Before I get into the nude story, I need to first congratulate my close friend Ada Juristovski and her mother, Mila Juristovski on their new and all natural, skin care product line called Nala Care. I was lucky enough to be asked to model for their campaign and the official launch of the result of their hard work and love.
When I received the text message from Ada, asking if I wouldn't mind posing partial or potentially full nude, I said "yes" right away. Not only was this an obvious product I could get behind, it was another opportunity for me to start loving my body, as it continues to change all the time.
The moment I agreed to do the shoot, my mind started racing. I could feel some of my old Anorexic habits coming back. My internal dialogue was reciting a destructive rhetoric conversation - one I'm all too familiar with.
"I SHOULDN'T EAT A FEW DAYS BEFORE, I'LL ONLY EAT SPINACH, I'LL WORK OUT AND DO A TON OF HOT YOGA ALL LEADING UP TO THE SHOOT."
I'm sorry to admit, that this conversation carried on for a few days. I felt like such a fraud when I'm constantly promoting that women need to love their body mission - Ra Ra Ra. I was doing the exact opposite.
My mind carried me back three years. Recall I hosted an art show in collaboration with a photographer back in July 2015, at the Vancouver Urban Winery/Belgarde Kitchen event space on Alexander and Dunlevy (Railtown). Regardless If you were or were not there, I'll break it down for you.
The photographer and I created portraits of each other, trading our crafts. I drew her nude, and she photographed me nude. We wanted to have an honest conversation about our bodies. This meant, nothing sexy, completely unedited and a focus on what we considered "our problem areas".
I hate using that word now, let's reconsider it to be our tender, vulnerable yet powerful, womanly areas that we love. ;)
The photos captured the tears that welled in my eye while I was in a room with the photographer snapping my curves, my rolls on my tummy and back, my round bottom, my muscular thighs, and my face without makeup. I cried the entire time. I cried from embarrassment and I cried because I was finally releasing.
The finished photographs were beautiful and so well done. You could see my vulnerability through each photo and the heartbreak and shame I felt about my body at that time. I couldn't appreciate the craftsmanship and talent of the photographer, I could only criticize myself. I hesitated and cried to the lead up of the show. I didn't want anyone to see my "fat" around my tummy, or to notice my soccer legs and the fact that they rub together, or my squishy arms and small chest. I'm sure you can imagine the conversation, and how nasty it turned. I was afraid.
Can you believe it? I feared myself. I feared the judgement of others on my body. My body who does wonders for me. My body who takes me from point A to point B. Who wakes up every morning, who has all their limbs and muscles. A working heart and brain. I hated that?!? I couldn't get past my exterior which destroyed my spirit far beyond I would ever imagine until today, three years later I can say that that exhibit and that moment was pivotal in my life.
The only thing that kept going, and pushing through to showcase our work together was the desire I had to help others. I wanted to use my body as a vessel to create a relationship with other women. I wanted to stand proud and risk myself to judgement of men and women. I wanted women to look at my body, my imperfections, and my vulnerability, and say "I look like that". I wanted women to finally find peace with themselves and think, if she can do that, I can too. I wanted to create an opportunity for women to start to change their habits and start loving themselves today because that's all I wanted for myself.
What I didn't expect was the utter liberation I felt after I bared my body to 300 + people who came to support me and my artwork. That moment, I felt changed - it has taken me years after that relinquishing moment to fully embrace my body (more on this in a bit). That's a feeling, a certain glow, from that night that I'll carry with me forever.
YES, MY COLLEAGUES HAVE SEEN MY NAKED SELF, MY FAMILY, MY EXTENDED FAMILY, EX-BOYFRIENDS, COMMUNITY, AND YOU KNOW WHAT, IT WAS MAGIC. IT'S LIKE THEY KNOW WHO I AM, THEY'VE SEEN IT ALL AND THEY STILL CHOOSE TO SPEND TIME WITH ME.
I feel like I had that moment for Nala Care. The moment I showed up for the photoshoot I was at ease. I didn't stick to my plan of dieting, in fact I went out the night before and had too many tacos and margaritas with my girlfriends because it made me happy. The whole shoot was around natural selves, we hardly had any makeup on and our hair was pretty much the same as it was when I rolled out of bed.
WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FREE-FROM?
This was the question we were posed while at the shoot. Free from carcinogens, free from poison, free from restrictions, free from expectations, free from body shame, free from self-loath, free from "what we're suppose to do".....
The entire experience was a fun. Friends of all different shapes and sizes rejoiced and celebrated our health, youthfulness (at any age), and love for each other. There was nothing toxic about the situation and we got to stand behind a product we love and a family who's changing the way we treat our bodies - thank-you Ada and Mila!
Think about the people you choose to spend your time with, they can greatly impact the way we think about ourselves.
Of course I had moments of doubt, like any woman would during the shoot. The years of hard work have somewhat paid off, because the negative thoughts that surfaced were easy thoughts to let go of. We were cheering each other one from the sidelines as we bared it all for the camera. I knew we had each other's backs.
"It's OK, I accept that I'm having these thoughts, but it does not define me." It's not an easy thing to do, because we tend to fight those thoughts and get angry when we can't accept it right away. Deep breaths, because it's OK. This takes practice and willingness to change.
With that, I stand here admitting that I am supporting myself and all womankind to be free-from my our thoughts. Separating spirit from our minds is our practice. Start living in spirit and allow your mind to have negative thoughts without allowing your spirit ingest it.
AFTER ALL, FEAR REQUIRES FEAT. IT'S JUST FEAR, AND REALLY THERE'S NOTHING TO FEAR WHEN YOU'RE IN CONTROL.
That moment of showing my bare body to someone else set me on a path to provide the same experience to my clients. My work is about vulnerability, and appreciating what we have. The simple act of baring it all to a stranger, or a friend, and inscribing your body and expression into your own portrait is so powerful. It's capturing a moment in time about how you feel about yourself and what you're going through today. It can change, I've had clients come back for new portraits, whether it's a pregnancy, or they initially came in a period of darkness and they're back to celebrate their break-throughs.
I dare you to face your fears today, even if it's just 1 minutes worth - it's a start.
Lots of love to all of you,