Kyira: “What made this project feel important for you to be a part of?

Lydia: “I don’t know I mean I found it because I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I saw the event come up and i feel like as soon as I saw the title on it, I was just really intrigued and then, when I was reading about it I was just like, ‘Wow, I have been waiting for something like this.”. And you know, I feel like a lot of people kind of were because I mean you saw such a high response on it right away with so many people interested and sharing the event. And so I just thought that there was no way I could pass this up and just felt like I really needed to do this. I mean because, yeah, it is hard feeling like, cause I have never felt like…I don't know how to phrase this…um, like it is so evident that there is like one body type that is primarily celebrated and i have never really felt included in that and I feel like if no one else is going to represent me then I have to do it for myself. And I know there are a lot of other people out there who face that too. I was actually just talking to…well my cousin just posted something on Facebook about how a lot of people get worked up about the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show around this time and she was just saying that like, it sucks but also, as someone who is a curvier body person they have never represented me so I have had to work to kind of do that for myself an feel okay in my own body because not everyone is rail thin and not everyone can look at this models and be like ‘yes, that is what women look like’.

Kyira: “Right.”

Lydia: “Um…I don’t know. Sorry, I feel like this answer is going in all different directions.”

Kyira: “It feels like it is going in a direction important to you and that is important for others to hear and talk about as well.”

Lydia: “Yeah. I mean I guess the point is that there does need to be more representation of bodies in our culture. People do need to see other representations of beauty and know that it doesn’t have to do with how your body looks necessarily. There is not, like, one cookie cutter image that we should be trying to fit.”

Kyira: “Yeah and I think that piece is so powerful, what you said about people who haven’t been represented in our culture so they have had to represent themselves, and likely, often with judgment.”

Lydia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “I mean I feel like sometimes I experience society as being polarized when it comes to beauty so I have also seen people then shame those that do fit more into that mold, like Victoria’s Secret models and while I think there can be deeper discussions on healthy versus unhealthy, I don't think the answer is to switch the direction of shame. It is what you said in that everyone needs to be represented and beauty should extend outward to be inclusive of everyone no matter the body type.”

Lydia: “Yeah, I hate that mindset too. I mean because there is a difference in celebrating body types and shaming others. Celebrating all different types of bodies does not mean putting others down who have a different body type - from any end of the spectrum. It’s not about trying to find a fault in how others look or bringing others down to bring you up. It is about celebrating each and every body type and person and knowing that one person’s body type is not the only body type that is out there.”

Kyira: “That is even, I had somebody talk to me about this same concept having to do with make-up. Someone asked me that because I ask people to come to these photoshoots with little to no make-up did I feel like wearing make-up was bad or something that we should be rebelling against. And honestly, no that would never be a thought I would have or an intention in this project. Make-up is something that does a lot for a lot of people. I mean some days I feel so great trying out different looks or adding some color to my face. The biggest question, I think, that we have to think about though when it comes to anything, make-up included, is what is the reason behind it. Are you using make-up because you feel like you have to or that is the only way you can feel beautiful in your own skin or is make-up something you do for you and something you know adds different layers to your self expression but does not change your inherent worth. I mean, even people who fit into that “box” in terms of body types, I feel like it draws on that idea of healthy versus unhealthy. Are you having to work hard every day - dieting, exercising, restricting, etc - in order to fit into some arbitrary mold because you feel like you have to, essentially removing yourself from the possibility of daily joy in your life. Or are you naturally of that body type where you can say, ‘You know, this is how my body seems to naturally be. This is who I am and it is okay for me to be comfortable in my skin as well as for you to be comfortable in yours as well.”

Lydia: “Yeah absolutely.”

Kyira: “So I feel like we tapped into it a bit already but thinking more explicitly about culture. How do you see the culture that you grew up in influencing the way you see yourself as beautiful?”

Lydia: “I don’t know I mean because, like, I have always known that I am not necessarily super overweight but I am not super skinny as well, like a lot of performers or whatever. And as much as you want to say you won’t let it get to you, I feel like it is inevitable because we are always surrounded by it and I don't know, I feel like I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression, and I mean I still do, but it was really bad in terms of my body image and sense of body positivity for a long time. Like, in the gutter for awhile. And then I feel like I just reached a point within like the last year or two where I was like, ‘You know, I am sick of doing things all of the time to try and make myself more enjoyable for people to look at me.’ I mean I am not here to please other people, like I mean at least with how I look.  I am not walking out of my house every day thinking. ‘Okay, I hope everyone is satisfied with how I look.’

Kyira: (laughter) “Right. Like, let’s do a survey…’Sir, how do you feel about how I look? Ma’am, what about you?”

