Shortly before shooting "Bare It All: Skin" one of our clients, Sarah, had a unique request during her boudoir photoshoot. She asked, "Could we shoot some photos where we write all the cruel things people have said to me about my eyes, skin, size, etc. on my body?"
While we celebrate the beauty of our different skin tones in the "Bare It All: Skin" project, and promote positive body image messages with stories from women of all ages, sizes, and races in the entire "Bare It All" series, we also want to confront a subject that seems to be just as evident today as it always has been... racism.
I asked Sarah if she would allow us to share her photos and story to show how thick a woman's skin can be. In her own words, how she hasn't permitted the words to make her weak, but only make her stronger...
Why did you want to write hurtful words on your body that people have spoken to you throughout your life?
"I didn't want to just say the words, I've been saying them to myself inside my head for decades. I wanted them written on my body so people would have no choice but to stare. Maybe they'll try to say the words out loud and realize how hard it is to swallow afterwards. We hear and say insensitive things to one another just like we say hello and goodbye. We accept it just as easily..."
How did it feel having the words written on your skin and seeing them captured/documented in the photos on your body?
"I hated saying everything out loud, loud enough that everyone could hear me. They're not especially nasty words, I've heard worse but here I am at 28 years old still affected by words that were said to me in grade school. I can remember what I was wearing, which classroom, and that most of the time I was minding my own business. Every time I see what my classmates and teachers said to me, I feel like I'm back in high school, trapped in a small Mid-west farm town."
What message are you hoping to convey with these photos?
"I want others to realize that no matter what age you are, your words have an impact. Growing up, teachers told me that my classmates just didn't understand. Who should have taught them then? My parents said they're just kids and jealous. I was a kid and jealous of my classmates, so why wasn't I making fun of their skin and eyes in return? My friends told me to just ignore them. Did my friends see how others ganged up on me when they weren't around to protect me though? These words represent the worst parts of my childhood. I'm thankful for my friends that helped me pull through but I wish, to this day, that they understood a little more."
What do the photos say about you? What do you hope people that see the photos think when they see them?
I hope that other people see I'm alive, well and strong despite some unfortunate circumstances. To quote Michelle Obama, "Overcoming adversity is one of your biggest advantages".