I never grew up feeling “pretty”. When I was younger, I used to stand next to my older sister and watch her pick on her modelesque appearance in the mirror. I remember lifting up my shirt and examining my waist, realizing it wasn’t as small as hers, and my hips were wider. Why did we originate from the same origin, yet she was so much thinner than I was? What’s wrong with me? I can’t be a model like my sister if I look like this, can I be?
Fast-forward a few years later, and I’m modeling at the ripe age of 14. I’m experiencing what many young adults will never experience. Being critiqued at every angle in an agency office is traumatizing. I’m eating a cup of oatmeal for breakfast, an apple for lunch, and a piece of tofu with spinach for dinner. The gym is my drug: 45 minutes on the treadmill, 45 minutes on the elliptical, and 45 minutes on the bike. The time spent at the gym will never be enough, but it will get me past the 1,200 calories I indulged in earlier.
I’d spend hours looking in the mirror, examining my too big waist and too wide hips, contemplating why my body wasn’t changing with my exercise regime. Surprisingly, women are created to reproduce. Hips, boobs, and a butt, true Bridgett Bardot style. What I should’ve found incredibly beautiful about my budding self was about to ruin my life.
I deserve a high-five (or ten) because my stint in the modeling industry and in the body dysmorphia world didn’t ruin my life. I’m 18 now, and I’m no longer the tiny kid I used to be, mentally and physically. What’s even better is I don’t want to be the tiny girl I used to be. I wouldn’t be the only girl in my boxing class if I was that girl, would I be?
Our industry has changed drastically over the past 7 years. Plus-size model Ashley Graham recently released the first plus-size line to strut down the runway at New York Fashion Week (no Anna Wintour in the front row spotted, just yet) and Aerie released a “real-girl” campaign, starring Emma Roberts. Though Ms. Roberts is the epitome of American beauty, blessed with stunning genes and a fantastic body, Aerie could’ve done better. Emma doesn’t need to be edited: she has an array of trainers, surgeons, and stylists behind her to make her real girl ready in every capacity. We’ll never know what truly goes on behind the scenes.
I’m glad to see the industry changing like it is. Megan Grassell, of the successful young adult bra company, Yellowberry, has made her mission to inspire young girls across the globe to love their body, regardless of their size. Meeting Megan at a conference a few years ago inspired me (and inspires me regularly) to continue to push for body acceptance in the industry. As long as I know one more person is out there trying to make a change, I feel motivated to succeed.
A few nights ago, I was scrolling through Instagram while chowing down on a gluten-free muffin from my favorite bakery in Maine, and came across Lena Dunham’s profile. I don’t follow celebrities on Instagram, but occasionally I’ll go on their profiles out of interest. Since I’m familiar with Girls, even though I’ve only watched a few episodes, I figured I could learn a thing or two from being on her profile. What I found on her page shocked me.
Among pictures of random text messages and foods, Lena posted a picture of her in a pair of Calvin Klein underwear and a sports bra. Her caption read something along the lines of “after a rough, hormonal week, this is where I’m at.” No editing, visible meat on her thighs and her body, and an honest caption: how refreshing to see from a celebrity. Unlike most celebrities who fill Instagram with edited and unauthentic pictures (the reason I follow none), I was relieved. I went to write a comment below about how impressed I was to see someone so honest about their body, and I began to see many negative comments.
Words like fat, ugly, disgusting, despicable, obese, a bad influence, popped up. How am I looking at this picture as motivating, yet everyone else is seeing a polar opposite image? My waist and hips are the same size as hers, does that make me ugly? If I posted this same picture of my body on Instagram, would people comment and say how I’m a bad influence, and deserve to die?
Ashley brought us 2 steps forward towards change, and the response to Lena’s image took us 10 steps back. I took to Twitter and Instagram to defend Lena, replying to comments people wrote, both negative and positive, to shine light on this subject. I was hoping Lena would reply to a few, but I didn’t see any response. The only reason I smile, just slightly, about her absent response, is because I know she’s getting ready for a TV appearance, or drinking wine with her friends, while people troll her online. Obviously these comments sting a little, but I doubt she could care less about what these trolls think about her. She got 62.2k likes on that picture, while the majority of people who commented have private profiles, with barely any followers.
My point of this article is to expose the industry, and the world, at what it is. Words like fat, ugly, disgusting, despicable, and obese aren’t helping anyone. I shouldn’t look at an unedited picture of Lena Dunham and immediately look in the mirror to question whether this also means I’m “fat” or “ugly”. How are we helping our world by putting such negative and depressing ideas of beauty out there? We aren’t. We’re making the world a sicker place to live.
The bigger picture is that we need to move away from the misconception that there is one standard of beauty. So what if someone wants to eat at Popeye’s for every meal, or stop by McDonald’s for a #3 instead of making a gourmet chicken salad for lunch? Other people’s actions will never affect you. What if this same woman just got divorced, is now juggling children as a single parent, and her house is being foreclosed? Tell me you stopped judging her “habits” after I told you that, because I know you have. Candice Swanepoel may be #goals, while Lena Dunham is the beginning of a revolution.