*Katie was a part of a group interview with Sarah and Carli, each of them having an opportunity to share their story not only with all of us, but specifically with each other. Below you will find the full transcript. I encourage you to take the time to meet Sarah and Carli as well*

Kyira: “So thinking for each of you, what made you decide you wanted to be a part of this? Or why do you feel like this type of work is important?”

Sarah: “Um, OK, so I think that I wanted to be a part of this is because first, Katie and I saw this on Facebook, and we were like, ‘Oh, it sounds like a really fun thing to do and to try.’ And I think I, the first time I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s like a fun thing! It would be awesome.’ And then I started thinking more about the meaning of it and I think it really made me think about how, um, how when I was little, I was like super skinny for a really long time. And I honestly didn’t hit puberty until like junior year of high school. So I was just really, really skinny. And then towards the end of high school I started gaining weight and my body completely changed. And now it’s like a totally different body than I had like three, four years ago. Um, and that journey of, like, seeing my body change and kind of feeling like I didn’t really have a lot of control over it was really hard for me. And so I think I wanted to do this to kind of embrace my new body, or just what I have now and learn to keep loving it.”

Kyira: “Yeah, and I think that’s an important piece too, because your body’s going to evolve over time and as we age in general. And there’s so many people that really grieve, or I guess maybe don’t grieve, and they try to just get back to like their youthful body of what they used to look like, like, pre-puberty or before your metabolism slows down or whatever. And it’s like, well, yeah, right, but how do you love your body now and then work on loving your body every step of the way?”

Sarah: “Right.”

Kyira: “That’s awesome. What about for you, Katie?”

Katie: “Yeah, I think for me it was also, like, I just thought it’d be fun, initially, of course. Like we saw it, seriously, yesterday. I just thought it was fun. My sister is an artist and she often takes photos and stuff, and I always love being in her stuff. Um, so initially I was just like, ‘I think it’ll be fun.’ And then, for a greater meaning aspect, I know so many, like, I don’t know a girl that doesn’t have a weird relationship with food. Like I just don’t know, or doesn't like her body, you know what I mean? … I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have like a weird something with food and her body. And I think that’s just horrible. And I don’t think that it’s like that for guys.”

Kyira: “Or it looks different.”

Katie: “Yeah, I mean like … obviously guys have a lot of body issues as well, like there’s a ton of stuff with that. But just like, I think it really is hard to be a woman in the world right now. And I think that’s something that is, like, ties a lot in with beauty and food, and I think that this project is something that could help open people’s eyes to that.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmmm. And the idea of especially like uniting together right now, with where we’re at in terms of things in our society and how we become a voice that’s unified in that. It seems very important. (Pause.) And what about for you?”

Carli: “Sure. Um, so, my freshman and sophomore year of college, I had like crippling anxiety and I hated school. It was hard to wake up. My anxiety caused me to be depressed, like really depressed. I was just constantly worrying. And then finally, my mom was like, ‘You need to go to the doctor.’ And I was so mad at her. But then I went and, like, I got on medicine and I kept going to the doctor. And by the beginning of my junior year, it was like, ‘Oh, my god, school can be fun!’ But I gained weight. And that was a new outlet for me that I was worried about. I was like, instead of school, I was like, ‘Yeah, school’s fun.’ But I gained weight and I was like, ‘Ugh!’ So I just thought, like, I don’t know, like seeing a picture of myself with this project, I think – I don’t know, I’m like learning to love myself. I’m not there yet, but …(pause)...”

Kyira: “Yeah. And I think that’s the really real piece of all of this. I’ve never had somebody come in to do this project yet that has said, ‘Oh, I’m so confident. And I’m ready to go. And I just want to help everybody else. There’s always something for somebody. And it is that journey piece. And I think that’s what, at least what to me, makes it different because we’re all saying like, ‘None of us are there yet. We’re just trying to figure it out'. And we can do this together by coming together and saying it’s OK and each of us are inherently beautiful. I think that’s huge. So then, how do you feelthe cultural perception of beauty has impacted you and your ability to feel beautiful? And, I guess sort of the caveat to that, it could be our culture at large and the way that just, like in the U.S., the way that we view beauty. It could be as a college student. It could be your family culture – whatever feels relevant to you. How has that impacted you or shaped you and your ability to feel beautiful?”

