What does it mean to be a part of the bigger picture? (an essay)

Before I built up the courage to be a creative (journalist, writer, director, producer, etc.), I wondered what it meant to be a part of this life. What did it mean to be in the “spotlight” and if I would be willing to give so much of myself – parts that I wasn’t quite comfortable with yet.

As I’ve mention in previous posts, I’ve struggled with my own body image which led me to be so insecure that I was [self]crippled from pursuing my dreams. But, once I began to love myself – that meant peeling away the layers of insecurity that mounted from societal standards of what I was supposed to be – and began to see who I truly was, what were my real and honest passions and desires for my life and career, I began to see what it truly meant to be a part of the bigger picture.

But to tell you how I slowly became the person I am today, I have to tell you a few small moments that meant the world to me.

  • It was 2008 and I began blogging – I wasn’t writing anything remotely related to journalism, but I was writing short stories of what I’d experienced throughout the days during my commute, at home with my roommates and everything else in between. I wasn’t looking for stardom. No. What I was looking for was an audience, something to let me know that there were people out there that would read my writing and enjoy it. I kept on writing, tagging posts, and whatnot, when I suddenly got an email from a new website that was starting up and looking for good content to publish. They reached out to me and asked me if I would be a part of their website since they liked my content so much. It was surreal, I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know if it was real or not. But in the end, I was part of the hand selected pioneers for this website that featured bloggers from around the world. I had gotten the right feedback to motivate me to keep going.
  • Back in 2011 I was working as a journalist for a Spanish language publication in Brooklyn. I was covering an event where I, as any journo would, stood up and asked a question. You see, when a journalist does that they have to say their names and what outlet their writing for. I had done this many times before, and many more times after…but this day was different. A local girl, college age came up to me after the event and introduced herself. She looked nervous as she introduced herself and added “I’m a fan of your work, I feel you really represent the Latino community with your articles”. That was the moment I knew that what I was doing meant something, and not just something to me, but to at least one other person. That girl – and I saw as her eyes lit up with empowerment from being properly represented in the newspaper.
  • It was 2012 and I heard the nonprofit publication that I was interning with at the United Nations had acquired a new editor. This editor had a reputation of being extremely hard on journalists – to the point that I read reports that she had made veteran journalists cry. So naturally I was frightened to work with her. Our first line editing sit down included me ready to write down anything she said and hoping I didn’t shed a tear if she said something horrible. I remember shaking in my pants next to her at the UN cafeteria early in the morning as I saw her sip on coffee while mine was getting cold. Then, Ms. Orla Healy told me she was impressed with my story on Child Soldiers in Colombia. The second time I sat down with Ms. Healy, I was still expecting to be dissected into a subatomic level, but again was left disappointed when she said she was impressed with the story and loved my work. I thought to myself “I can handle this time of disappointment” and realized that as a storyteller I was doing something right.
  • 2015 there I was, unsure if I made a good film or not. I wasn’t sure if I did a good editing job, if it was enough….but then it was selected for a film festival and I was told “you are enough, you are good, keep going”. At the festival, after I was asked to come up to talk about the film, as I was walking towards my seat – a complete stranger came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for making the film. “We need more content like this, thank you for it”.

These are just a few moments, small seconds when I was reassured of my passion, my dreams….of myself. See, it’s hard to believe you can do something when 98% of what you hear from others is “you’re not good enough” “you’re living in a fantasy world” along with “people who look like you never get to live that life.” It’s hard, it’s challenging, but it’s not impossible to learn to love yourself, believe in yourself regardless of what people tell you. I know, because I did it.

After all the hardships, nervous breakdowns, counseling and what seemed to be eternal self doubt – I found myself ready to be free of the burden that is self hatred and of the destruction that comes with it.That meant getting mentally ready to be part of something bigger than me. Part of what others see as motivational or inspirational in more than one way.

Today, as I’ve become more confident of being able to achieve my dreams than I’ve ever been, I share with you the news of my participation in a new and wonderful campaign that features “real women” as their models. But before I explain about the campaign, let me just say that all women are very real – and the term “real women” apply to those women you interact with every day, those women who are brilliant in their own right, have amazing smiles, sparkling eyes, wonderful posture. Women who are strong, smart, sassy and fearless – women who the media do not consider being the definition of “beautiful” because they lack some qualities (e.g. thigh gap, fair skin, fine nose, wispy hair, etc.) but I truly believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone is deserving of love and being called beautiful.

