Sarah & Chelsea

Kyira: “Thank you so much for coming in and being a part of this project. To get us started, I am interested in sharing with people why you think this project is so important?”

Sarah: “I wanted to be a part of this because I grew up in Utah and was taught to be very modest and demur and when I got older and more into counter-culture, I started to lose that idea and became more comfortable and confident in my body as it was. But now, I face a new challenge in that people tell me that my body and my confidence makes them uncomfortable. The way I dress makes them uncomfortable. The way I portray myself makes them uncomfortable.  And I feel like it is very important we stop concerning ourselves so much with other people’s bodies that they make us uncomfortable. Like, this is just my body. You have one too. You have all of the same stuff going on and so I just think we need to be more comfortable with each other’s bodies.”

Kyira: “Right, right. It just makes me think about what you were talking about a little bit before with seeing this as being a form of art and how each of should have the opportunity to showcase the art of our body in our own way. And it’s sad that people get uncomfortable with how someone chooses to do that instead of celebrating you being able to be you. Chelsea, what about for you?

Chelsea: “For me, my reasoning is a little bit different. I hate how society makes women think that we have to be a size 0 to be beautiful and that if you are anything more than that, you are ugly and gross. I had stomach cancer last year and gained a bunch of weight before having surgery. I was 180 lbs and the comments people would make at that time, like “Wow, you looked so much better when you were thin” or “You have so many stretch marks and veins now” and things like that just made it so hard. I mean I was so looking forward to my surgery, yes because my stomach had to come out because I had cancer, but I was excited because I wanted it out of me so I could lose weight to feel good again. I think that is just a little bit fucked up.”

Kyira: “Yeah, for sure.”

Chelsea: “I mean I should want my stomach out of me so I could live and beat cancer but I just cared about losing the weight. And after I recovered from cancer I developed an eating disorder. I am obsessed with my calories and won’t allow myself to be over 120 lbs. If I go over 1600 calories in a day, I will starve myself and I will go and do cardio until I lose those pounds. I will go to Anytime Fitness and will run until I am at the verge of passing out and then I will go on the scale and if I don’t lose that weight, I will keep running until I lose it. And it’s just sad, like from those people telling me all of those fucked up comments, I grew this disorder. And this project, to me, is a way to bring awareness around the fact that your comments can really fuck someone up. And for me, its fucked up because I am alive because I beat cancer and all I focus on is my weight and I should be able to just celebrate beating cancer. Ugh…I don’t know. It’s just such a mess. I mean, I am still in recovery from an eating disorder – I see a therapist and nutritionist, and yeah…So, (sigh) that is why I am doing this because I am in recovery and this is part of the next step.”

Kyira: “Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And I think that is such an important piece, too, of there being the added complexity of, not only did you have to deal with cancer, but the fact that where people should have been supporting you through it, they made it about your weight. And you shouldn’t have to have given an excuse to anyone for gaining weight –it was ultimately no one’s business you had cancer to begin with, weight gain or not…(pause)…God, that is just…”

Chelsea: “Wicked, right…pretty fuckin heavy.”

Kyira: “It’s totally tuggin’ on my heart strings as you talk about your journey.”

Chelsea: “Yeah and that’s what I want people to know – even if you say the littlest stuff, it has an impact. I mean I was always really tiny but when I had to gain all of that weight and heard all of their reactions, I couldn’t help but be obsessed with my calories and weight. Even though its making me sick, like I am cramping or when I eat too much, I just want to purge and I just don’t want to go into that area or further down this road. And its important people know that when you see someone thin and you react like ‘wow they look so great’, you don’t know why they are that thin or what they feel or go through to get there.”

Kyira: “Ugh, yeah, exactly. And people assume that being thin equates to being happy and in most cases, it doesn’t.”

Chelsea: “No and people say things all the time like ‘oh you look so cute in that outfit’ or ‘oh you’re so tiny’ but they have no idea what the fuck I put myself through to look like this.”