Sarah: “Well, I was just thinking, like when you said like family, your family culture, I think that kind of, um, it was not something I’d thought of before. But just like … (at) home, it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful!" all of the time. But you kind of discount it when hear it from your Mom or something. Um, and I think that like for me when I thought of being influenced by cultural beauty, there’s a lot of different types of beautiful. Like, it’s like obviously there’s an ideal type of beauty and there’s a lot of beauty standards. But you know, like, there’s the ‘natural beauty,’ the ‘sultry beauty.’ Whatever, whatever. Like, ‘girl next door type.’ (Laughing.) And I think it’s like, I always catch myself trying to like pick which one’s mine, and trying to fit myself into the box of, like, a specific ideal type. And I think it’s, even the most – even the more, like, achievable ideal, like, ‘You’re not going to be a model, don’t worry about that. Just be a natural, beautiful girl that also is still, like, super hot.’ And that’s still so unachievable, that’s like so bogus because they market it as achievable.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Sarah: “And that’s what gets me. Because I think I’ve heard a lot, like, ‘Well, there’s so much Photoshopping in the magazines and stuff.’ Like, ‘You’re not a model, just be like regular girl hot.’ But even that’s not even, like …”

Kyira: “It’s not a real thing.”

Sarah: “It’s not a real thing!" (All laugh) "And it just bugs me because they market it as so, like, ‘Oh, this is the version that’s really actually us. But, like, it’s not.”

Kyira: “Right, right. Yeah.”

Sarah: “And I think, like, that’s like what I think about when I think about culture and the continuous impact it has on me.”

Katie: “I agree with that, because I think as a society, people are more open to recognizing that Photoshop’s a thing and magazines are terrible cuz no one can achieve those beauty standards. But then it goes to, like, a different standard where it’s like, ‘Oh, just be real and beautiful.’ But that, like, means a totally different thing. And even the ads that say like, ‘This girl has not been touched up’ or, you know, edited, I think that’s an awesome mission and idea. But I think sometimes they still pick girls that are, like …(pause)...”

Kyira: “Oh, for sure!”

Katie: “Like a higher than normal standard of beauty, or like a good standard of beauty.”

Kyira: “Yes.”

Carli: “Even like plus-size models, I’m like god, like …”

Sarah: “Dude, they’re so beautiful!" (All laugh)

Carli: “Yeah, they’re just like, they’re faces are so skinny, but then their body is like really sumptuous and like – like I know, OK, guilty pleasure, like Kylie Jenner: You know, I definitely catch myself saying , ‘My god, she literally has a perfect body.’ But like, even her friend, Jordyn Woods; she’s a plus-sized model and she’s, like, really thick and awesome. But she’s still, like, I don’t know, like she fits into all these clothes and has a flat stomach. And I’m like, ‘That’s not possible.’ Like you can’t be both."

Kyira: “Right. But how many of you, OK, so who at this table has a personal stylist?" (Pause.) "Who can afford …”

Carli: “Or a makeup artist?”

Kyira: “Right. Who can afford a makeup artist or like even …”

Sarah: “A good face lift!” (All laugh)

Kyira: “Yes! I’m like the people – I saw the Alicia Keys movement, where she’s not wearing makeup and is encouraging people to get in touch with their own beauty. Great! It definitely has helped people move away from perhaps using make-up. But, we also can’t afford to have like microdermabrasion (laughing), and other dermatological things so our skin looks good all the fucking time. Like it’s not real!”

Sarah: “Yeah, yeah. ugh for sure.”

Kyira: “So there is this piece of not only is it, like, maybe people are doing that and yes, I think that they - whoever they is - pick the people who are still going to represent what they want, but also that’s not achievable either for the every day person because you need a shit-ton of money to even be able to afford the things they do to keep their skin and body so healthy.”

Sarah: “It just like, it still bothers me because I hate when they’re like, it’s like this whole, ‘Cultural industry strikes back against the industry standards.’ But it’s so bogus because it’s not. And just for me it just feels like another hurdle.”

Kyira: “Right.”


Sarah: “It’s like, ‘OK, so I’m not this good.’ But I’m still, like, not even regular, you know what I mean?

Kyira: “Exactly.”

Sarah: “And I think that’s hard.”

Kyira: “What do you think has been the hardest part for you in getting to the point you’re at, so like to have this conversation and be like, ‘That shit’s not real.’ Or to get to the point where, like, ‘I want to feel good in my body.’ Or to say, ‘I want to work on loving myself.’ And not only what’s been the hardest part but how are you fighting it?”

Sarah: “Anybody have any ideas? (Laughing.)

(Long pause.)

Carli: “I don’t know, yeah.”

Katie: “I think probably the hardest part is just dealing with comparing yourself to everyone else. Because I can look in the mirror and, like, tell myself that this is my body, like I have to accept it, I look good. And then I’ll dress in something that makes me feel good and then I’ll go out or, you know, just walk around in Madison and I’ll see like a bunch of people that have totally different bodies than me and that I know are beautiful in different ways. And I’m just like, ‘Oh, I wish I could look like that person.’”

