No Photos Please: why I entered an amateur modeling contest

I’ve been apprehensive about writing a body positivity post because I’m not an expert. In fact, I’m a young woman still trying to find her own sense of what it means to be confident about her own body. I have mixed feelings about what beauty and body positivity actually mean. So I thought the best thing to do was to share my journey up to this point.

The heavy chick that loves Harry Potter

Up until the last year or so I’ve known my “label” in society. I was the heavy girl who participated in activities but never said much: forever keeping my nose in a book (mostly Harry Potter) out of concern about being noticed too much. It’s not to say I wasn’t social, I definitely was but in a much less confident way. To me, social gatherings meant photographs; whether it was pre-game photos with the girls before a night out in college, a team photo at a sporting event or just a friend wanting to take a selfie. Cameras were everywhere and internally I wanted to hide.

Dress-up is only for dolls

I conveyed a false confidence but secretly dreaded getting dressed up because being “plus-sized” meant limited clothing choices. This is partially because although I was heavy I’ve never been curvy so most clothes I liked in my measly section of the store weren’t made to fit my body. Plus I’ll be honest some of the designs they put on clothes sizes 14 and up can just be heinous and ghastly. I can’t tell you how many times I threw something back on the rack in disgust thinking, “Who in the hell picked this pattern?!”

I honestly said to my mom after a particularly frustrating shopping trip, “I feel like designers are taking left over scraps of crappy patterns, stitching them together in the dark and then putting them on the rack to be sold to girls like me.” In other words, I felt like the fashion industry didn’t give a crap about my self-expression because I wasn’t in the straight-sized category.

Dad advice

By reading this you may be thinking, “wow this girl is insecure.” When it came to my own body image I absolutely was but not when it came to other things. I grew up in a household where hard work and your smarts were paramount. So in the grand scheme of things focusing on being beautiful wasn’t made a priority.

I remember when I was younger and got my heart broken for the first time because a guy chose the girl that was “thinner and prettier” by societies standards. My Dad told me something I didn’t realize was going to be very important for me in my life. He said, “You don’t need someone to complete you. You’re already a smart, independent, driven young woman – go after what you want and the rest will follow.” He was right and YES I’m actually admitting that Dad. So as I got older I shifted my focus to what made me happy which was building my career and entering into those situations with confidence. But instead of conquering my issues with body image I buried them.

Don’t give someone a compliment by putting yourself down

When I went through a health crisis that meant it was necessary for me to lose a large amount of weight so all those body image issues were brought to the surface for the first time. It was a real battle to find my footing as I shed pound after pound through healthy eating and exercise. In one way I felt positive about the direction of my health but my body wasn’t the same. Where did I fit in? What was my label?

Now at a size 10-12 (depending on the brand) I was seeing a stark difference in the way society looked at me. Now I get compliments on an outfit or told how pretty I look or how muscular my legs are. It’s unsettling to hear things like that to me but I’m learning that taking compliments is a crucial part of body positivity. But I’ve noticed that a compliment I’m given is often times followed by that person saying something negative about his or her own body. Please remember your words are powerful. What you say about yourself is what you start to believe so be kind.

Show me your best Blue Steel pose

Realizing my need to build body confidence I began searching for ways to show myself I could be comfortable in my own skin. That’s when I saw an ad for an amateur model competition for women who were sizes 10 and up. Having my picture taken was always my worst nightmare so why not take that fear head on? I reached out to my friend Caitlin to help me with this new venture. So armed with only a camera, zero experience, and Caitlin’s knowledge from watching America’s Next Top Model we headed to a park. I had done my hair and make-up to the best of my ability and put on my favorite dress and we just started snapping pictures.

Honestly, Caitlin and I had a blast! I’ve never had more fun taking photos where I’m in the spotlight. I was so grateful that she made this experience relaxing for me. We were just two friends goofing around with a camera without worrying about how professional or beautiful the photos looked. That’s when I realized I could have done this even when I was 60 pounds heavier. I didn’t need to wait to be thinner to enjoy an experience like this with one of my best friends.

No labels needed

After that I was excited to submit my photos to the contest. It doesn’t matter if I hear back or not because that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know what “label” I’m supposed to fall under because I don’t want to be categorized. I finally did something good for my body that didn’t involve excelling at a sport or exercise. It was just simply getting to stand there in a favorite outfit and smile from ear to ear because I felt confident in my own skin.

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And in case you were wondering yes I’m still a Harry Potter nerd! That’ll never change 🙂

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