Kyira: “In thinking about the moment you decided to sign up for the project, what was your motivation?”

Katrina: “So I learned about the project through one of my friend’s because I had posted a blog post on my blog that talked about having a history with an eating disorder and, you know, my feelings about that and trying to be very honest about it and she was like, ‘Well you should check out this thing that I did because it sounds like it is right in the same vein’. And so I looked it up and when I saw the photos and read people’s stories I just thought that, yeah, this is very similar to how I feel and see my worldview about body positivity and self love. And so it really drove me to want to get involved because it just seemed like something that was already near and dear to my heart. And I also really appreciate the level of honesty that is involved with people being so honest. And to me, it was almost kind of sad that it is something ‘brave’ to be sharing your story and photos and talking about your struggles. I mean it’s like, ‘it’s so brave that she is showing her shoulders and she is size 12’ and it’s like…I just don’t understand why that is a brave thing but it felt like #ReclaimBeauty was doing it to a degree above that where it wasn’t like ‘Oh, look, we have one plus sized girl’ or ‘we have one person of color’. People weren’t tokenized. It really was like ‘Hey, this is life and let’s talk about it’. And so, I knew that I had to get involved and add my voice to that mix.”

Kyira: “Absolutely and that idea of like, yeah, it not just being one more way of putting people on this pedestal like ‘look how great and brave they are for sharing their story’ because it creates this othered-ness where people don’t all feel a part of it and that they have an ownership in the conversation.”

Katrina: “Yeah absolutely.”

Kyira: “Yeah I think that is one of the reasons it was so important for me to do the photoshoot prior to opening it up for others so that I could understand what it would be like for someone to take my photo and capture my ‘flaws’ and think about how I want to or naturally do respond to that. And it became more of this, like, well I mean bravery to a degree, but more of like, well this seems to be a problem and I don’t hear anyone really talking about it so we probably should.”

Katrina: “Yes, yes. Exactly.”

Kyira: “So then taking some of what you just said a little deeper, if we think about culture - family, community, peers, national culture and so on - and the role it has played for you in your ability to feel beautiful, what has that looked like?”

Katrina: “Well, I think that I have always been very aware of my body and what I looked like at a young age just because I don't remember there every being a time where I didn't have at least some sort of eating disorder. So, like thinking back, I think I probably started having issues with body image and, like, eating - using food as a tool for comfort and manipulation - since the age of like, 9…so, you know I don’t ever remember really having like a normal relationship with food and eating and body image for most of my life. And I think that that has affected the way I interact with culture and cultural perceptions of myself. I mean, I thought I was going to be an actress. I almost went to school for acting and so, I had been in plays and shoots and all of this stuff for as long as I can remember. And in that, you are very aware of what you sound like, what you look like, what opportunities you may have for a casting, etc based on how you look - all of the time. And some of those things I think are just ingrained in me. Like, I remember certain acting coaches saying to me that I looked like a football player up there and would say things like ‘You need to do [x] or [Y]’ or ‘When are you going to get this right’ or ‘You need to work harder’…and so I think as my eating disorder got worse, it became harder and harder for me to feel like I was talented enough to exist in the media side of culture. Like I didn’t feel like I was okay enough to go to these castings or auditions because I knew that they were going to tell me that I didn’t look like what they wanted me to look like. So I think it is really hard when you see that back side of it. Because I am also a consumer and so I can look at something and know that the advertisement is a lie. But that doesn’t necessarily make me feel any better about not being able to fit into that perceived or accepted lie.”

Kyira: “Ugh, yeah. That’s terrible.”

Katrina: “And so, it’s kind of like, you know it’s a lie but it doesn’t change the fact that you don’t fit in. And so it is just this very weird, ambiguous situation for me.”

Kyira: “Yeah, I mean, I feel like there are so many similarities in the way you and a lot of other people talk about this journey where there is this, almost power role that strips you of self worth and value, often based on some arbitrary decision about what goes ‘in the box’. And what sucks is that, inherent within our culture, we are already programmed to beat ourselves up enough without someone else joining in on it and creating that sense of othered-ness we so often talk about. And that reinforces the work we are already doing to tear ourselves down because if someone else is also saying the things we are saying to ourselves then we often believe that the only plausible answer is that we must not be worthy or valuable.”

Katrina: “Well and it is hard with media today too because they are trying to be more inclusive, you know, like plus sized woman on TV or whatever. And I would go to certain castings or things and they would say ‘Well you are too big to be a ‘normal’ girl so we are going to try and cast you as a plus sized girl but you are too small to be plus sized so we are going to need you to be much, much larger’. And so, then, I am faced with this thing of like, well where do I fit in then?”

Kyira: “Right, it’s that sense of being ‘othered’.”

Katrina: “And so, even when we are being ‘inclusive’, there are still all of these rules and regulations - criteria to meet - and maybe a small percentage of people actually fit into these new bubbles even if it is inherently ‘bigger’ or ‘more diverse’ than the norm.”

Kyira: “Right. There was a person talking this morning about what plus size means and the idea of plus sized. And how, like, if you…well she was reading something and it was saying something like a size 10 or 12 is more the average and 16 and 18 or something like that, was plus sized. And so she was like, ‘if you are a 22 or 24, like I am, what size does that make me. Am I just monstrous?’ Because in her case, she was essentially pulled into that other lens of ambiguity of like, you are too big to fit into a box. And so it is like, this idea of even how we put everything into a spectrum - a range of normality. So these people on this end are normal but then these people here are [x]. And if you are beyond that, we just wont deal with you - it’s like you don't exist. And in between all of these sections are always gaps where more and more people fall into that, ‘you don’t exist’ place.

