Something to Say
By Kyla Palin
Alright, I’ve got something to say and I’ve been searching for a way to explain it. Are you seated comfortably? Good. We’ll begin. See, here’s the thing;
Seeing fashionable, well photographed, curvy models has altered my perception of my own beauty.
Allow me to explain.
As a teenager in the 80’s and 90’s, I enjoyed magazines like Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and Seventeen. In between articles and photo spreads involving Ralph Macchio, Johnny Depp, and the Coreys, were endless tips on how to be prettier, smaller, less like a hippy, spotty, greasy haired teenager. I mean how dare I go through puberty like that?
Fast forward through decades of flipping through Chatelaine, Vogue, Cosmo…the acceptable magazines for women. As I grew even hippier, spottier (thanks pregnancies!) and don’t get me started on my hair, I remember feeling Not Good Enough. And I wasn’t, if I believed the lines I was being fed. Heaven help me if I caught sight of myself in a mirror, or saw a full length photo of me. I saw myself as ugly. And by extension, I saw other larger women, as ugly.
It makes me cringe to admit this, but I used to inwardly sneer and think to myself “I hope I never get that big” or “How could she let herself go like that?” I did. I admit it. And I’m so sorry. But stick with me for a moment.
I decided a few years ago to adjust my social media settings to provide a stream of only inspirational posts, interspersed with the family and friends updates. I exchanged the “fit-spiration” posts for the “fat-spiration” posts. I don’t know how long the bloggers had actually been writing, but I feel like during those years, there was an explosion of body positive blogs and instagrammers all over the internet. I started pouring over the amazing clothes they were reviewing, and admiring their style. Suddenly all I was seeing were unashamed women of size.
When I shopped online, many of the companies were using actual plus size models to model their plus size fashions. I drank it all in, then despaired when I learned shipping to Canada was not going to happen. Le sigh.
Then something astounding happened. I picked up a straight-size store’s catalogue. It might have rhymed with “nears”. Can you guess what happened then?
The regular models looked WEIRD.
They did, those typical slim models, which designers love to dress looked so odd. Where were their hips? Thighs? Breasts? How did women shop like this, seeing women without womanly curves? I could see the aesthetic, clothes did hang nicely on their bodies. Designers want you to see the line of their designs. I get that. These were gorgeous women too. But something had happened to my perception of larger-size women. I preferred to see models showing me what clothes would look like on ME.
Slowly, something else started happening. I could look at regular women on the street and find beauty in each of them. I accepted it, and changed my internal dialogue. My thoughts changed to “Oh look how happy and lovely she is!” and “What a great dress!” And by extension, I changed my internal dialogue towards myself. Sometimes I do still cringe when I see a photograph where my double chin is showing, or my belly isn’t sucked in. Though who doesn’t?? I’ve never been larger than I am right now. I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin than I am right now. Besides, I still have rocking deep brown eyes and a big smile.
I am beautiful.
I couldn’t write those words even a few years ago. Seeing women like me in the media changed how I see myself. Imagine if I’d been able to see this in the teen magazines twenty years ago. Imagine if my teenage daughter could see this in her magazines of today. I don’t just mean size. Show us girls with imperfect skin, hair that frizzes, differently abled. Show us the amazing diversity of humanity.
Imagine if every girl grew up knowing they are beautiful just as they are.
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