Sarah: “Yeah.”

Katie: “And it’s like before I leave my apartment, I feel really good. And then as soon as I step out and see other people, like, everything kind of changes."

Sarah: “That’s really true. I feel like for me it’s very dependent on other people. And also I feel really bad because it’s also dependent on guys.”

Carli: “Yeah. Oh, my god yeah.”

Sarah: “Which is like I’m so, it’s so bad to say. But, like, you know, it’s very dependent on guys for me, which is not good.”

Carli: “And it’s always like me wondering like, ‘What would I look like if I was like, if I looked like that? Would I be more desirable or something?’ Like, if I had that body, would I – instead of just being like, this is my body, it is desirable in it’s own way, I’m always wondering, ‘What if I did have a flatter stomach or something like that?’”

Sarah: “Yeah.”

Katie: “And along with that thought process is like, ‘How would my life be different? Would someone else talk to me and would I have, like, different friends? Or just …”

Carli: “Maybe I’d find my soul mate! (Laughing.)”

Sarah: “Or I’d be really better at life. I heard about this study or whatever that said people who are thinner tend to just, like, be way more successful in the career world, which I think is like, ‘Ugh!’ You know? Like it’s just another like, ‘OK, be thin.’

Katie: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: There’s this whole piece too from, like, the therapy side – but is it because you’re actually more successful when you’re thin or is it that we’ve tied your right to be confident in yourself and to go for what you want only to when you’re thin?

Sarah: “That’s totally what I feel like.”

Kyira: “So, is it the flip of that?”

Sarah: Yeah. I bet it’s totally that.

Kyira: “Cuz like if you think about it, if – like there’s a lot of women that I work with that are actively working on their recovery right now. And so there’s one woman who has oscillated with her weight back and forth who’s like, ‘But people treat me differently when i"m here.’ And we talked about it and I’m like, ‘OK, wait. How do you act in public when you’re 15 pounds heavier vs. 15 pounds lighter?’ And, then, how do you think people respond to that? Because I think that’s moreat the core.”

Sarah: “That’s true.”

Katie: “I think there’s also like the perception that – I don’t know where I heard this but someone told me one time that, like, if you go into a job interview and you’re thin, it kind of says about yourself that you’re, like, dedicated and have the drive to take care of your body and you’re not lazy or anything, which I think is such bullshit.”

Kyira: “Right, yeah.”

Sarah: “Also, because so much of weight is genetics and epigenetics and, like, socioeconomic standing – because if you can’t afford to buy good food, you know what I mean?”

Carli: “Yeah, it’s crazy.”

Kyira: “Or medications. Like a lot of people with, like an antidepressant also sometimes you gain weight and your choice is either I’m thinner and I feel good about myself for that, or I take an antidepressant, manage my mental health symptoms but gain weight, and then I feel like shit about myself even more. So it’s like, yeah, there’s so many reasons tied into weight.”

Sarah: “The thing you said about, like, whether or not you deserve to be confident, I think that’s something that stood out to me. Because even though, like, even during the photo shoot or whatever, I felt like so awkward. I like my body and I feel good about it most days, um, but I still felt like vain and weird taking a picture. And, you know …”

Kyira: “Of your body …”

Sarah: “Yeah. Like I just felt like, if it was other girls it would be like, ‘Wow. She’d should be proud, she did good.’ (Laughing.) But with myself, I don’t want to come off as vain or come off as, like, too open and too forward, which I think is like a confidence thing.”

Kyira: “And is that, yeah, is that your issue, or is that somebody else’s, you know? Like we absorb this responsibility of, like, ‘I’m supposed to make sure that everyone else feels comfortable with the types of pictures that I’m posting and do they think this, this and this about me?’ That’s really their problem, it feels like. That’s not on you.”

Sarah: “Yeah, that’s true.”

Kyira: “There’s nothing about this that makes you sound arrogant.”

Carli: “Yeah. No. … And if you’re confident in yourself people are like, ‘Well, she’s, you know, she’s a [x].’ Maybe it's a slut, arrogant, full of herself...something like that.”

Kyira: “Right. There’s always another label about you. Exactly.”

Carli: “It’s not just like, ‘She likes herself.’ It goes farther.”

Katie: “That’s right. It’s like, if you’re too confident, it’s a bad thing. If you’re not confident enough then you’re like …”

Kyira: “Right. So where’s the gray? (Laughing.) There’s clearly no actual spot we’re supposed to be that has been OK.”

Sarah: “Yeah, yeah.”