Katrina: “Right. Exactly.”

Kyira: “But the fucked up thing - and I know you know this - is that there is no such thing as a linear value system in which we can scale people on one spectrum and determine beauty, value, etc.”

Katrina: “Absolutely.”

Kyira: “So, what do you think has been the hardest part for you in this journey overall?”

Katrina: “I think it has just been hard seeing how much my own hang ups have kept me from doing and being my full authentic self. And, um, even as I have tried to be more and more honest, I will still have friends from high school, like I had a friend from high school the other daywho read my blog post - like hadn’t heard from her since high school, we are just Facebook friends - and messaged me this really long message saying that she never knew I felt this way in high school and that no one knew it because I was always so kind and positive and bubbly. She said it was such a shock to read that and how sorry she was to hear that. And it is really interesting to be in those moments because sometimes you feel like maybe you are not being as genuine if you are struggling with some of these things and then to have people say things like, ‘Wait, what do you mean? You never seemed like anything was bothering you’ and so how they interpreted me was different from how I was feeling. And so I think that I am finally at a point where I am ready to find remission from some of these disordered eating problems and barriers that have gotten in my way. And that is why, starting in December, I am going to be working with an actual psychiatrist and therapist to really do the work to get past some of it. And it is kind of hard to take in just how hard I know it is going to be because it is very easy to stay in a comfortable place even if you know that comfort is killing you. I mean, I don’t like binging until the point where I am physically ill. It’s terrible. And that is not good for my body. But I really want to put in the work to be able to get to a place where I am fully healthy because if I am able to do all of the things I am doing right now while not fully health or accepting where I am at, I cannot imagine what I will be able to accomplish when I begin stepping out of that comfort.

Kyira: “Yeah, it is such a weird bind and yet exciting place to be in.”

Katrina: “Yeah for sure. And also, I am a tiny bit worried about the potential backlash from the plus sized community about losing weight. Or about…you know, I have a lot of friends or people who just say things like, ‘you make me more confident’ or ‘you make me feel like I can wear things because we look similar’. Like, I literally have had someone tell me how courageous I am and they didn’t know how I could wear an off the shoulder top. And they asked me how I did that and it was like, ‘well, you go to the store, buy a top and put it on’. Like that is how you go about doing that. But, if I start to do the work, and get healthier and subsequently lose weight because I am caring for myself in the way I should, I don’t want people to feel that that is me saying if you are heavier, that is negative. I want to keep empowering people. And I know that there have been some instances where you hear things about women who were plus sized models that are now straight sized who got, like, death threats. You know, like people telling one model she had a lot of nerve to turn her back on their community. And so, I think I am very interested and yet a bit apprehensive to see how that works.”

Kyira: “And I think for you, being a business owner where blogging is such an important part about what you do - with you being the face of your work and of your brand - it can be ever more challenging. I am sure that can be really scary to really be at the forefront of your business and have people seeing you and knowing what is going on and at the same time, there is this tremendous opportunity in thinking about how you can use this platform to talk about your journey and these different roadblocks or fears that come up for you. Where you can lay out on the line what this fear look like and talk directly to the community(ies) you align with and share you struggles with them and ask for that support and love because for you, the reason why you are wanting to do this work is because you are not healthy right now in the way you are taking care of your body. And that is very different than someone else at the same weight who is able to nurture their body in a loving and healthy way. And so it is not about the weight but about loving your body and that may mean the weight and shape of your body changes but the person you are, the experiences and love you carry in your heart, do not change.”

Katrina: “Sure, right. Because I do still want to be a voice for change and want to be connected to people and communities that are important to me.”

Kyira: “That is such a bind to be sitting in.”

Katrina: “Yeah, it definitely feels that way.”

Kyira: “And maybe it will be a surprise for you throughout this and you wont face that type of negativity and for lack of a better word, hate. But it is even in the fact that you are hyper aware of it and it is a factor you have to consider in making these choices lets us know there is a disconnect in that unity we desire. So how do you nurture and celebrate your beauty now. Or how are you hoping to work towards that more in the future?”

Katrina: “I mean, I think with having a history of just being unkind to myself for such a long time, like, I mean I have been able to say I am beautiful before but it always came from the recognition of others. Like I would get cast for a certain part and would be like, well I must be beautiful because they wouldn’t cast an ugly person for this. And so it was always externally motivated confidence but I think recently I have been trying to move more into the direction of deriving that intrinsic love and assurance and one way I have done that is to try and be as honest as I can be about my eating problems. And even if it sounds nuts to be saying certain things that I am thinking or feeling about food or my body, I keep talking to my parents and my boyfriend and people who are close to me. I am learning to ask for help and that is not something I am very big on - I have always tried to have everything handled on my own. And so I think that has been the kindest thing I could have done for me is to stop putting the burden entirely on myself to carry the load because clearly I cannot do it and I am not willing to continue down this path anymore. Like I don't want to die at a young age just because I was unwilling to ask for help. Like that just seems silly.”

Kyira: “Right and turning it into a strength to allow yourself to ask for help and be vulnerable when that is such a hard thing for you to do.”

Katrina: “Exactly.”

Kyira: “Thank you so much for being a part of this project and for being so vulnerable with me.”

Katrina: “Absolutely. Thank you.”