This Part features: Ayesha, Shantay, Regina and Stacy. I hope you enjoy the pictures and I hope their stories inspire you to become BRAVE.
“You know that Olay tag? “Love the skin you’re in” …I’m the “or nah”. At 12, I started noticing lines around my calves, knees and buttocks. They were unsightly and unrelenting. No matter what I tried (with the exception of lazer treatment) they would not lighten or disappear. This made Me grossly insecure, as I believed I was fat although I had never weighed more than 100 lbs in High School and this gave Me a multiplicity of complexes, like wanting to be darker skinned.
I was taunted about this “deformity” at almost every juncture of life and reminded just how imperfect I was for having stretch marks. During high school I was mocked by other girls and told by an EX I should only wear pants because my legs were not “nice enough” for skirts and shorts when I had started Uni. More recently (within the last 3 yrs) I was carded publicly on Twitter for having eczema and stretch marks by a former “friend”.
Getting to a place of complete acceptance with the way I was made is a daily journey…
Needless to say I am yet to (completely) love the skin I am in but I am definitely working on it”
“Apparently when you run up and down the stairs your boobs bounce… or so I’ve been told. I wouldn’t know; I’m still waiting on puberty… At age 22.
Growing up I naturally assumed that one day I’d have a body type similar to that of my mother and grandmother, i.e. a little extra weight and a voluptuous chest. I didn’t necessarily want to be fatter but I just assumed that’s the route that my body would take and I was okay with that. Then puberty “hit”… I patiently waited on the growth spurt that would take me from a training bra to the DDD boobs that awaited me. Nothing. I waited some more and graciously my hips did this little thing that allowed me to sway while I walked. Boobs? Nothing. My mother reassured me that her boobs “weren’t that big until later on” but by age 20 I decided that I ought to give up on waiting. My dream boobs weren’t arriving.
Every time I see a woman in a tank top with actual cleavage showing (something I know nothing about) I feel a wave of jealousy and sadness. I often don’t buy the clothes that I want because I don’t feel like I have the body to make me feel like a woman, and not a little boy. Pushup bras and padding and nothing too low cut was (is) the mantra. I’d like to say that I’m over it, that I’m a beaming tower of confidence and I love every inch of me without reservation, but I still feel frustrated almost every time I go to the pool because there is nothing to hide behind in a bikini. I feel “exposed”, as though all illusions have been shattered, and the world can see my “flaws”. The thing about “flaws” though, is that they’re most obvious to you. It does help to have supportive friends who don’t belittle your insecurities, and on a good day I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “You are a goddess”, and that’s what I’m aiming for every day. I just want to keep loving me and the only body I have.”
“‘You know how many people would give everything to have that body?’ I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that in the past year or so but it’s strange to be hearing that now because at a time when it really mattered I never heard that. Let me take you back maybe ten years… Regina was just hitting puberty, she was young, impressionable and her self-esteem was delicate.
I was just starting high school and I THOUGHT I was pretty average in size but at that time everyone else was skinny. Skinny was “it” and clearly I was far from it. That’s when it all began and I realized that my problem was my thighs and that out of all my body parts, they were the ones that were way out of proportion. That was just the beginning. Over those 7 years my weight fluctuated but once my thighs got bigger they stayed big. I tried everything: diet, exercise, dancing, creams, gels, oils, patches but these thunder thighs were here to stay. I swore off of shorts, skirts and swimsuits because cellulite was unsightly and they jiggled. So, hiding was my coping mechanism in high school.
University: the place of the free! I was excited to get out of uniform. My parents brought me up conservatively so in my mind it was really just going to be jeans and some shirts. I arrived and it was quite different from what I imagined but at the same time exactly what I imagined- my worst nightmare: leggings, shorts, skirts, tight clothes. They were everywhere and they were everything I didn’t want to squeeze my body into. I was not ready. I wore shirts maybe once a month; leggings weren’t so bad but jeans were my everything- I was covered and things were left to the imagination which by any stretch, to me, was better than reality. I was unhappy because I was packing on pounds and everyone was noticing. So I went to a dietician and started the gym. I worked HARD and I was reaping rewards. I felt better but it was still a struggle. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. I was healthier but I still has cellulite which meant my thighs were still too big. I was terribly self-conscious but I got by.
I didn’t want to get by anymore though. Then it clicked; I was just getting by because I didn’t love myself and I didn’t love myself because I never accepted how great I was the way I was: I was always going to be great “when I lost the next 10 pounds and toned my thighs”. But honestly, why couldn’t I be great now? Whilst I still have goals to lose some weight and to shed some inches, the best decision I have made is to love my thunder but I really had to take some time with myself and be patient with myself and being patient made all the difference. Finding my current circle and having them surround me with love has also made a world of a difference. I had to let go though, let go of thinking that some day I will be amazing and embrace that TODAY I AM amazing. It’s not everyday I feel like a million bucks but guess what it’s all apart of the journey and it’s a part of me and it’s about damn time I stop fighting me and be everything I was destined to be.
“In high school, the go-to names were “Fatty Boom Boom”,”Rolie Polie Olie” and “Miss Piggy”. I faced constant critique for my weight from everyone in my life, especially my parents.
In university, I lost 40+ pounds in a few months and everyone was thrilled. They didn’t care that it was a result of post-traumatic stress and an eating disorder, or notice that I was constantly ill. Just that I looked better in jeans.
When I gained back all the weight, the names came back. Now they’re “Mampy”, “Fluffy” and “My Size”. My father polices my every meal and the contents of my grocery bag. A guy I liked told me to “lose some weight, then maybe I’ll consider fucking you”.
Incidents like these made me ashamed to look at myself. All I saw in mirrors and photos were the areas that jiggled and the bulges in unexpected places.
Only now am I coming to understand that fat is not a bad word. Nor does it define me. I am so much more than the numbers on a scale. I am smart and intelligent. I am independent and resourceful. I am a free thinker and I speak my mind. I am (surprisingly) healthier than I’ve been at any other point in my life. And no matter how loud they shout or how long they keep going, the persons who only see my size can never take these things away from me.
I am not fully healed – still mending 25 years of damage to my self-esteem and pride, but I know I’m heading in the right direction. Hopefully I can bring others with me too.”
Thank you so much for stopping by! If you missed parts 1, 2 and 4 of this volume of #projectBRAVE, you can check them out:
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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