Saskia: “I kind of like make sense of things by writing stuff down. So I wrote some stuff down that kind of came to mind. I hope that’s OK if you don’t mind me reading through some of it.”

Kyira: “You can absolutely do that. And if it’s something that’s uncomfortable to read it out loud, if you want to just send it to me, I can also just copy and paste it in. So it’s your call. Whatever you want to do, however this feels …”

Saskia: “I’ll try talking through it.”

Kyira: “OK.”

Saskia: “Yeah, depending on how it goes.”

Kyira: “There could be more that comes out of it, right?”

Saskia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “So, and sometimes, too, I know, and the questions I sent, if those all fit for you, we can go through them. If there are other things that kind of pop out, you know, maybe we can add stuff in as we go."

Saskia: “Okay. Sure.”

Kyira: “So, the first one then, what made you decide that you wanted to do this?”

Saskia: “Yeah, so, I think that back in middle school and high school, I didn’t really understand what beauty was. And I kind of just knew of beauty as just like being pretty. And I think that in the last couple of years especially, coming to college and just starting to live life on my own, um, I kind of have come to a new understanding of beauty. And that’s kind of broken off into like three parts for me. So first, like feeling I think strong and beautiful, um, or feeling strong and healthy, sorry, is like the first part of being beautiful for me. Um, like I said, I think like even a few years ago, I didn’t really have the best perception of body ideals. Like I would like push myself to run an extra mile on the treadmill because kind of society had taught me that being thin is beautiful. And I wanted to alter myself to fit that standard.”

Kyira: “Mm, hmm.”

Saskia: “Um, and I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that that’s kind of, that that’s not …”

Kyira: “That’s bullshit?”

Saskia: “(Laughing.) Yes! That was actually what I wrote down, yeah! I didn’t know if I could say that.”

Kyira: “(Laughing.) You can say whatever you want. I drop f-bombs all the time in here.”

Saskia: “OK, yeah! So, yeah, I definitely realized that that’s bullshit. Um, and I’ve kind of come to understand that beauty means feeling strong and healthy. So I exercise because I, not because I want to fit a certain standard, but because it makes my body feel good.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Saskia: “Um, you also kind of put into it, like, you’ll get out of it what you put into it type of thing. And some days I’ve been able to run like 8 miles because my body tells me to keep going, and other days I run 3 or I don’t run at all because my body tells me to stop. And I like try to eat food that makes my body feel the best, which is a lot of fruits and vegetables just cuz they taste good to me. But I also love dessert, too, so I have dark chocolate like several times a week and that’s amazing (laughing).”

Kyira: “Yeah. Mm, hmm.”

Saskia: “So, I think it’s definitely all about balance and feeling strong and healthy is a big part of beauty to me.”

Kyira: “Yeah. So then tell me what it was like standing up there when you were doing your photo shoot and just like thinking about, you know, that strength, that listening to your body, doing those things. And then you’re in this really vulnerable space with somebody you don’t know, how did that challenge or shake that up for you a little bit?”

Saskia: “It did, um, in the sense that it was something, something new. Like I’ve never been directly photographed like that. But I didn’t mind it. I’ve come to appreciate my body and what it can do and the strength and power that it has. And that kind of like leads me into a little bit about self-love and how important that is. And I think this is something that I’ve learned, especially like falling in love in recent years, too, is that you really have to know your worth before someone else can see it and love yourself before someone else can love you, I think. Um, and so I think that that’s just like making an effort to love yourself a little more every day. And like obviously you don’t, like everybody has those days where you’re not at 100 percent, you look in the mirror and you’re not fully happy.”

Kyira: “Right.”

Saskia: “But I think it’s kind of, it’s not just like a singular milestone that you just reach and you’re like, ‘OK, now I’m like happy all the time and love myself all the time.’ It’s kind of just like, just like a lifelong journey, which sounds cheesy …”

Kyira: “No.”

Saskia: “But I feel like that’s true! So I think that like obviously no one’s perfect, but you do only get one body so if you can’t learn to love it, then you have a long life ahead of you.”

Kyira: “Right!”

Saskia: “So beauty, I think, is confidence.”

Kyira: “Yeah! So what do you think has been, you know, you’ve talked a lot about what you’ve learned to this point and how you’re learning to really build a relationship with your body, how you’re learning what you’re looking for. What’s been the hardest part getting to this?”

