Kyira: “I am so excited to be able to reconnect after all of these years and to have you be a part of this project. I am curious, besides being familiar with me and Megan, what made you want to be a part of this project?

Kalea: “I think that is the first time I have ever had professional photos taken.”

Kyira: “Oh really?”

Kalea: “Yeah. And it’s like, well and in the first time I am doing it I am having pictures taken in my sports bra.”

(all laugh)

“…Which is something I never thought I would have done. I mean I don't even like being photographed in a bikini. So it was just like, whatever, fuck it. Here goes nothing. So, I mean, ultimately, I did this because, not so much now but when I signed up for it I knew that this was totally out of my comfort zone and something I would never normally do and I thought that hopefully through doing this I would feel empowered and better about myself and my body as is. You know my body and face without the outfit and make-up and hair and everything planned to a tee. So…I don’t really know if I feel that comfort yet, I mean it felt good to take the photos and I feel excited about seeing them. I just hope when I see them I have that kind of positive reaction.”

Kyira: “So do you feel like having a relationship with Megan helped you be able to take this step? Having someone who knows you and sees your real beauty behind the camera?”

Kalea: “I think so. Yeah, I mean I think if it were someone I didn't know it would be a little bit more uncomfortable. I mean, for a second I felt a little silly like, ‘do I pose?’, ‘where do I put my hands?’…things like that. You know because any pictures ever taken of me are, you know, well my hair is done, my make-up is done, I am not in workout clothes, so in general that is just new and different. I was on the way to my moms house this morning and went to start getting ready and had to stop myself and was like, ‘Nope, fresh face all day’….or at least until I go and do my business later (laughter).”

Kyira: “Was that hard?”

Kalea: “I don’t like having my pictures taken without make-up. I mean I have gone through phases of having excellent skin to major break-outs and I just prefer to cover that up. And of course, like a week before this, I was like, oh awesome I have a huge ass pimple on my forehead which is absolutely not what I wanted. And that was hard because I don’t go bare faced ever and then to do that with that was a big step. But overall, it felt good doing it.”

Kyira: “Yeah, I used to do that a lot too — never leaving the house without at least some make-up on and I recently challenged myself to go for a week without make-up and thought a lot about the discomfort and insecurity that kept coming up and looked into what it was that made me feel I needed to wear that. And honestly, I learned that for me, for the longest time, it was that I didn't feel that I looked good to other people unless I wore make-up. Andafter I realized that I make a pact with myself that I could not start wearing it again unless I was wearing it for me because I do, honestly, love the fun you can have with make-up and how transformative it can be, but I had never really taken the power into my own hands to decide when and how and where I wore it.”

Kalea: “Yeah and it is one of those things too where I put make-up on and I hear things like, ‘Oh who are you dressing up for?’ or ‘Why so much make-up?’ and then it is like, when I don’t wear make-up, people say things like ‘Oh you must have had a rough day’ and it’s like no, actually I didn’t have a rough day and why is the amount of make-up I am wearing a barometer for that?”

Kyira: “I didn’t even think about that — how others tend to attribute what you look like to what you must be feeling and sort of, inadvertently impose their own standards and judgments onto you.”

Kalea: “And that’s the thing, like some days I just feel like I can’t win. I mean, I don't really know how to do make-up so maybe that is part of it for me. Like, I know how to put on stuff to even out my skin tone but like I cant use eyeliner to save my life (all laughter) and struggle with a lot of different products. But like, every once in a while when I buy myself a new lipstick color or something fun and decide I want to put it on and feel good, then people have to call it out. And it’s like, to everyone else I can’t win. I am either trying too hard or not trying enough and it is like, where is the ‘right’ amount? And why is it that I am trying to do anything? Why can’t I just be doing something to me and for me that makes me feel good? Why does it have to be connected with anything other than that? I’m sick of playing the games you can’t ever fucking win.”

Kyira: “Yeah, I mean I think the biggest problem is that it is this ever moving yardstick where even if you do do it one way someone else has already decided that is too much or not enough and you can’t ever keep up with the ‘standards’ everyone else sets in place.”

Kalea: “Yeah and you know it’s, it’s a battle.”

Kyira: “So how do you think the culture that we grew up in impacted the way you have or do see yourself and your ability to be comfortable in your own skin?”

