I was a healthy sixteen-year-old the first time someone told me to lose weight. With one sentence the renowned photographer affirmed my long-held fears that I was destined for fatness and flawed as I was.
“You could be modeling in Paris if you lost 10 or 15 pounds,” he said.
So I did, gradually losing not only weight but my sense of self, until I nearly died of an eating disorder.
It would take years of hard, healing work to recognize that what I’d really feared was not mattering or measuring up—not by a scale’s standards, but the world’s.
In a culture where females are told in countless ways that we must appear certain unrealistic ways to be considered attractive or even valuable, every person who stands up for authenticity matters.
When I first learned of Neon Moon, an empowering lingerie company that features un-photoshopped images of models of varying shapes, sizes and races, I about burst out of my too-snug undies from excitement. (Yes, I got rid of those!)
Earlier this week, the company and its philosophies were under attack. A photo of one of their gorgeous models was nipped, tucked and shamed for all the world to see. Heartbreaking doesn’t seem a strong enough word.
To learn more, read Body Shamers Photoshopped Our Lingerie Model To Make Her ‘Perfect’ on Neon Moon’s blog.
In response to the bullying Neon Moon launched a campaign, asking women to post photos of themselves online, stating what they love about their bodies as they are and including the hashtag #moonbodylove.
That is how we better the world—by standing up in the face of adversity and shedding light on what counts.
I’ll share my entry but first, here is a “before” image. Before I’d learned to fully embrace myself. Before I realized my true passions. Before I grew from recovering emotionally from the ED to healed, past tense. Before I learned that “model perfect” is a complete failure of words, even when you’re being paid to present it.
I recall the makeup artist working hard to hide my tan lines with what seemed like tan paint better suited for fences. (Even with sunscreen, a partial tan prayed tell of my beloved, mind-clearing Miami beach jogs in shorts.) The stylist chose a suit that covered my appendectomy scar, which I’d adored since the surgery saved my life a few years prior. In effort to avoid the need for editing, we waited all day until the “golden hour,” when the sun begins to set and all the world glimmers sublime.
The photo is lovely in some ways. The scenery indeed shines, and I liked the suit that reminded my of my dad’s long career with UPS.
But it’s far from authentic. I never looked like this woman, even then. Where is my smile? My fervor for life? The scars and lines illustrating that which kept me whole? The image wasn’t photoshopped but I was caked in makeup, spritzed with glossy-something and performing as someone else versus living freely as me. And while I was no longer anorexic, I was still investing more time and energy in thinness than wellness back then.
What would happen if the world glorified women in more real, natural states (as Neon Moon does)? Would the young girls desperate for approval see hopes and dreams instead of diets and reasons for shame? I have to think so.
Here is my #moonbodylove entry, a photo taken a few months ago during my first ever cruise. Now in my mid-thirties, I feel lovelier than I ever did in my twenties or while modeling—not because of my looks, but because of my improved relationship with myself. That relationship has attracted more beauty of all kinds into my life. Everyone deserves that.
Whether you’ve learned to love your body yet or not, I hope you’ll join this campaign. I can almost promise that doing so will strengthen you while inspiring others, and let bullies who wish to keep women small (physically and emotionally) know who’s boss! We are, if we choose to be. United, we’re much stronger than on our own.
To participate, post your photo and why you love your body as it is, on Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter, including the hashtag #moonbodylove. I can’t wait to celebrate real beauty with you! ♥
KM Huber says
I abhor the audacity that some people believe is their right, as if it is ever acceptable to trounce on another’s appearance. Online life is making that easier to do for a larger audience. That said, we are learning about one another, which I think is the way we change. Change is the road to compassion, I suspect.
In making the compassionate response as you and NeonMoon have, we are given the opportunity to put ourselves in the limelight. How do we fare? The compassionate response offers us such a mirror, a chance to change, an opportunity to view the world with a wider, kinder perspective. We see so much more when we do. Great post, August!
