When I was younger all I wanted was to look like someone else... At the time it was Pamela Anderson. (It could stem from my Barbie obsession or perhaps because she was dating dreamboat Kelly Slater) All the boys liked her and in my eyes she was perfect. I would spend HOURS looking through magazines deciding who I wanted to look like, everyone was so much more fabulous than me. I decided that when I grew up I wanted to be tanned, with blonde hair and big boobs. Alas, it didn't look like that was going to happen. I was fair with pimples, mousy brown hair and the boobs were not developing at a rate I would have liked.
I was at my Aunty's house one day and she had WHO Weekly's Stars Without Makeup edition. There on the cover was Pammy. It was not a good day for her. I stared in disbelief - Pam had pimples. And she wasn't that tanned after all. That pesky paparazzi had caught Pam when she was far from 'perfect'. I flicked through the issue to find more stars with pimples! Cameron Diaz - WHAAAATTTTTT?!!!! Cindy Crawford said she had cellulite. All of these amazingly gorgeous women who I had spent so long fawning over looked.... "normal". It was a revelation. Until then I thought they were a different breed, the pimple-less poreless skin kind.
My little developing mind shifted that day. I made some excuse to my Aunty about why I needed that magazine for homework and kept it safe in my wardrobe to bring out whenever I needed a reminder that Pammy had bad days too.
That was huge shift numero uno.
The next thing I recall is being at uni, I was 17 and still a little insecure about my looks, asking my friends if they could look like anyone else in the world who would it be? (I was onto Britney Spears at that stage FYI) One of my best friends said "I wouldn't want to look like anyone else" Huh? Why not? (this idea was so foreign to me) "Because then I wouldn't be me"
Whoa, such wisdom.*
Fast track to my twenties and I'm surrounded by the most beautiful friends you could poke a stick at and hearing their insecurities. Are you kidding me? But you look like you!!! Yeah well I don't see that. And that is when it all bloody clicked... No matter what we were looking like we weren't happy. Everyone had their insecurities. Were we conditioned to thinking like that or was it part of our DNA? I still don't know the answer to that question but I want to help be part of the movement that changes the way we think about ourselves.
I don't want my daughter to waste the time I did worrying about my looks and obsessing over looking like other people. I sometimes wonder what else I could've been doing in that time.... And I also think it must be so much harder for young girls these days what with the Instagram, the FaceTune, the selfie filters etc. I can't bare to imagine growing up with those distractions and distortions on reality!
So, those are the main things that led me to where I am today... Helping women take time out for themselves to make photos that they can proudly look at and say "THIS IS ME - I AM BEAUTIFUL" There is no retouching and there's definitely no distorting. It can be uncomfortable to look at yourself like that and you may cringe but I guarantee if you can't appreciate these photos now you will look back on them one day and think wow, what a beauty. Ageing has a wonderful way of making you appreciate what you had when you didn't realise...
So for the sake of our next generations I encourage you to do what you can to make peace with your body and your looks. We are in a time where there is so much to be done to heal this world and if we can start with ourselves we'll be a lot better off...
Thanks for being here. Be kind to yourself and your kindness will flood the world.**
*Side note - At the thought of writing this piece I contacted that uni friend the other night and told her about the profound effect that her response had on me and she admitted that the ironic thing was that she didn't feel that at the time of saying it. Isn't it incredible what effect your words and actions can have on others, no matter how small. Thank you for your effect on me dear pal, you know who you are. x
**That's not my quote - Pema Chödrön said it.