About a year and a half ago, I was packing up to leave my life in Vancouver, BC, where I had spent the previous few years working at lululemon. I was headed across the country to be with my boyfriend who lived in Milwaukee, WI. It was the first time that I had ever decided that a guy was worth leaving my dream job for (but that is a story for another post). A few days before my departure, I pulled up to the cute, yet crowded neighborhood of Kitsilano, took a huge breath. Then I walked into the home of Alexa Mazzarello who beautifully and peacefully photographed me…naked
This was an experience that I can honestly say I NEVER predicted would happen in my lifetime. It was incredibly vulnerable, awkward at times, and surprisingly, overwhelmingly supportive and soft.
You might imagine that to be prepared for something like this one would head to the gym for two weeks straight, eat very clean, hit up the salon for a wax, get hair and/or nails done, put on a little make-up, and wear some sexy underwear, but I did just the opposite. I didn’t have time for any of that. I was totally wrapped up in nostalgically saying my goodbyes and organizing the details of my move. And so, I was photographed as naturally as you can imagine. Which was altogether terrifying and incredibly freeing.Ok at this point you are probably curious how the heck I ended up here?
In the late summer of 2015, I attended BODYTHOUGHTS, a fully-immersive pop-up art experience. It was created by photographer Alexa Mazzarello who was tired of hearing all the women she photographed badmouthing their bodies. She loved capturing the individualities of all the bodies. The seeming imperfections, the beauty in the places that nobody else noticed, the things that made each person unique. However, the beauty she captured was not what her subjects saw in themselves. She was sick and tired of hearing people hate on themselves and so she turned the camera on herself and created BODYTHOUGHTS, a unique space for new conversations about body truths
The BODYTHOUGHTS experience changed me. It was intimate and honest, heartfelt and heartbreaking. I, like many others in the room, were moved to tears. For me, I realized that I have spent most of my life ignoring or trying to change my body to emulate the masses, instead of loving it for being one of a kind. And as a childhood cancer survivor, I never really appreciated my body for surviving cancer. After the show, I went up to Alexa, tears rolling down my cheeks and I just hugged her and said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She didn’t let go until I did. I immediately signed up for her mailing list and when I found out about the chance to have a BODYTHOUGHTS photo session of my very own, I decided I wanted Alexa to capture my body individualities so that I could see my own body in this new way.
About a year and a half passed until I saw the photos. I didn’t bug her for them and I eventually sort of forgot that they existed. In hindsight, I wasn’t ready to see them; until now.
A few weeks ago, Alexa reached out with the link to a portal of the images. I was really nervous. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to seeing my naked body captured so permanently. What if I hated them? What if I loved them? And so again I waited to open the link. I still wasn’t ready.
A few days later, on a quiet, foggy morning, I was finally ready. I got comfortable, took another deep breath, and opened the link. With each photo the smile on my face grew; the photos were stunning and imperfect and perfect. The crazy thing is that all the things I thought I would hate, were the parts that I loved the most.I have been focusing a lot of energy lately on self-love, I just never imagined that it was going to come through the lens of a camera and the incredible images and moments captured some time ago. I am beyond grateful for BODYTHOUGHTS, for Alexa’s example, and for having the space to metaphorically and literally get naked. To share, see, and accept my own, unique body, because there will never ever be another body just like mine. And there will never ever be another body just like yours. And that is something to be celebrated.
Your weird is beautiful. Be in love with all of it.