Kyira: “And thinking about that idea and the impact of culture in general, how would you say that culture has impacted your perceptions of beauty? I mean especially as Chelsea, you talk about the standards people hold and judgments they make.”

Chelsea: “I feel like this is so heavy, I mean I got pretty heavy with that first question.”

Kyira: “Well I feel like the point of this project is not to just celebrate people’s bodies but also to think about how we talk about them and this shits not comfortable. But we have to get to the point where we can move past that to say what needs to be said and keep the conversation going without shutting it down.”

Sarah: “Yeah for sure, I mean because one thing I have never understood is why nudity is taboo. I have never understood that. I mean, when did we decide that all of the sudden, like dude, tits...bad.”

Caitlin: “For sure, I mean even for kids too. Like my cousin, I would babysit her and she would just wear bottoms and parents would be like ‘where is her top?’ and I am like, ‘Well one, she is comfortable like this and two, she is also just 3, so…’.”

Kyira: (laughter) “Yeah, I mean what?”

Sarah: “Or someone posted a photo of their newborn child naked on Facebook because I mean, come on, that’s how we are born, and when I came across it in my news feed I saw comments like ‘um, why did you post a picture of a naked baby on Facebook?’”

Kyira: “That’s so strange.”

Chelsea: “No my biggest one is when women are breastfeeding and people think that’s gross.”

Kyira: “Right and censor it."

Sarah: “Yeah”

Caitlin: “Yeah”

Chelsea: “I don’t like that because I think it is beautiful. I love seeing women feed their children. I have read articles and memes that say things like ‘Where do you eat? Oh right, at a table in a restaurant. So you want a woman to feed her child in the bathroom? Would you eat in the bathroom?’ Like I wouldn’t so let the woman be. I mean it’s not like she is squirting milk at everyone or flashing her breast all over the place. She is merely feeding her child. Like, no big fucking deal. People are just too sensitive.”

Caitlin: “And that just shows that we still tend to sexualize things when they don’t need to be sexualized.”

Chelsea: “Exactly.”

Caitlin: “And that’s a whole other issue.”

Kyira: “I think that ties back into your question, Sarah, of not only when did we shy away from nudity but when did we start over sexualizing every part of the human body because I think that was the point we closed the door on nudity.”

Sarah: “Right, I mean we have been oversexualized to the point where, in high school, I got dress coded so many times the school eventually gave up on me. And it was over little things like my shoulders or stomach were showing. I mean, I am not the bustiest girl in the world so it’s not like my breasts were hanging out or anything. I wore things that covered my butt, I wasn’t flashing my body, just wearing things that made me comfortable. I even got dress coded in beauty school for being able to see my bra through my shirt.”

Kyira: “Wait, for real?”

Chelsea: “Yeah, I mean I go to school with her and she wears the trends and you know, like wears crop tops and outfits like that - nothing bad. There is this one woman we work with who, I think, thinks she can’t wear things like that, probably from her own issues with loving her own body, and rather than work through that or face that, is mean to Sarah and says things like ‘Oh my God, she is such a slut’ and it’s like, come on. How does clothing make someone a slut?”

Kyira: “Right, like she has internalized a message that these clothes are bad or symbolize something and…”

Caitlin: “Right and then projected her insecurities on someone else because she wasn’t comfortable in her own body.”

Sarah: “And she kept saying things like how I dressed made me such a slut until people started saying that that wasn’t okay so she changed it to ‘The way she dresses makes me uncomfortable’ which then forced others to say things like, well we can’t stop her from saying that because that’s not bad and it’s like, but YES IT IS because it’s my body and my body shouldn’t make her feel uncomfortable.”