Kalea: “It’s funny because sometimes, there are people who struggled when they were younger who now, just like don’t give a fuck and I feel like for me, it is the complete opposite. Like, I don't really think I had any issues with body confidence or anything like that in high school, you know, like I was just happy then. But then I hit 25 and then its like I suddenly didn’t have that awesome metabolism anymore and my body started reacting to what I was eating and I had to work harder to feel good in my skin and maintain my body shape. And, I mean it is weird because I get really uncomfortable wearing tight clothes. I wear baggy shirts and pants and such because I just do not feel good in tighter clothes. And it sucks because, I mean I hate when skinnier girls say things like that they look fat or things like that because I know that hurts other people and I really try not to say things like I think I look fat but I do feel uncomfortable in my body. And it is hard because I feel like there is this rule or stigma against skinny people being allowed to be uncomfortable with their body because people look at you and say, ‘Well you are what society wants so how can you complain?’ But like, I look in the mirror and I see things I am uncomfortable with all of the time. And, you know I would go shopping and would decide to buy bigger or more baggy shirts or clothes or even, just recently I went on a trip and din’t have a bathing suit so I bought this super cute one piece and my fiancé, Mike, was like ‘Oh you would look so good in a bikini,' and it’s like ‘No I don't feel comfortable in a bikini’. And I know that is like really frustrating for him to hear me cut myself down all of the time and I don't like that I do that to myself all of the time either. And it is hard to know I have this amazing person in my life who loves me for me and who has loved me for me since the first day we even met. And he has even mentioned noticing that I have gone from this confident person to someone who is constantly bringing myself down or saying little things at home or to myself about my body and appearance because something doesn’t fit right or I am feeling uncomfortable. And, it just gets hard because when I do make decisions then that make me feel good, like buying a one-piece swimsuit, when someone asks me about why I don’t wear a two-piece and I tell them, suddenly I start getting all of the shit in the world from my friends because they feel like I should be comfortable. And like I said, I am not trying to feel sorry for myself, it’s just hard because I feel like things get harder for everyone as they get older in some respects and I just want to feel like I can feel that way too and to work together to help us all move past it so we don’t keep getting guided by new trends and ideals that are unrealistic and don’t really bring you joy. Like I want to stop chasing things that don’t matter like a better butt or boobs or flatter stomach. Because that game never stops, we always find something new to work towards. I would rather just love me for me as I am. Because the way it exists right now, it just really eats away at you.”

Kyira: “And you are sort of caught in this double bind of being told by people, where it is their own stuff coming out and being put onto you of like ‘Well you don’t have the right to complain because you look like this’ or ‘…you’re not [X] enough’ whether that is big enough or whatever. So you sort of get stuck not being able to talk as openly about the distress you are having in all of this where ultimately, no matter what people look like, that feeling you are describing is the same and it sucks no matter and it doesn’t help when we keep pushing people into their own boxes of sadness when we are all fighting the same battle. And the second piece is that you knew and felt what it was like to be comfortable in your own skin and lost that sensation or that sense of peace and now to be unsettled and having all of these external messages get internalized in a way that feels like you are failing in some way is not helpful or productive. It leaves you feeling even more alone. Do you think that the idea of how your voice is silenced makes a difference in being able to love yourself?”

Kalea: “Yeah I think it definitely is a part of the issue, you know, I mean I want to talk to people about it and I think it is good to talk to people about it but at the same time, when you, like you said, have people telling you whether you do or don’t actually have the right to complain based on what you look like or make you feel less than because they compare their flaws to you in a way to shame you for even bring yours up, I feel like I don't have the right to complain. And so, I just tend to bottle it all in and don't talk about it which in a lot of ways is another reason I decided to do this because you know, not matter what size, shape, color, tattoos, hair style, make-up or not, we are all in this together and I just wanted to be able to stand here and say that no matter who you are we are all beautiful as is and deserve to feel that way every day.”

Kyira: “Well said.”

Kalea: “And like, people talk about this whole concept of pitting woman against each other and um, I think that is much more prevalent today than it ever has been. I mean it was probably always an issue but with the internet and social media and everything, it seems like these problems and negativity have been amped up. I mean I don't really ever remember seeing what I see now when I was younger or when we were all in high school. And I guess the biggest thing for me is that people tend to want me to stay silent and that is just not fucking fair. I want to support everyone in their journey but want to be heard and supported too.”

Kyira: “I think that is hard too, especially because, I mean I think men do experience this in very different ways where, it is likely the same types of feelings but different presentations and when you try and talk to or communicate these concerns with someone who has been socialized as male, it feels like a totally different language because we aren’t sharing the language of feelings and underlying pressure. Which makes us feel even more isolated and alone and when the only other people we can talk to are women with their own issues, battling to feel loved and heard, it becomes difficult for everyone to step back and simply validate each other in what they are experiencing.”

Kalea: “And that is the hard thing, like I can talk to Mike about it and it is not like he doesn’t try to be there or doesn’t get it. It is just a different perspective because, yeah, he is not a woman. And I think it is hard for him, again, to hear these things come out of my mouth all of the time because like I said, even though he is always there for me, I am sure it gets tiring because he can’t see it and doesn’t know how to help. And like, you want to be able to support your significant other to feel good and empowered int heir own skin and when he can’t understand it, he doesn’t know how to help it.”