Kyira: “So, did I jump in? Were you going in a different direction?”

Carli: “No, I don’t think so.”

Kyira: “So how, I mean then when you think about this, how do you nurture yourself now? How do you celebrate the small steps that you’re taking and the ways that you’re putting yourself out there so you don’t get pulled back into the societal pressure as you’re trying to kind of step out of it?”

Sarah: “Um, OK, well, Katie and I were talking about this while we were walking here. And we do this thing before we go out, and we dress all cute and everything. And then, before we go out, we’ll look in our mirror. We’ll stand side by side in the bathroom and we’ll just like look at ourselves in the mirror …”

Katie: “For like a long time! Like too long (laughing).”

Sarah: “It’s kinda gross how long it is! (laughing).”

Katie: “And we’ll, like, do different poses with our faces and we’re trying to look really mean, or really cute.”

Sarah: “Yeah, nothing we’d ever, like, try to share with anyone (laughing).”

Kyira: “But does it pep you up, does it make you like …”

Sarah: “Yeah, it makes us feel good!”

Katie: “Really confident and pretty.”

Sarah: “It’s like really weird, but we’ll just look at ourselves and be like, ‘Oh, Katie, your hair looks really good today.’ And I’ll be like, ‘What is my face doing right now?’ (Laughing.)”

Katie: “I like it! (Laughing.)”

Sarah: “And it’s just like embracing the things that just kinda look weird about us today, but then also being like, ‘Alright, this is who we are. We’re ready to hit the town.’”

Katie: “And we’re gonna rock it!”

Sarah: “Yeah. And rock it.”

Katie: “And we spend like a great deal of time …”

Sarah: “It’s probably like 10 minutes …”

Katie: “Like, it’s a lot. But it’s fun!”

Kyira: “But maybe it’s like a football player, with their team, they do a pregame warmup, where it’s like the weird stuff they do in the locker room. Maybe that’s what you do and that’s like you can amp each other up and amp yourself up. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Sarah: “Yeah.”

Katie: “I think it’s just taking time to look at ourselves reflect on, like, who we are. And I think it is nurturing our beauty, making us feel good about ourselves. And then, you know, we’re ready.”

Sarah: “I think there’s a lot tied to, like, how we feel and how we look. So if we’re feeling good then that reflects back to us.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm.”

Sarah: “Which is good.”

Kyira: “Yeah, absolutely. What about for you?”

Carli: “Well, I know before we were saying, like, it’s kinda tied to guys, you know?”

Sarah: “Yeah, it really is. Like too much.”

Carli: “Yeah. And just kinda like, I don’t know, I’m trying to be not like reliant on that opinion. Just kinda like, if I like a guy, I like him. And if I don’t, I don’t. It doesn’t, I don’t know, like I don’t need their approval of my body.”

Kyira: “Right, right.”

Carli: “That’s what I’m working on so, yeah. It’s nice to give, like, girls compliments, you know?”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm.”

Carli: “Which is rare.”

Kyira: “Because I feel like, yeah, we all like to hear it from people that are like, we have a shared identity with, so especially if we’re talking about gender. Like if you have a shared identity, you want to hear that from other people that are probably noticing it more, paying attention to it more, have the same values. And, yeah, I think we forget that.”

Carli: “I forget to give people compliments, too, though.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm.”

Sarah: “I think like with giving compliments, it’s just, you know, like going out on the weekend, you’re trying to look cute. It’s hard. It’s not the easiest thing. So I think we have to remember that.”

Carli: “And you always compare yourself to your friends. You’re like, ‘Ah, she’s looking hot tonight, and I’m standing next to her. I’m the duff!’ (Lots of laughing.)”

Kyira: “But no one else probably sees you that way. It’s all in your head.”

Katie: “And then, at the same time it’s like you want to be the hot one, but you also don’t want to be the one that’s like trying the hardest. And that’s the hardest part for me. Like, if Sarah looks really cute and she’s wearing a T-shirt, like I literally change into a T-shirt. (Laughing.) It’s really bad.”

Carli: “And then you’re like, ‘I’m overdressed.’”

Katie: “I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard. I just want to look, like, natural hot.”

Kyira: “Again, the need to get back in that box when really, who cares?”

Carli: “Yeah, we need to go back to finding the good balance between trying too much and not being enough, and just finding that perfect median.”

Katie: “Mm, hmm.”

Kyira: “But I think that’s part of it, then, how you take this message back out into the world. And so maybe it is being more intentional about giving compliments, because that will remind other people to give compliments.”

