Why do you feel the #ReclaimBeauty project is important?
"I’ve really been through the ringer. I have had two bad break-ups from very serious relationships, one lasting 7 years and the other a year and half but we had already talked about marriage. Both of these relationships ended because of my body, which is surprising because they are both now dating women of the same body type.
Growing up, I went to private Christian school in California where I was the only Black and bigger person there. I didn’t realize it all then but that experience effected me in many ways. It was just hard because I always felt “off”, like I didn’t fit into any of the molds. I guess that's where my body image issues started and over time, they just blew up.
In my 20’s, I went through a really serious eating disorder, getting down to 96 pounds and I have been in years of therapy working on my recovery and learning to love my body for what it is.
And after going through all of that and other parts of my journey, I think it is really important for woman to see other women and know it’s okay to have the body you have."
How has the cultural perception of beauty influenced how you see yourself?
"For 23 years I have been going to therapy and have talked about the negative voice I carry with me in my head, and I almost think, over time, interaction with the media and other negative influences have reinforced it and made it stronger. I mean there is negative media attention everywhere and from sources you don’t even think about. It’s like being under constant attack.
For years and through different interactions with friends and peers, I have heard comments about larger people, berating them for being bigger and I find myself wondering how they look at me and think, "if they talk so freely in front of me, do they see me that way too or forget that I look like the people they are talking about?” This idea of people talking about things in front of you, wondering if they you are there extends far beyond the notion of being big. It happens a lot overall for me as a woman, and especially a woman of color. I can’t tell you how many times people said to me “Oh sorry, I forgot you were black” after saying something really inappropriate to me thinking it was okay or that they were helping. It’s almost like people go through life applying their own biases to different situations and giving advice almost like word diarrhea, forgetting that you have your own identity. The worst is 'concerned trolling' where people try to reach out and express concern about something, especially weight, when they are really just being jerks and don’t care to know, at all, what is really going on.
The other big thing I think is impacted by our culture is dating - especially online dating and how it has reinforced the negative voice I hear in my head. There are studies out there that state that black women are the least desirable group, and add being overweight to that mix, and I feel like something that crawled out of a swamp. That's only been reinforced by the lack of responses I tend to get online. The responses I DO get tend to marginalize me in some way....either for being fat, or being black. Its really weird, really gross, and I've taken myself off line in order to salvage my sanity. Its really hard to feel good about yourself when you get daily reinforcement that you're ugly. I'm hoping that someone comes along eventually, but I honestly don't know if that'll happen because of the skin that I'm in."
What has been the hardest part of going on this journey to uncovering and celebrating your beauty?
"My hair has always been a point of contention for me. My mom was born in ’47 and grew up during the time when Black women straightened their hair every day. And this pressure remains heavy in the African American female community - women straighten their hair or get extensions. But this was something I didn’t like doing and didn’t feel good to me so I stopped doing it. I remember after that, my mom would make comments about how I would never get a man if l didn’t do these things and I would write it off. But now, being single at 37 and after my break-ups, I catch myself wondering if it could really be because of something this stupid."
How do you nurture and celebrate your beauty?
"Things like this…pushing myself and being an extrovert…Taking up space and being loud about it."