The girl you just can't get enough of....
I've been photographing girls since I was 14 and was also a runway and editorial model for several years... My loathing of my own body thrived when I was told at 5'10" and 130lbs that I was too fat and unappealing to be seen by clients, and thus began the very common and widely encouraged discipline of eating disorders and self-hatred. Fashion has always been something I was both fascinated and influenced by, and always wanted to be a part of. What young girl doesn't want to be beautiful in the eyes of modern society? Recently I began shooting for a plus size company, ELLOS, and it has changed my life. Working with women who are Body Positive Activists and who live in self-acceptance - despite not being the size 2 that Western culture tells us that we should be - has been mood altering in the most magnificent way. We are inundated, more than ever before in history, with impossible beauty ideals that represent only a fraction of what women's bodies actually look like. Girls as young as 5 and 6 have unprecedented access to the internet and beauty imagery that is unrealistic, completely retouched, and homogenized. Fortunately for us, there are women like Khrystyana taking over their side of the world by way of Body Positive Activism.
When I first met Khrystyana she ran over to me and gave me the most powerful hug. She radiated positivity and generosity, kindness and consciousness in a fashion world that is not always kind nor conscious. My favorite images of her are the ones in which she shows close up images of her body with the word LOVEABLE written on them.
On a particularly bad day I was scrolling and read one of her posts which said, "Cutie Rolls - LOVEABLE, Thunder Thighs - LOVEABLE, Zits and bumps - LOVEABLE, Mood swings - LOVEABLE, Awkward moments - LOVEABLE, Your rarest uniqueness - LOVEABLE, Body Asymmetries - LOVEABLE, Fluid Sexuality - LOVEABLE, Racing Mind- LOVEABLE, Colorful Spirit - LOVEABLE, Everchanging BODY - ALL LOVEABLE. ALL OF YOU. Even your doubts that you are... also LOVEABLE..."
In her self-acceptance I found permission to be in a bad mood with my racing mind and my (always) awkward moments, and to find myself - LOVEABLE.
If you haven't yet caught on to this sensation, there's still time to join #teamkhrystyana. She took over Times Square with a guerrilla lingerie fashion show, is one of the most charming and compelling contestants on VH1's America's Next Top Model (Cycle 24) and we have a feeling she's just getting warmed up...
Omg... hmmmm. Well defining beauty is the same as defining love. It just is. People’s minds twisted things and labeled everything and divided everything into boxes “pretty or ugly”. I honestly and deeply don’t believe there is one single box to define beauty. All life is beautiful, it’s how an individual at a time sees it. So if I had to compress my philosophy into a box because I have to I’d say... beauty is a feeling - regardless of what you are told beauty should be. It’s your feeling and how you make others feel... it’s tingly feeling almost... like you are a rainbow and you shine it through? (Laughs)
What was the turning point for you in your modeling career, when you decided to embrace your body naturally as you were rather than fit beauty ideals that weren't yours? Was it gradual or sudden? Was it a decision you made consciously and never looked back on, or do you have moments of comparing yourself still?
The decision to embarrass my body was both gradual and sudden. Of course there were big turning points : lots of rejections accumulated around the same period of time would hit my self esteem like a hammer... which was never really there to begin with but (I was always a shy kid), the series of events over a year ago were hitting me hard. And I guess at the bottom of it all I found myself exhausted of self-belittling. And those moments of awakening to what [was] real would be sudden but habitually of course my mind is used to comparing myself to others, fantasizing of how i could be better etc... so those moments were sudden but embracing them wholly was gradual. Still is. I don’t expect to fully be confident and completely body positive all the time but that is also a part of that self love - allowing yourself to be all of you even if you have bad days kicking your ass for everything you do “wrong” hehehee :)))
What would you say to young girls about becoming lovable to yourself?
To my younger self ... Ahmmm
I don’t know. I’ve come to terms with my past now so I’d leave it as is. Or if I JD to say something it would be a boring classic phrase “everything is OK".
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