Carli: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “Maybe it is being more intentional about, like, how am I changing my perception of myself right now based on all these other people around me? I deserve to just do what I want to my body. And just saying those things to yourself and to each other, when you notice her doing that, being like, ‘How did you feel in the outfit you were just wearing?’ And she’s like, ‘Well, I looked really good.’ But then stop her and say, ‘But you felt good, so put the damn outfit back on!’ (Laughing.)”

Katie: “It’s an issue every time.”

Sarah: “Yeah, we do it all the time.”

Kyira: “So maybe it’s like a challenge point for you, it that’s how we could do it. Or, like, yeah, how do we – how do you not see your friend and be like, ‘So, OK, now I clearly look worse.’ Because if they’re doing the same thing, and if we don’t call it out and stop the cycle, it’s never gonna happen.”

Sarah: “And it’s like pitting women against women kinda, you know?”

Katie: “Yeah. It’s funny how fashion has, like, such an impact on how you feel.”

Kyira: “Oh, yeah, for sure. Even when you open up a magazine and it’s like, ‘Well, are you this style? Then buy these things. And are you this style? Then buy these things.’ And I remember looking at it at one point, and I was talking to my Grandma, and I was like, ‘But, Grandma, I don’t fit any of these. I like this from this one, but I’d wear it with these pants and this from this one.’ And she’s like, ‘That’s OK. You can be your own style.’ But it’s like easier said than done, cuz you’re supposed to wear certain things, or do certain things, or look a certain way. And that changes, based on your friend group and what you’re doing.”

Katie: “Yeah, right.”

Sarah: “I’m trying to think of other nurturing idea things. (Pause.) I guess like, sometimes I go out and I don’t wear any makeup or anything, and I always feel good when I have a really good time and I’m not feeling – like sometimes I go out and I’m feeling really cute, but I always feel good when I have a really good time and I don’t feel cute. Because I’m like, ‘OK, I’m finally forgetting about this thing that is, like, so not the biggest deal. And people like – not to bring it back to guys because it shouldn’t, but like you can still get guys. It’s not – I’m always proud of myself when I don’t feel that cute but I’m still having really good interactions with people and stuff, cuz I’m like, ‘Wow, like it really doesn’t matter.’”

Kyira: “Cuz you’re splitting them apart. … But it’s this idea of like, my ability to gain someone’s affection, whether it’s a friend or a romantic partner, is not tied to that. And so you’re taking those two things apart for you, which is going to keep empowering you down the road. And other people, cuz you’re gonna tell people this and like they’ll realize that they have the opportunity to do that, too.”

Carli: “I’m kinda like the opposite, though. I feel good when I – cuz I don’t wear makeup, so when I do wear makeup, I’m like …”

Kyira: “Nervous about it?”              

Carli: “No, I feel good. I’m like, I feel pretty when I put makeup on, cuz I just like, I don’t wear it very often. And so, I don’t know, if I’m having a bad day, like, I’ll go do my makeup. And it’s just like, I feel good.”

Kyira: “And I think the difference, too, is like – and that’s with anything, the stuff we’re wearing, putting on makeup, acting a certain way. It’s like, who is it for? And if it’s for you and you’re choosing to do that and it does empower you, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. So it’s being open to that idea, too.”

Carli: “Yeah, that’s true.”

Kyira: “So if each of you had like one, kinda like wrap-up message that you would want to tell other people and empower them to think about what’s the next step in their journey, what would you want to tell people?”

Sarah: “I guess I would say that it’s just a journey. It’s not really something that’s – like I don’t think that, I kinda felt like body issues were, you know, a thing that happens when you’re young. And that once you’re married and have kids or whatever then it goes away – but I know a lot of moms that, like, really struggle with eating disorders and stuff. Like my friend’s mom has a really bad eating disorder. And I was like, ‘Wow. I never would have thought that’s a thing that could happen to a mom. Like, we’re all people and we’re all going through it no matter what age or where we are in life.”

Kyira: “Yep.”                               

Katie: “I think I would say it’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in lots of different ways, whether it’s like, you know, giving a compliment to someone and that makes you – it might make you feel uncomfortable, but it makes them feel good. Or if it’s wearing something you wouldn’t normally wear, but you’re trying to get to a point where you do feel comfortable looking like that. I think it’s all about, you know, little steps to push yourself to keep continuing on the journey. There’s no destination, but if you can just keep taking those little steps, then you’re gonna make progress and you’re gonna start to feel good about yourself in lots of different ways.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm. Absolutely.”

Carli: “Yeah, and there’s like the cliché: It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Like, you can’t just wake up one day and be like, ‘You know what? I love myself.’ Just work on it. You know, baby steps. It’ll take a while, but it’s probably worth it in the end, I would think.”