August McLaughlin says
So well said, Karen! You’re absolutely right about the internet making such bullying wider spread. I’m so grateful it can also be used to cultivate positive change – thanks to huge-hearted people like you and everyone at Neon Moon!
Piper Bayard says
I thought their photoshopping job made that pretty girl look creepy.
When my daughter was four, I kept her quiet in the allergist’s waiting room each week by looking at pictures in Vogue and Town & Country magazines. I would point to the models and say, “She looks healthy. See how naturally willowy this lady is? But the woman next to her could use a snack. God didn’t make her to be that thin. They haven’t fed her in a month.” I emphasized health versus size.
Soon, she was identifying the difference for herself, pointing to the pictures and saying, “She looks healthy,” and, “She needs a snack.” It was great until a woman walked into the office with a girl of about ten who was clearly quite ill. No bigger than a pencil. DD pointed to the little girl and announced to the office, “She needs a snack.” #goodlessonfail
DD grew up to be exactly the “wrong” size to be a model — a perfect size 8 at 5’10”. “Too big” to be a regular model and “too small” to be a full figure model. But she knows she is beautiful because she is healthy. She also loves her scars and never tries to hide them. Her body image is better than mine at this point, and though I taught her in the beginning, she is my teacher, now.
Thanks for telling me about Neon Moon and for championing women of all sizes and shapes. You rock, August.
August McLaughlin says
You rock too, Piper! Thank you for providing a strong role model for others, particularly your daughter. She sounds spectacular.
I really feel for models and women of all shapes and sizes. I know women who are naturally extremely thin, and they end up being ridiculed as well — but it’s far worse for women of “normal” or larger size. (What the heck is normal anyway?) Health and value simply can’t be quantified or assessed from the outside. The more variety and realness we see in the fashion world, the better.
Great post going to go and check them out right now!
August McLaughlin says
Thanks, Alica! I’m sure you’ll love them. The blog, products and community are terrific.
Jess Witkins says
As always, August, phenomenal post. I so wish more vendors and agencies would promote all body types and body positivity. It would help a lot with the way women view themselves and each other. We need to look for the beautiful traits of one another and not focus on the critical, negative parts.
August McLaughlin says
Very well said, Jess! Thanks so much for the support.
A.O. Peart (Angela) says
I’ve been living all my life with the expectations of looking slim and fit, and, frankly, I’m sick and tired of it. I stay fit, exercise daily, eat very healthy, but my weight is no longer my biggest concern. My body is far from “perfect” (if there is such a thing), but instead of worrying about this I just live my life and don’t care anymore if certain clothes may not make me look the best. It’s all about comfort and happiness. I love fashion and experimenting with styles, but my body type no longer stops me from wearing what I like and I’m thankful for that. It took me many years to feel comfortable (or almost comfortable) in my own skin, but it was worth it.
Thank you, August for such a fabulous blog. As always, you are spot-on.
What a great blog post August. I’m so impressed by your courage and strength. You’re admirable, dear friend!
It is the harsh reality of the modeling business that has not altered its ways unlike Hollywood where we are starting to see Actresses as they are and not having to worry about losing pounds just to get the part, Mike and Molly for instance. However, I do believe there will always be that stigma on Models whether male or female for instance, when the show Fear Factor was on the boob tube hosted by Joe Rogan, he once was asked a question about the contestants. His reply was that we cast people you want to have sex with. That was around 2011-2012 years. -Just my two cents worth.
Synchronicity rocks. No, I wasn’t photoshopped, but before I read this I had taken a shower and was toweling off…well, there’s the mirror and I looked. And then I did the strong arm thing and smiled, not because I look perfect, I don’t, My thighs are a little jiggly, my arms a little scrawny, and my middle a little puffy, and I have freckles (they are not age spots)–but I smiled because of what it shows!
I birthed three babies–my last one at 40, I’ve danced ballet and tap, and I’ve spent long summer days at the ocean. I am so happy to be in this body.