I Love My Body 2016
Every year I do a free event and photo shoot called I Love My Body. Anyone is welcome to attend. Every year I change what we do in the photos, but the basic theme is the same...to love yourself.
I was a professional model for over 20 years. While that career took me all over the world and gave me wonderful opportunities and experiences, it also left me battling some serious self worth and body image issues. I struggled with anorexia, abused diet pills and found myself sick, hating my body and myself. I felt no real purpose if I wasn't physically beautiful and "perfect." After I had my daughter, I really started feeling badly about myself. I pretty much stopped eating and dropped down to 112lbs at 5'10" tall. My hair began to fall out and I just didn't feel well all around, but I was thin, which is all I cared about at the time. Then one night, I was laying in bed with my daughter. I felt like a lightning bolt hit me and I sat up and felt like God said to me, "look how foolish you're being and the example you're setting for your daughter." I felt so ashamed as I looked down at my sweet girl. I was overcome with emotion. Would I want her to feel this way about herself? Would I want her to put her health on the line just to be thin? Did I really want her to watch me behave the way I was? Absolutely not. It was up to me to change myself for her sake at least. And I did. Slowly but surely.
Soon after, I quit modeling and began my photography business full time. I photographed families and weddings and all those yummy, happy moments in people's lives. It made me happy. It was beautiful. These people were beautiful. These moments were beautiful. But women, very often times, would feel very insecure in front of my camera. They would ask me to "take off a few pounds" for them in photoshop. They would want to hide behind other family members. They would want to see the back of my camera and when doing so, hate something about themselves in the photos. It was crazy. They weren't able to see themselves the way I did or the way their family members did at all! I decided there was a need for me to speak out about my own experiences in hopes of helping people. To help them get past this crazy idea that society has burdened us with. That we aren't worthy unless we are physical perfection. To blow up this lie that we all live under. Because it is truly a lie. At my most "beautiful" I was certainly not happy and I should've been, right? Well, I wasn't. I am much, much happier now at my 195lb post second baby weight. It's because I now know my value. I'm able to see through God's eyes, my husband's eyes and my children's eyes. They want me. My character. My effort in their lives. They're not going to remember what weight I was on our family vacations. They're not going to remember what I looked like in my bathing suit. My children will remember me being there and playing with them on the beach. They will remember my presence and whether I was happy or not. That's it! And those moments will be beautiful.
This year, I decided to do our photo shoot in my studio. I wanted the photos to be beautiful, natural and have a bit more dramatic lighting than the previous years. I wanted the women that came to leave feeling worthy, empowered and beautiful. We took some simple head shots and group shots. Then I had the ladies write a positive hashtag on plain white tees. After that, I asked them to write on an index card a negative lie that they tell themselves...and we lit it on fire. Burned that lie up. It felt good watching them set those lies on fire. It also upset me to see what these wonderful women thought of themselves. They didn't see each other's note cards and I thought it was interesting how many of them wrote "not good enough." The last studio shots we did were in gowns. I wanted to photograph these gorgeous women in gorgeous gowns also. We ended the event with a free yoga session thanks to Amanda and Christina at Yoga and Wellness of Blue Ridge.
I hope this event was helpful for the lovely ladies that came and I hope the photos may help other people as well. Looking forward to our 2017 photo shoot next year. <3
My self portrait with my 2 children.