The Body Image Project 

 The relationship between body image and society  

Face your fears” is a time-old saying. It is a phrase that I’ve personally lived by: to get over my shyness I dove into performing arts, to combat my fear of public speaking, I became a trainer/ Behaviorist. When my husband became a photographer, I realized the sad truth: that I had a fear of facing my body. Like it or not, I would be his subject, and as a supportive wife I needed to suck it up… From childhood into early adulthood, I dressed very conservatively (there was nothing wrong with that). However, the way I dressed reflected my attempts to cover my insecurities (i.e., my belief that I could only wear an oversized t-shirt to the beach because I didn’t have Victoria’s Secret abs).

The media/social media has always had a role in body image. Every leading actress, singer, dancer shown has “the dream body”, so do those with the most “likes.” Even attempts to encourage women to “embrace their curves” leaves other people out (i.e, the not so curvy). I am NOT “model size,” nor am I “plus size;” I am not muscular, but I can run miles and literally dance for hours. Where does someone like me (in-between) fit?!

As I look at all the of the hypocrisies, slogans, campaigns, etc…I’ve also realized the wisdom in another very old adage: “confidence is attractive.” This is why I (and others) find beauty in those “skinny, curvy, and fit & thick” models, despite their differences. If I am so positive about others, I need to be with myself. I am not a category! If I want to change my body, that is my choice (a bigger woman shouldn’t give me an evil stare for saying so, nor should a thinner woman give me the “it’s about time” look). But to start, I need to love my body the way it is NOW: the fact I have strong legs to walk/run miles, arms to carry multiple bags at once, boobs, booty, and love handles for my husband to grab, etc. With every picture, I am “facing the camera” and challenging myself to fall more in love with the woman in it (and her BODY) as much she deserves.
— Samantha Sampath- Reynolds
I have my up and down moments about my body. But I usually feel ok about the way I look. The times in my life when I haven’t felt as good about myself and my body were when I was a child. Childhood can be a very rough time for many, especially when being teased and made fun of by those that are supposed to be your friends. Many times, I was call “fatty” or “fatso” and even referred to as “two thousand pounds and a bucket of fun.” I tried to ignore it, I tried to not let it get to me, but when you’re told something so many times, how do you ignore it? How do you not let it get to you before you start believing it?

Now in my adult years and getting into my profession of acting, your body type plays a major role in the kinds of roles/ characters you can go for or get casted in. Instead of it just being about your gifts and talents, often times you get type-casted according to how you look. Does this now mean that my plus-size, round figure can only be “the nice girl next door,” “funny best friend,” or “supporting character…?” I want the lead role! I want to be recognized for what I can bring to an acting role artistically, rather than how I match up to a character based on the physical attributes listed in a character breakdown. My main concern is wanting to be recognized for who I am as a whole person, not what people want to pick and choose from. Your body is your temple and you should always treat it with care and love yourself no matter what you look like or what anyone says about it. I CHOOSE TO LOVE ME ENTIRELY.
— Candace Thompson
Growing up, I had no clue that I was supposed to be self-conscious about my looks. Only until other people began to point out my flaws, did I become weary of my own body. I remember being put on diets and having to wear the worst clothes, but no one told me to love myself. I remember overhearing a boy in my class say “Qiana is pretty, but she’s fat.” Frankly, I was shocked that me being fat mattered to anyone at all. That was when my ideas about my body changed. I became very aware of my body and what space I occupied with it. I was extremely uncomfortable participating in basic school activities, because I thought everyone would be aware of how I looked and would have an opinion on it.

I stopped wearing tank tops because I thought the stretch marks on my arms should have been hidden from the world. Up until a few years ago, you would not have caught me wearing a sleeveless anything without a T-shirt under it ( even in 100 degree weather). I always thought I had a pretty face, but life would be easier if I had a small body to match. I constantly compared myself to everyone around me, which was emotionally draining. I put on a confident front because I did not want other people to play on my lack of self confidence.

