emily cline art

gettin' my ya-ya's out

How Will You Look?

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I heard one of those segments on NPR yesterday — the kind that ends with me sitting in Stop-n-Shop’s parking lot listening to the very end. It was playing the BBC World Service program “Newshour” and was a special segment about global obesity.

I have modeled for 24 years. Weight, body image, and sense of self is front and center in my life. Everything I eat, how much or how little of what I eat, how much I exercise, how much sleep I get, how my body is aging/sagging/wrinkling/spotting, is a daily, primary focus and concern for me. Forget being a “normal” aging woman who deals with weight and body issues, I’m up against waifer-thin 18 year olds without cellulite or wrinkles. I worry about how I look. A lot.

My vigilant attention to body image started way back before I began modeling, back in college, when I developed an eating disorder. My parents ended up putting me in lock-down at the University of Iowa’s Psych Ward. Hard times. But I’m not alone, I’m the norm. Most women and girls — certainly everyone I know– struggle with their bodies and self-image.

Yesterday’s BBC program questioned how we value our sense of self. It suggested if we value our sense of self solely based on how our bodies look — thin, fat, young old — we are in trouble. What about humor? Wit? Intelligence? Common sense? Creativity? Aren’t we so much more than how our bodies look? As a culture, we shame and bully overweight people. We applaud a body that is not real for the majority of people, and is actually unattainable, causing depression, addiction, hurtful habits, lower self-esteem, even self-hatred.

Jes Baker of The Militant Baker blog was on the show. Jes wrote the letter and sent professional-grade model photographs to the president of Abercrombie & Fitch calling him out on his {negative, hurtful} comments and business practices saying A & C markets to “cool, good-looking people”, that it’s not possible for a woman to be beautiful, sexy, and fat. (A & C doesn’t make larger sized clothing for women.) Baker also said the president is “kinda brilliant” because now we must start having real conversations, challenge our culture’s old way of thinking, and make real, lasting, healthy changes.

I agree. Whole heartedly. I may not write a book or take nude photos and send them to the heads of apparel companies — I’m not that brave. However:

  • I will talk about it. The “tween” girls in my art journaling club have already started a conversation.
  • I will listen.
  • I will teach and share my art journaling as a way of healthy self-expression.
  • I will deal with my emotional, physical, and mental health, as well as my family’s and anyone else who’s willing to share.
  • I will tell my clients and my agents my real sizes and not be embarrassed that my body has changed since I was 23.
  • I will consider the idea of creating limits (– do we really need to super-size?)
  • I will put value in all of a person, looking at their whole self, not just the way their appearance.
  • I will exercise to feel strong.
  • And I will do my best to continue to love my body.

It’s not earth shattering, but it’s a start. What will you do? How will you look?

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