My junior year of high school one of my good friends asked if she could photograph me for her photo class project. I got really excited, me a model? I mean it was just for a random class photo project but the pictures would be shown in a student exhibition to my whole school and the idea of someone wanting a girl that looked like me to be their model was still really exciting. Then I learned what the project was all about…bodies. She wanted to take photos of me, as she would with two other students, in just my bra and underwear. It would be two photos, both the size of a typical poster, one of just my body and one of my face. The idea of my whole school seeing my body so exposed like that terrified me. Not because I felt uncomfortable about the amount of skin or anything like that, I was scared of the fact that every curve, roll, and dimple would be on display. No hiding behind strategically chosen shirts and high-waisted pants.
But I decided that I needed to set aside my fears and take the photos; if I didn’t, no one else would and the bodies on display would all be skinny girls that I felt disconnected from. I needed to take these photos not just for me but for every other kid in my school to see that my body deserved just as much attention as any other.
I picked out my favorite matching bra and underwear and I showed up at the studio during a free period. My legs were covered in bruises from lacrosse and I just hadn’t felt my best that day. My friend quickly started to joke around with me and make me do ridiculous poses that we both knew wouldn’t be the final official shot. As I loosened up we started talking and she kept snapping pictures and all of a sudden it was over, she told me she had the shot and I had to run off to class.
A few weeks later I stood in the art gallery with at least 100 students around me. My body was plastered on the center of the back wall, unmissable. I immediately regretted my decision to have the photos taken. My first thought was “what the hell is wrong with my knees?” I went through body part by body part scrutinizing each thing, telling myself why my image didn’t deserve to be up on that wall. Then slowly people came over to me and told me how cool they thought the image was, how beautiful I looked. It wasn’t until I looked at the second image of myself on that wall that my mind began to change.
The happiness and pure joy on my face from laughing at some random comment I probably made showed me what everyone else had been seeing. I am not just the individual aspects of my body. I am a personality, a soul, a living being with character and emotion in all I do and it was beautiful. I looked back at the image of my body and I started to think not about my cellulite, but about how strong my thighs looked from years of training for sports. My curves became another way to tell my story and damn if it isn’t a good story. Those two photos taught me that my body was beautiful. Was it the most terrifying experience of my life? It’s pretty high up there. But would I take it back? Hell no. Those images prove that girls like me deserve the space on the wall just as much as anyone else. We deserve to be seen as beautiful because we are. And if it took me pushing myself out of my comfort zone to take those photos so that the next plus-size girl who gets asked to be a model for a photo project doesn’t hesitate, then I would do it over and over again a thousand times.