Saskia: “Mm, hmm. I think it’s so easy to compare yourself to other women. And I think growing up that that was something me and a lot of other girls I knew struggled with. But I think that comparison just negatively affects your well-being. Like I grew up looking at other girls and thinking, ‘Why can’t my hair be wavy like hers? Or why can’t my skin be tanner like hers?’ Um, but I realized that those girls were probably looking at other girls, wishing that they had individual characteristics of them. Which kind of leads to this cycle of girls wanting to look different instead of appreciating who they are.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Saskia: “And so I think that everybody is, I don’t know, I’ve learned that like that’s still hard and it’s still something that, like, when you look around every day that’s still something that you notice.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Saskia: “But like every body is different. And my body looks and performs differently than other girls’ bodies. But that’s something that should not be looked down upon, but celebrated.”

Kyira: “Yeah. Which I think you pointed out kind of tying with that other aspect is that, you know, how has culture influenced you? And so thinking, I almost imagined as you were talking, like you turning to your right and looking at this person and saying, ‘I wish that I had this, this and this.’ And that person turning to their right at somebody else, and it becomes this huge circle of just everybody wishing for something that they don’t have.”

Saskia: “Right.”

Kyira: “As opposed to sort of turning inward and celebrating that.”

Saskia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “How do you think, you know, we talked a little bit about society at large, but how do you think, you know, the friend group you grew in, the community you grew up in, maybe it’s family – how did that influence some of that for you growing up, some of those messages that you took on?”

Saskia: “Yeah, um, I think maybe when I was younger it was like, yeah, it was different. Like I remember my mom was someone who I always really looked up to, um, and sometimes I would hear her use like negative self-talk, which was – and not often – but that was still something that it’s like, ‘Oh …’”

Kyira: “It stands out for you, yeah.”

Saskia: “Really! And I think something that I still remember, too, is like in like high school, I would eat Wheat Thins sometimes, like that was like part of my lunch.”

Kyira: “Yeah!”

Saskia: “I loved Wheat Thins, for some reason.”

Kyira: “It’s cuz they’re bomb!”

Saskia: “Yeah! (Laughing.) And, like, on two separate occasions, I had two male members of my immediate family tell me like, on one occasion, like, ‘Hey, you know those are just empty calories, right?’ And then another time, it was just like, ‘Hey, you know those go right to your hips, right?’ So getting that message is something that still stands out to me. And I think … yeah.”

Kyira: “And not necessarily what the person’s saying that had intention of it sticking with you and like having such an impact, and it does.”

Saskia: “Right.”

Kyira: “So does that, do you eat Wheat Thins now?”

Saskia: “I still do sometimes, yeah (laughing).”

Kyira: “So do those messages tie in sometimes for you?”

Saskia: “They do, yeah. And so that’s where it’s hard because I want to like eat food that makes my body feel good. Um, but I also don’t want to do it because someone or society is telling me to.”

Kyira: “Exactly, yeah. And so there’s this like, like all of those little messages that build up over time that we carry with us. And it’s how do we sort of make peace with that and let those things go, too, and be able to move past them?”

Saskia: “Yeah.”

Kyira: “So when you think about that and you think of sort of holding on to some of those messages still, and all the work you’ve done to get to this point, how have you really celebrated that? And how can you continue to nurture yourself to continue fighting against some of those voices that you might still hear in your head from the past or even in the future?”

Saskia: “Yeah, so I think that happiness is a big part of beauty. I think it was Drew Barrymore that said, ‘Happy people are beautiful.’ They become like a mirror and they reflect that happiness. Um, and I feel beautiful when I’m laughing and smiling and surrounded by people that I love. And when I know that I’m surrounded by people who love me and who are supporting me no matter what, and then also that I’m able to be supportive about, too. And kind of, I just had this conversation about like body ideals and like self-image with one of my best friends a couple days ago. And she was like worried that she was complaining too much about this. And I was like, ‘No, it’s OK, like this is something that should be talked about.’”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Saskia: “So I think that, yeah, all in all, happiness with me is kind of the biggest part of what beauty means. And being surrounded by other people that also like want to, like enjoy the happiness of beauty as well.”

Kyira: “That’s right.”

Saskia: “And I think that this reinforces that beauty is not just about one’s self, but that the happiness and beauty was meant to be shared and given away.”

Kyira: “Yeah. That’s wonderful!”

Saskia: “Thank you!”

Kyira: “So when you, I almost even think about that last piece that you said being played on a tape, on replay over and over in your head.”

Saskia: “Yeah!”

Kyira: “And for others maybe, too, if they read this, of like holding on to that as they move in throughout their day as well.”

Saskia: “Yeah."