Kyira: “What do you think it would look like to be able to wake up one day and to love yourself fully no matter what you looked like that day?”

Kalea: (pause) “…Uh…you know…I mean I would love to wake up one day and have that sort of confidence. I don't know, I think I would just finally feel at peace and not feel like there was such a weight on my shoulders. And, I don't know, I mean I think even now there are days when I wake up and feel that sense of confidence but as it stands right now, I don't know how to hold onto that because it often gets tainted by different things like comparing myself to others or noticing something about myself I don't like. And it’s annoying because its like, I am almost 30 and feel like this is so stupid to allow myself to be controlled by that but I feel like I can’t help it. I can’t help but to compare myself with other people. And it sucks.”

Kyira: “I always think about, I feel like I met you when we were old enough not to play that game at recess any more but do you remember the game kids used to play, King of the Hill where you would have to fight to get to the top of the snow mountain to be King of the Hill?”

Kalea: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “I feel like that is sort of the structure of our society as it pertains to beauty and confidence. Like we can’t allow ourselves to stand up here unless we have done what we can to push others below. Or on the flip side, we give so much power to others in comparing ourselves to them that we don't even give ourselves a chance to get to the top of our own mountain. So I feel like the change we are all pushing for is to get everyone off the mountain and put us all back on even playing ground where we can look at someone and honestly celebrate them for who they are and what they look like while also giving ourselves the same love and celebration.”

Kalea: “Yeah, for sure.”

Kyira: “So how are you feeling about seeing these photos eventually?”

Kalea: “I don't know, I am hoping it just gives me some confidence that, you know, I probably have always had but never really realized or forgot about. And I mean, I have seen and celebrated everyone who has signed up for and already done this and, I don’t know, I just feel like it will feel really good to know that we are all kind of in this together.”

Kyira: “And, on the flip side, that not only do you have the right to be able to speak up when you aren’t feeling good in your skin but you also have the right to celebrate your beauty and rise up through this project and voice self love.”

Kalea: “Exactly.”

Kyira: “So what do you think is one thing that either you already do or you would like to start doing more to nurture and celebrate your beauty?”

Kalea: “That is a great question. I don't know, it’s crazy because I feel like I am at this really good point in my life, you know. I am happy. I am healthy. I am engaged. I have healthy family. I am back in school. So, I try to concentrate on all of these things to help me feel more confident in my skin. But maybe now its even, I don’t know, just like, my mom does this thing that she calls ‘God Moments’ where she will write down one good thing that happened every single day. And that’s the thing is a lot of people, I don't think, including myself, take the time to always notice those positive moments. And do my mom will take time to write something down every day like ‘This little girl smiled at me in line at the grocery store’ or something like that and when she reads through them, she tells me it is an instant confidence booster for her. And I have always wanted to do something like that where, I don’t know maybe just like waking up an extra 5-10 minutes early in the morning and writing down something I love about myself or what I want to accomplish or what makes me happy. And I feel like that will really help especially when those little things happen throughout the day that shake my sense of self. I can have this thing to just refer back to that reminds me I have beauty inside and out.”

Kyira: “Absolutely.”

Kalea: “And even the idea of writing it down in the morning, where I can start my day off with something that is beautiful about myself or taking a moment to remind myself of what I am capable of, that could change my daily outlook. It may seem silly to me at first but just like, even something so small could make a world of difference for me. I feel like this is something I am going to start doing starting tomorrow.”

Kyira: “So when you wake up tomorrow and there is a pull in you to not want to do it, what can you say to yourself in that moment to remind yourself of how important this could be?”

Kalea: “I guess that I am not alone. Because I think that is the biggest thing is that what I am feeling, other people feel too and in going through something like this where we can all come together and say fuck you mainstream society, I feel more strong in my own fight to keep pushing past that. I mean there is a reason you started this amazing project — to give us all a voice and let us have our stories be told when a lot of us have spent a long time feeling like didn’t have one.”

Kyira: “Yeah we are a tribe now.”

Kalea: “I like tribe better. I was going to say squad but I hate that word.”

(all laugh)

Kyira: “I love that, #squadgoals. But in all seriousness, I mean, we really are bonded and now when you look in the mirror next time, you can know that we are all standing there next to you and loving you just as you are because you are already beautiful.”

Kalea: “Yeah for sure.”

Kyira: “Thank you so much, Kalea for being a part of this project and for taking the time to talk so openly with me. I feel truly honored to have had this opportunity with you.”

Kalea: “Absolutely. Thank you for bringing this project to us.”