Kyira: “And it probably does lie more in the fact that she is uncomfortable but for different reasons. It’s likely more like, ‘I have been told I can’t wear this and it makes me sad so I am uncomfortable because I look at someone doing something I would long to be able to do but in our culture, I would be shamed for wearing something like that’. So there is truth to her discomfort and the issue isn’t in that. It’s in the fact that it is coming out as her trying to censor your body which is then added oppression and is not okay. So it’s a very complicated and intricate shitty-ness that I think really limits people from so many angles in our society. Chelsea, how would you say culture has impacted the way you see yourself and your perception of beauty?”

Chelsea: When I weighed 180lbs and I would look at magazines I would be like ‘Damn, I wish I looked like this’ and would think ‘I was that skinny and now I have stretch marks and I don’t like my body’ and all of these other things and the problem is that we all want to look like the people in the magazines and forget that these photos are super edited and unrealistic. And when I was that weight, I would just dream about looking like that even knowing what I knew. And now, when I’ve lost all of the weight, I still feel unhappy, even though I do look more like that now. And people aspire to look like people like Kylie Jenner and other people in the media, and it’s like, the only reason they look like that is because of surgery and…”

Sarah: “And because they have way more time and energy to dedicate into looking like that and it’s not realistic for people and no one should think that that is normal.”

Caitlin: “And there’s the money factor. Like, I have this insecurity…no problem I am just going to go pay to get it fixed.”

Chelsea: “Right and for people like us, who are in school and don’t have money like that, we can’t just be like ‘oh, I want plump lips, I am going to just go get lip fillers’. And for many people who don’t have that luxury or can’t change themselves they feel like they should be able to, it can lead to feelings of depression where you can go the opposite route and just eat all of the time or not take care of yourself. I mean that’s how I overate. I didn’t plan on gaining a bunch of weight, it just happened. I found out I had cancer, got depressed and turned to food. And that’s so hard. And it didn’t help having things like magazines and people saying how much better I looked when I was skinnier and all of that. Even when I lost weight again then it was like, those comments are forever in my head and impact me every day and…ugh…oh my God…”

Kyira: “Do you think, now, when you look at yourself you still see the person at 180lbs or do you think you see a realistic picture of what you look like today?”

Chelsea: “When I look in the mirror, I like the way I look, but it’s not healthy. I mean, I am about 5’7”…5’8” and should weigh about 125 to 135lb or somewhere around there and I just weighed myself when I went to the doctor - because I had to - and I weigh about 110lb. So I am extremely underweight. A few weeks of days ago, too, I weighed myself when I was in Louisville and weighed about 105lb so I guess I fluctuate between 105-110 which is called the “Red Zone” and if I were to lose 5 more pounds, I might be looking into something like a feeding tube. And I mean, I like the way I look but I know it’s not healthy and that’s why I am working on recovery because even though I like it and even in some ways still look at myself and see areas I want to fix or lose more weight in, I know I can’t or else I am going to be looking at going back to the hospital.”

Kyira: “Which is such a bind to be in and something that is so hard for people to understand.”

Chelsea: “Yeah, like, there is even this one girl I know who got through her eating disorder and is trying to help me by pushing me to eat more and like, honestly, for someone who is going through an eating disorder, pushing them to eat makes them want, even more, not to eat. And I know she is trying to help and she is genuinely trying to be a friend, but it doesn’t help. And it is hard because I don’t know where to go with that.”

Kyira: “And I think it’s the whole piece of, everyone has this idea of what is right and want to help you try to get to the point they deem as healthy and its hard because they are doing it from a good place but it is from a lens of self and not through a lens of truly understanding you and where you are at.

Chelsea: “Well, and I already see a therapist, a psychiatrist and a damn nutritionist and I…”

Kyira: “You talk about this enough.”

Chelsea: “Right I talk about this enough.”

Kyira: “Yeah I can imagine that is a difficult place to be in. I want to be mindful of time so I think the last question I have for you is how either of you celebrate or nurture your beauty or the ways you are really trying to bring that back into your life.”

