This week features Bre, Shenae, Shamar, Najah and Kristina. I hope you find their stories as inspiring as I do.
“When I first read about Nas’s project , I immediately wanted to be a part of it. All my life (Hail to Oprah in Color Purple rite now) I’ve struggled with my weight. It doesn’t help when you’re constantly reminded about it by your family members, society, classmates etc.: about the fat that will kill you and make you unattractive to others if you aren’t skinny or look slim enough to please the male eye; because as my grandmother said ” No one will want you”. So at age 14 I told my grandmother even though she meant well she completely destroyed my self esteem and that until she accepts my weight and all, she won’t ever see me again. We spoke one year after. Standing up to her gave me the backbone to truly accept my weight, I’ve learned to love myself and all these glorious curves I have. The only thing I worry about now is finding the nicest pair of jeans to show them off in.”
“As you can see I’m skinny. I could have chosen that to be the area of focus for this project because in Jamaica thin is never really truly in. I, however, haven’t really struggled with my “mawganess”. The same cannot be said about my obvious flatchestedness. When I was younger I assumed that once I hit puberty boom the boobs will come but they never did.
As the others around me “filled out” I definitely “did feel a way”. When I still talk about the flat chested situation it’s usually dismissed- “you have no back issues” (I do, just not breast related); “you can wear anything” (not true) or “pssh you’re lucky you don’t have any struggle- don’t complain” (K.). On the flip side you have the people brazen enough to walk up to me and say “oh wow, you’re basically a man” “yuh nah guh reach puberty likkle girl” or just “gwan guh breed then you’ll get some breast”.
All of these comments really made my self-esteem take a beating until one day I decided that you know what forget all of you people. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the incessant “real women have curves” mantra or the innumerable campaigns picturing “real women” who were all voluptuous or just did not look like me; I had to pause and say to myself “ this body of mine is real, I’m a person that exists. I’m a real woman”.
I can’t deny that seeing my fellow “sippy cup” ladies being happy and embracing what God gave them helped me love me. Positive reinforcement was a hell of a thing as well my learning to love myself in all areas of life.
Now it is simple – I’m loved and I love me just the way that I am and it really is a plus to go braless because those contraptions were truly created by the devil himself.”
“Growing up fat gave me two main things to deal with, a sizable belly and a pair of breasts, man boobs, tits, moobs etc. The belly never really bothered me but my chest has always been a source of shame for me. Throughout my childhood I was ridiculed in many ways, girls telling me I was more endowed than they were, my left breast was once compared to a cow udder and one incident where a classmate decided to grab them while I changed for PE which sparked laughter from the rest of the class. I grew up never wanting to take my shirt off in public, slowly but surely tank tops became a part of my regular swimwear even to this day. My mother realized how much it bothered me and took me to the doctor to make sure they weren’t some sort of hormonal imbalance, he said there probably wasn’t anything wrong with me and the best thing to do would be to lose weight and see. This took a couple years but eventually I had slimmed down reasonably but even at my smallest, the breasts would not go away. I’ve come now to just accept they are a part of me that I’ll have to live with and am getting better at living with them. Every now and then I’ll go to a beach or pool shirtless and quiet the voice in my head telling me everyone is staring. So I wouldn’t say I’m happy with them but I love myself enough to not let them bother me. ”
“Black/Dark skin is beautiful.
Growing up I was always envious of my friends. In my mind I was too pale, without substance. I didn’t look like my parents, even there were several facial similarities, they were shades darker than me and that’s what I focused on. My brother always whispered to me that I was adopted; that’s why I looked so different. I was teased at school, I was “dundus” “whitey” “albino” and even “colgate” to name a few. I took many of these things to heart as any child would. I wore more clothes to cover as much of my “white” skin as possible. I stayed in the sun a lot longer than was required, trying to “catch some colour”. The final straw was when a high school classmate said that “I was only pretty because I was light”. I think that’s when my self esteem took the deepest dive.
As I got older I found that I had to defend my heritage and my nationality. When I was in the US I was considered black but when I’m here I’m looked at as “white” or “not from here”. Out of frustration I became defensive when in came to my racial identity. I got really offended when people referred to me as white. I started to correct them. I told them to call me yellow, if blackness was not being afforded to me then I would create my own identity. I created my own space.
But then I matured; I grew up. I realised that no one could tell me who I am. No one had the power to tell me where I’m from and who my ancestors are. Black is beautiful. I am black. I am beautiful.”
“The thing about insecurities is that you’re never prepared for when they’ll seep into you’re head, into your psyche, into your life. They never send you an email on the exact date and time of their arrival. You only wake up one day at age 11 noticing that you look nothing like the other girls in your class and worse, nothing like the women on TV. You only wake up crying that the “remedies” did not in fact work and that you never prayed hard enough or God wasn’t listening. You’re never prepared for being told at age 18 that you look like a little boy. And you’re never really ready for the intense self-deprecation that subsequently controls your perspective. What you can prepare to do, is determine to love yourself fiercely, despite the mean remarks, one day at a time.”
Thank you so much for stopping by!
Nastassian Brandon: Project and Creative Director, Photoshoot Coordinator
Dale-Anthony Hines: Photographer
Tracey-Ann Mullings: Creative Consultant, Photography Assistant
Courtney-Claire Haynes: Photography Assistant
Until next post!
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