Lydia: “Yeah, no fuck that…” (laughter) “And I think that is another really interesting thing because you were mentioning make-up and like, I am someone who wears full face make-=up every day. And you are right, for a while I wore it every day because I felt like that was how people expected to see me and when I wouldn’t wear it, I felt like people were staring. I mean it sucked because I would like see people I know on the street and they would like double take because they couldn’t figure out who I was. It’s like ‘hey guys, yep this is what I look like without make-up. Here is my face.’ But I mean, like now it is just like, I don’t know, I don’t know why I was so self-conscious and needed make-up for so long. It makes me feel sad for people still in that where, when they show up somewhere without make-up on they say things like, ‘Oh, I am so sorry for my appearance today’ and it is like, you don't owe anyone an apology. And so now, I mean I wear make-up for me and because it is fun, not for anyone else. And like, it is cool if you think it looks nice but I am not doing it for anyone else anymore. It is something that now allows me to feel creative and like I am expressing myself.”

Kyira: “And you have gone through that journey then of doing it for reasons that were perpetuated by other people and now you can see what it feels like to do it for you and you have reclaimed your sense of what it means to wear make-up so it is for you and no one else.”

Lydia: “Yeah I mean it is not a tool that I use and think anything different about others who don't use it or don't like it. I mean if you don’t like make-up that is fine. It doesn't have to be your thing.”

Kyira: “Right, you are equally as valuable with or without it.”

Lydia: “Right it is purely a tool of expression and if it is not your cup of tea than who is anyone else to tell you that you are wrong?”

Kyira: “Right. I love that. And I feel like you might already be alluding to this a bit, but what has been the hardest part for you in this journey to being able to now go through your day and make choices that feel congruent with who you are and your values?”

Lydia: “I feel like a lot of my journey with that has been to of second guessing myself because I am definitely someone that gets inside of their own head. And I mean, you kind of start to tear yourself apart after awhile, like, if you are looking in on yourself for that long. So, I think for me it has been, like especially in the last year, just that I have gotten tired of a lot of things, like I don’t like having people think I owe them something because I am my own person and I don’t owe anyone some sort of validation or whatever. Like I need to be here for myself because ultimately I am the one who always can be there for me.”

Kyira: “Yeah, how powerful.”

Lydia: “And so I think a lot of it has just been self expression and like, showing people that I can do what I want and not feel the need to follow the rules they are trying to ascribe to me.”

Kyira: “And that going in that direction doesn’t make you an uncaring person. That you can be a wonderful, warm and caring person without living for everyone else.”

Lydia: “Yeah, and I think a lot of what has made me feel comfortable and like, I mean because you kind of feel bad for being selfish like that sometimes even though it shouldn't be a bad thing to take care of yourself…”

Kyira: “Or even the way we so quickly ascribe that to being ‘selfish’. Because that is what our culture tells us to think. ‘Oh you actually give a shit about yourself and your needs? You are one selfish, cocky, arrogant…fill int he blank person’.”

Lydia: “Yeah for sure. And I feel like I have gotten a lot of support from people I have surrounded myself with in the last couple of years and have cut out those people who do treat me like I owe them something or talk down to me or whatever. Like, I don't have time to spend with anyone else who makes me feel bad about myself after I spent so much time already doing that to myself.”

Kyira: “Yeah for sure.”

Lydia: ”So I think it has helped me to surround myself with people who do make me feel beautiful, not just for my appearance but for the complete and full version of me. I also think it is really interesting to think about how beauty is usually only a word we hear about to describe outside appearance. Like, that is definitely not all there is to it.”

Kyira: “Exactly, it is us in our completeness not us in pieces. So thinking about the wisdom you have gleaned throughout your journey and all of these steps you have taken, how do you nurture or celebrate that so you don’t fall back into some of those old patterns?”

Lydia: “I mean I definitely think it is a journey and sometimes I do find myself falling back into some of those behaviors. But when I do notice I am doing things like looking at myself in the mirror and thinking things like ‘Yikes” I remind myself that yes, it is a journey and it is okay to sometimes fall back into that as long as you remember that this is not me in these moments and I have the strength to move forward again. I mean, recovering from mental illness and things that skew your view of yourself, you learn that it is not a linear journey and you have to take the gains with the setbacks. And it is okay to, in those moments, just remember that it is a process that takes time and work to get through it. Some days you are going to be doing really really well and you almost forget that some of those things were a part of you and then some days they come back and smack you right in the face. And so I feel like you just have to remember that those negative feelings and thoughts are not permanent and that you have the strength to get back out of that.”

Kyira: “Yeah absolutely.”

Lydia: “I mean and as someone who has been through a lot of stuff that does take a little more time to process and recover from, I mean that is really heavy stuff and I have gotten really far already and can feel proud of the progress I have made.”

Kyira: “And not only that you can but you deserve to be proud of it. I mean the work you have done in your journey requires a very different type of strength and perseverance and you have fought every step of the way to get where you have gotten.”

Lydia: “Thank you.”

Kyira: “No thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being a part of this project, we are so grateful to have the opportunity to share your story with everyone.”