I have CELLULITE. It’s not pretty - rather unsightly actually.
There … I admitted it. I could blame it on genetics, since I’ve always had a bit, but to be truthful, it’s probably due to the fact that 4 years ago I dove head first into my photography business and had little time to do much else. I have not exercised consistently in 4 years and, on top of that, I really like Queso and margaritas - a lot. I admit that I can hide it fairly well. I tend to avoid my fit friends at the beach in bathing suits and only wear long sundresses in the summer, etc. Have you ever been standing in line at the grocery and seen the National Inquirer of some celebrity in a bathing suit who is super thin, but she is riddled in cellulite from the waist to her ankles? Well, I’m not quite that bad, but when trying on bathing suits in a well lit dressing room, that is my perception!! Why? Because the pressure of social media forces us to believe we are supposed to be perfect, which means absolutely no cellulite.
A wonderfully innovative photographer in Cincinnati, named Thomas Nguyen started a campaign freeing young women of the perceived perceptions of Social Media, entitled Project Beauty. It is meant to empower young women as they are - naturally beautiful - encompassing all of their flaws. With the success of his project, Thomas was kind enough to share his platform with others and now there are over 250 photographers across the country who have joined him and are allowing women and girls of all ages tell their stories. These women are talking about the pressures of growing up in a society dominated by social media, and telling their stories of bullying, being ostracized, body image issues, and what true beauty means to them.
When I heard about this campaign, I knew it was something in which I had to participate in since it fits perfectly with my studio. We constantly talk about the importance of telling a client’s story. (“Your year your story.” and “What is your story?”) I want to take this a step further and include the 6 young men in my Ambassador program. I know this campaign is titled “Project Beauty”, however, teenage boys are feeling a different kind of social media pressure that girls cannot begin to understand.
This is why I am actively encouraging them to step forward and share their stories. I realized that if I am going to ask these Seniors to open their hearts, then I need to come clean with my experiences with social media.
A recent study cited that teens are on social media an average of 9 hours a day! That is staggering to me! Social media is upholding a dangerously unrealistic standard of success and beauty, not just by celebrities and models, but by classmates and friends. It’s actually the perfect storm of self doubt. I began to look at my own life and how social media affects it. How can I tell someone to ‘brush it off’ or ‘not let it bother them’ when I have 20 photo editing apps on my phone? TWENTY! Full disclosure: I rarely post a personal photo (not including my business photos which are completely edited) unless it has been ‘fixed’. Not retouched, but definitely cropped or color corrected. It’s a disease: pull the highlights down, bump up the shadows, fix the white balance and done! Most professional photographers that I know do the exact same thing!
(**See the images below to get an idea of how images can be edited. This is MY Headshot, so I took liberties I wouldn't normally take on someone else, but you get the idea. Bottom line: Don't trust anything in print!)
Our Project Beauty shoot on Feb. 25th it is going to be completely un-styled and free of makeup. I’m asking everyone to write down what true beauty means to them. So I had to think, what does true beauty mean to me? That’s tough since I’ve never really thought about it before. Audrey Hepburn comes to mind, because to me she was beautiful inside and out. On the outside, I feel beautiful when I am dressed and put together. I don’t feel comfortable in sweats or yoga pants. I’ve always been this way in a traditional sense. I tried wearing combat boots and the Boho Chic trends when all the magazines said that they were the things to wear. I was so uncomfortable and felt as though I was wearing a costume. I suppose beauty is what makes you comfortable and this is different for everyone. If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably wrong.
On the inside, I feel most beautiful when I am helping others. Additionally, I absolutely glow when I spend time with my clients who I believe are all genuinely inspiring and when I am with my family. Simple, but very true. "I believe your most attractive features are your heart and soul. I believe that family is worth more than money or gold." Savage Garden.
About 8 years before my Grandmother passed, I took a photo of her with my son. Before taking it, she said, “Now Laura, make sure you don’t get my double chin or all my wrinkles.” My brain immediately thought 2 things:
*You EARNED those wrinkles! You are the most perfect and wise person I have ever known. *Do we ever let up on ourselves as women? She was in her 80’s and she was still concerned with her appearance in a photo. When does it stop?
It stops now. I hope you will join us on our journey and see these brave young men and women step forward and try to make a change in our society and give a voice to others to do the same. #projectbeauty2018