Currently, I’m absolutely in love with myself. I have learned the hard way, that not loving me is probably the worst thing I could do to myself. I no longer lose sleep on the opinions of others, because at the end of the day I’m the only person that is stuck with me forever. With the help of body positive people and other fat girls on social media, I have learned to love myself without boundaries. I’m no longer afraid to refer to myself as fat, because it is literally just an adjective that describes a body type. Learning to love myself has gotten me to a much better place in every single aspect of my life. I have done things that I never imagined I would be able to accomplish. I wear tank tops all the time now and you can even catch me wearing a cropped top or some booty shorts. The biggest thing I have learned about when someone has a problem with me or how I look: it’s really their problem and not mine!
— Qiana Levine
I wasn’t always comfortable with my size because I wasn’t always big. I would wear baggy clothes to hide my size but, after a while I realized it is who I am. Society tells us that we have to be 5’6 and a size 2 to be considered sexy. Sexy, is what you feel, your comfortability, and what makes you happy.
I’m here to tell society, its not the size, its your confidence!!!! And I have a lot of that....I’m imperfectly me...
— Marie Pierre
I always dreaded the summer time because of my Eczema. Even on the hottest days, I would wear jackets and sweaters just to hide my skin. It became my biggest insecurity and it consumed my happiness. Society expects us to fit into this mold of being thin and beautiful with flawless skin, and if you didn’t, you simply weren’t good enough. It always sucked to hear people say comments like “she’s a pretty girl, but what’s wrong with her skin?” And don’t forget the ones who would simply stare... The thought of revealing my skin and body for the world to see terrified me to the point of anxiety. It wasn’t until recently I realized that the only way to get over it was to just embrace and accept the fact that I have a skin condition. You should always love yourself and screw what everyone else has to say! It’s been 3 years and I am finally wearing my scars with pride. I can honestly say the sun has never felt better against my skin.
— Sarah Sampath
Many say: “beauty is always in the eye of the beholder,” but in reality we all let society tell us what the beauty standards are, and of course everyone runs with these ideas and tries to put themselves into that box.
Well, for me that definitely has been a battle all my life because ever since I can remember, I was told that I was “too fat, my nose was too wide, I wasn’t as beautiful as my sister; I wasn’t Haitain enough” and I “spoke too much like a white girl.” So because of that, I always felt I had to work harder to prove myself in other ways to overlook all of those hurtful comments. By taking the journey to evaluate myself and all those mean things that people have said to me over the years (and still today), I have to come to these realizations:
1. These people no longer earn a place in my life.
2. I had to do the work to change those negative recorded tapes that were ingrained in my subconscious mind.
So I began, challenging myself by doing the work that was needed; by saying positive mantras, listening to more positive speakers and reading more up lifting books so that I could begin to see the better, improved side of myself, for my personal sanity. Once I began to make that shift, I took in every moment and now I have grown to believe more in myself.
I am my own kind of beautiful. I am no longer “Ms. Piggy,” my skin tells a beautiful story, and my sister and I love harder. Only I, Stephanie Gergeres, can be me because God’s blessed us all with our own uniqueness. Last but not least, I have learned to appreciate ALL of my imperfections and realize, “Yeah, I woke up like this!!!!” Lol, sorry I couldn’t help the #Beyonce moment, but you get the point...
Love yourself more, be more kind to your mind, body and soul; but most importantly, be patient with yourself because that is truly the key to getting through the curve balls that life throws at you.
— Stephanie Gergeres
I grew up in a household where not much stock was held in how you looked, but in how you acted and treated others. The latest fashions were not stressed, and individuality was encouraged. I was given the freedom to dress myself, which oftentimes meant outfits that, when I look back on it, made no sense! My parents let me style my hair how I liked and I could change my outfit however many times a day I wanted. I was given the freedom to be an individual.

This sense of confidence that was bred at a young age, came in handy as the years went on. I was a late bloomer, with glasses, braces, and hair that didn’t know if it wanted to be straight, frizzy, or curly. I was teased, but I didn’t let it bother me. I knew what I liked and how I wanted to be and no amount of teasing could make me want to be something different!

As an adult, things balanced out. My hair decided it wanted to be curly, and my body, finally, began to resemble that of a young woman. What a relief! But, even when you’re grown, there are still people that make you feel insecure. I was a skinny child, and am now a thin woman. People think that because you’re thin, what’s there to complain about?? Well, news flash, even thin people feel self conscious about their body at times. Certain clothes don’t fit right, we’re generally built with a small chest, and we are definitely not in the beautifully curvaceous category. We use words and phrases like ‘flat’ and ‘skinny as a board’ to describe ourselves. How sexy is that? Or there is the flip side where, you’re skinny and a certain weight for so long and then, you gain a couple pounds. Its not a bad weight gain, but, you’ve gained weight none the less and you think what have I done differently? Why am I gaining weight?? This has happened to me, and for a second, it messed with my mind. People couldn’t understand why I was upset...they would say but Katie, you’re so skinny relax. That wasn’t the point! My body changed and even though I was still healthy and looked fine, it messed with my mind. Just because you’re thin doesn’t mean that you can’t feel self conscious at times. But, when that happens, I think of myself as that little girl again, wearing an outfit of a green Minnie Mouse t-shirt tucked into purple shorts and purple knee high socks with white Ked sneakers; hair in a wacky pony tail, and feeling completely confident and secure. Why? Because at the end of the day, when you’re happy with yourself, well, everything else just falls into place!
— Katie McCue-Schwartz