for her. I totally understood that her negative message had absolutely nothing to do with me. It's all about her. I don't take things personally, which is another thing I practice on the daily. People deflect on others what they don't want to see in themselves. So, here's my public response to her:
"Dear woman: I am sorry you are not feeling good about yourself. I know how that feels too. I wish you self-acceptance, self-love, and a positive body image. If you need help finding it, look inward. I hope you find peace."
Body-shaming doesn't serve any purpose, and just makes people feel bad about themselves. For those of you who think it's okay to call someone fat, or worse, just stop. Look at yourself instead. The world has enough problems, a lot bigger than this. Focus your energy on making a difference elsewhere.
And for those of you who think you're going to stop me from doing what I do by body-shaming me, you're in for a big surprise. I AM NOT STOPPING. I have come too far to go backwards. But I do have a solution: do us both a favor, and stop following me. Unlike, Unfollow, Delete, Block. Do it, and make it quick! Next time, I won't be so nice.
Thanks for listening.