Now, to the campaign – #EveryBodyInAds is a campaign that started with a question I trust many women of color, with curves, plus size, or “different” has asked themselves when they open a magazine, look at a catalog or even go shopping “where am I?” As a curvy woman of color, I didn’t see myself properly represented anywhere in magazines or television until America Ferrera and Gina Rodriguez showed up….

As the creator of the campaign and founder of Trinkets Jewelry puts it “the campaign started out as ‘where are the pictures of real women in advertising?’  I now prefer to say “EveryBody in ads” as the “Real Women” phrase can be troublesome to some folk. I think it implies that some women are not real and that is not the intention. This campaign is NOT against anyone identifying as a woman in any way. It is about learning to love yourself!” adding that “roles in movies for ladies over 40 are pretty few and far between. Young slim models are used in advertising and this unrealistic “norm” is almost always often photo-shopped to show something completely unattainable. This gives women and girls a completely unrealistic idea about what a normal body shape is and leaves them believing they are the only person in the world with cellulite. I can’t change the world but I can in my own small way do something about this hence the campaign to use a diversity of women in my advertising. 

To which she is entirely correct. Many of the reasons behind the progressive or body positive models like Tess Holliday, Nadia Aboulhosn and Denise Bidot is to change the narrative of beauty, fashion standards while showing that women who are not a size 0 are worth being looked at as well. Still, the casting in Hollywood continues to be insanely off. Many young actresses are moving to the “leading lady” role while women who are in their 30’s and still quite capable of performing these amazing roles are pushed out. Meanwhile their male counterparts can be seen aging on screen without a problem. It has always been quite disturbing to me how a young woman in her early to mid 20’s was casted opposite a man who is in his late 40’s early 50’s as a romantic interest. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way.

With campaigns with #EveryBodyInAds we can continue to push out this disparity in gender on television, movies and change how fashion magazines portray beauty to our impressionable girls who are starving themselves to become that model they see on the pages of the magazine. But, it’s not just the girls we should be protecting and promoting to be represented adequately in fashion. Our boys are suffering too – making manorexia a term that has been reported on as seen in this UK Daily Mail article.

According to statistics “males make up about 10 to 15 percent of those who suffer from anorexia. Teens and young adults between the ages of 12 and 26 make up 95 percent of those who have eating disorders,” with “anorexia is the most common cause of death (up to 12 times higher than any other condition) among young women ages 15 to 24.” With these numbers increasing, many regulators have decided to step in and do something about what we are exposed to in the media.

In France, a model with less than a Body Mass Index or BMI than what is suitable for their age, height and body structure – as indicated by a healthcare professional cannot walk the runway. Many have objected that this is regulating women’s bodies – but I argue that it’s helping us stay healthy and forcing those in fashion to not impose their standards of beauty on the rest of us. This, along with the change in size of mannequins in several stores in the US and Sweden, along with body positive campaigns like that of Dove, Lane Bryant and H&M the narrative of beauty is changing for many women like me. Still, I feel there’s a long way to go when it comes to recognizing each other as beautiful.

We’ve been saturated with images of what is acceptable as pretty, desirable, beautiful and sexy for centuries, that we still shame those who dare to bare it all in confidence.  Often women are told to cover up their bodies should they be heavier (even if they’re pregnant) – while being urged to take it all off to sell a burger. Men are told they have to have six pack abs to be sexy and tall in order to be sexy. And while we all should be healthy in order to have full lives so we can have countless experiences in – we can achieve health at any size.

20160521_105644
here I am, modeling the long drop gold and diamante style trio set for Trinkets Jewellry

So, I say that I cannot be more proud to be a part of a campaign that promotes body positivity in such a wonderful way.  To be able to be an inspiration to people, not just with my stories, but with the fact that I genuinely love who I am, how I look and encourage others to be confident within themselves, is one of the things I wished to accomplish with my life.  To me, that’s what it means to be a part of the bigger picture. To help people not only tell their stories, but to help them change their stories.

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