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I’m going to make the introduction to this post quick: I’m a nude model.
Some times I’m reminded of the great divide that lies between body positivity and the plus size industry. Recently, a friend of mine let me know that she had become aware that I am a nude model and wanted to give me a heads up that it may effect future sponsorship’s with different brands. I have of course always been aware of this and it does not bother me. But it made me think… who the hell gave the presence of my nipple so much power?
I started modelling about 3 years ago, in the middle of an awesome self love journey. I was reconnecting with my body after years of disordered eating and wanted to see myself and my body for what it truly was. I had spent a lifetime looking through a distorted, hateful lens at myself and decided to get in front of a real lens and challenge what I thought I knew. I took selfies (a LOT of selfies), and I looked at them… without judgement. I would remark on my physical appearance in ways that I hadn’t before, “oh, I have a dimple in my chin there.” or “my left eye is slightly more hooded than my right”. On “ugly” days I would take selfies and not look at them. I would save them, and look back on them a week later. More often than not, I discovered that my “ugly” days were a product of emotion and not facts. I had looked just fine in those photos that I was scared to look at because I felt so hideous, in fact I looked damn good.
There is a natural progression, when learning to love your body, that includes confronting fears about sexuality and whether or not you’re a worthy partner to the people you choose to be intimate with. As women, we are not only judged by what is visible over our clothes, but also what is underneath. The first time someone harassed me about my genitals was when I was in 6th grade. Two boys started a rumor that I had “popped my own cherry”. I did not know what a cherry was, nor did I know it was able to be popped. I hadn’t even started menstruating when people in my class started teasing me about a part of my body I didn’t even know I had. I learned at too young an age that my body was not my own, that I merely inhabited this shell that other people were going to intrude upon for the rest of my life.
My first glimpse of the body positive community, nearly 15 years after it was rumored that I “popped my cherry”, was the first time that I saw people fighting back against the bullshit that the world had placed on them. It was my safe place. I dove in head first. I wanted to love my body fiercely, unabashedly. I wanted to grow and learn. I wanted to unravel all of my thought processes about my body, and start at square one. I wanted to give myself a second chance to have the kind of relationship with myself that I had dreamed of.
These damn boobs. These saggy beautiful boobs. I just couldn’t get over how much I loathed my breasts. One too many people had criticized these bad boys for me to ever even consider liking them. I had gained and lost 100+ pounds nearly five times in the last ten years, and my breasts showed all the signs of my struggle with my eating disorder. I avoided mirrors, I kept my bra on at all times, I pretended like they didn’t even exist. And then I remembered the selfies I used to take that I would try and look at without judgement. If it worked for my face and my belly… why not my boobs? I took pictures from all sorts of angles, with and without a bra. I looked critically at my breasts without placing judgements on them about whether or not they were “good” or “bad”. I learned what my nipples looked like for the first time (ps- those things are weird). I found freckles I didn’t know I had. In my most serious act of rebellion, I started leaving the house without a bra on. I didn’t even cross my arms over my chest. I was so thrilled with this amazing new body part that I had been ignoring for so long!
I loved being naked in front of the camera. I loved looking at these pictures of myself where I was so free and unencumbered. I looked like my most true version of myself, my eyes lit up, I smiled in a way that said “Well, there’s nothing to hide now!”. I was so proud of myself.
This is where things got a little bit tricky. I started modelling. It was a lot of hard work, and I did really well at it. But there was a kind of change in the response I received from people in the body positive community. I received messages telling me that I was not a “real” feminist, and that I had turned my body over to the male gaze. People asked me how I could fuel this evil pornography demon that was ruining generations of men. How could I call myself a body positive feminist while taking part in something so “degrading”. Worse than all of the things people said, was the undertone of “oh this poor misguided girl” that came from fellow body positive women. I had been relegated to a second class citizen in the community because of a choice I made regarding my own body.
At what point did I go from a respectable, reputable, deserving human being, to a moral liability? When I removed my bra??? There are a lot of things I can compromise on. Where my partner and I go to eat, waiting to buy shoes so that I can pay rent, drinking coca-cola when Pepsi is clearly what I really want. But I will never, not ever, compromise on the choices I make with my body. I will never be bullied or shamed into making myself less visible. Not again. I remind myself “you are not a shell of a human, and you do not have to let anyone intrude upon you”. When I model, I am not selling my body, I am selling a picture. A picture that was really fun for me to take and that has helped me heal in ways that no brand partnership could ever do.
At times, our community is stifled by judgement’s we place upon one another. We look at one person’s idea of self love and body positivity and we know it would be ineffective for ourselves. But just because something might not work for you, doesn’t make it less valid for another. Each of us gets to develop our own values and ideals about our bodies and how we want to spend the rest of our lives with them, and quite frankly nobody is required to share that with anyone else. When we come together as a group and celebrate our common cause, we must also celebrate our differences. Each of us has a really unique path that we’ve set out on and that’s the beauty of loving yourself. It doesn’t look the same for everyone. Just as varied as our bodies, the way we express our gratitude and love for them is unique.
I’m proud of myself and the person I’ve become through this amazing body positive journey, and there is nothing anyone can say or do to take that away from me.
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Fat Girl Flow isn't about ONE person, it's about a community of kick ass people coming together to support, encourage, and love one another. What started as my personal journey to self love, quickly turned into something I never expected - life long friendships, understanding, and personal growth. We're all in this together <3