Sarah: “I make my body positivity known and say things like ‘Yeah I love my body, my body is the shit’. And, for example, my roommate who just moved in a couple months ago, has always had to deal with a lot of body image issues and self-esteem stuff and since she has been living with me, she tells me every day how much better she is feeling just because she is constantly around me and sees how much I love myself and says that you can’t not be around that all of the time and absorb some of it yourself.”

Kyira: “That’s amazing.”

Sarah: “And knowing I can inspire other people to love themselves makes me feel even better about myself because I know I am making a positive impact on the world and can help put more positivity into the universe rather than negativity. And one thing that keeps coming up for me from the last question about culture I want to share is that the media is both what hypersexualized me and what shames me.”

Kyira: “Can you expand on that?”

Sarah: “The media is what pushes things like big butts and breasts and helps to overly sexualize woman but then when something happens to a woman or they get talked about in other capacities then they hypersexualize them. Like, ‘oh well she dressed like that so she is a whore’ or ‘she asked for what happened to her’, etc. But then it’s like, if you dress like a ‘prude’ then all you ever are is a prude to people.”

Kyira: “Right it’s like a no win situation.”

Sarah: “Yeah there are such loose definitions on all of it. Even, for example, in the dress code at school, it simply says ‘look professional’ and it’s like, what does that even mean?

Kyira:” Right but at the same time, the school likely has unwritten rules and expectations on what that looks like and means to them and there isn’t actually the same artistic freedom it suggests you might be able to have to dress in a way that makes you feel professional.”

Chelsea: “And not only that but in the beauty industry, it’s so expressive and artistic so it just makes no sense.”

Sarah: “Yeah so I just wanted to add that in.”

Kyira: Absolutely, I think it is important to talk about the irony in how things come together and pull people in so many different directions trying to do what is right that it can eventually lead people down this path of perfection-seeking that is not attainable.”

Sarah: “Yeah, so I just focus on how I project my body positivity into the world because people can only hate it for so long and eventually they need to just move on and deal with it.”

Kyira: “Yeah and I think that consistency is what helps create those ripples of change.”

Sarah: “Right and I try not to make it all about sexuality. I mean, I think it is important to be comfortable with your sexuality – I definitely am – but I think it is important to sometimes bring it away from all of that because that can lead to issues of misogyny and the patriarchy and a whole other load of issues. And like, even just being clear that I am doing this for other woman and to help them feel good about themselves for no one else but them.”

Kyira: “That’s so great. Chelsea how would you say that you nurture your beauty?”

Chelsea: “That was why I got into the cosmetology business because I can see people who come in and don’t feel good about themselves and I can do a little something to help them feel good when they leave. And that just makes me feel awesome. Even when I am not always feeling the greatest, to know I can have that impact on them to feel that way is great. And I try to focus on loving and living my life. I am so aware that life is short and I just don’t want to take any day for granted. My grandpa just died pretty unexpectedly and, just knowing that any fucking week could be your last…that’s almost how I like to think of it, like any minute could be your last and so I just need to do me and hope it doesn’t hurt people along the way.”

Kyira: “And I think a lot of times people think of that as being selfish or that you don’t care about anyone else but yourself and it’s not that…”

Chelsea: “No it’s not that. That is just their ego talking. It’s just about being able to live for you and not judge others with the strength to do that.”

Kyira: “Right and it is also important people see that loving yourself doesn’t mean that you don’t also walk through the world with kindness and compassion and humility. It just means that we can hold both.”

Sarah: “Right like I get told all of the time I am so into myself and I just feel like, is that a bad thing? I am the most consistent thing in my life, why wouldn’t I enjoy it? You have to focus on loving the one person you are with your whole life – you – and that is the most important thing.”

Kyira: “What a great way to end our talk at – learning to love you before all else. Thank you so much for being a part of this and letting me walk through this piece of your journey with you.”

Chelsea: “Absolutely.”

Sarah: “Yeah absolutely and thank you!”