CW: binary language
One of my best friends, Tamarah, and I are both active on Instagram. We post selfies, our poetry, our opinions, our outfits, we touch our curly hair on videos and I myself throw in some fitness posts as well. We both have our histories with our eating habits, exercise and body image and have had quite a few interesting conversations about these topics. Our conversations are particularly interesting because I personally go to the gym 5 days a week and want to keep my diet clean – and still feel like I have learned to be nice to myself and love my body. I try to post about self-acceptance and mental health while also promoting fitness, which can be quite challenging these days. Tamarah on the other hand has reached a place where she tries to let her body be as much as she can and openly encourages girls to accept their bodies, faces, hair and personality for all they naturally are. She rejects everything that comes near the promotion of a perfect body (or face for that matter), everything she feels supports the idea of modifying your body for the sake of being more beautiful, more desirable or more popular. One of the latest and most passionate ways in which she does this is through her project Girls Being Girls So Perfectly It Might Scare You. I asked her some questions about it.
N: Tell us a bit about your project. What is it about, what are key themes you’re addressing?
T: Body-positivity, self-acceptance, self-love, confidence, truths and female fire are key words in my project. A few months ago I decided I wanted to start a movement that encourages females from around the world to accept themselves as they are. Today, in 2018, you can feel diversity fighting for its place in society but the media still mostly portray just one kind of female as ‘the perfect one’. The fact is that most of us don’t fit that image, so essentially no one can ever be perfect. The way everyone nowadays is desperately striving to fit into this fabricated idea of perfection is extremely unnatural and unhealthy. So I thought, why not appropriate perfection and argue that it can look and feel a million different ways? Why not change the definition of perfection as a state of being, as an experience? I decided to start photographing girls in their most natural and comfortable state, encourage them to share their story, and share some beautiful female truths. By truth I simply mean uncensored, unfiltered words and images – in my project truth and perfection overlap. If it’s true for you, it’s perfect.
When I talk about natural and comfortable atmospheres, think of a bedroom – to me this is the place where people are the purest they will ever be. Think of a girl showing her skin in a non-sexual, yet soft, sensual, confident and accepting way. My eyes light up when I picture these photographs and think of all the stories a woman holds within her body about her simply becoming herself – everyone has battles they’ve won, ones they’re still winning, to reach any state of self-acceptance. I think letting go of the toxic idea of perfection starts within the women themselves, so I look for those who have in one way or another become conscious of this image that somehow settled in their minds, and are finding ways to overwrite it. Even if they might not embrace every fiber of their beings yet, they’ve realized their journey towards this state is inherently unique and personal and can (must) be separated from society’s norms and ideals. I want girls to feel empowered when they see my project and believe in their own ability to eventually say: ‘yes, this is me and I am my kind of perfect, because I am me’. I post the photo series on the Instagram page of Girls Being Girls So Perfectly It Might Scare You.
N: To what extent have your own personal experiences influenced your decision to start this project? Tell us a bit more about how the ideas took shape in your mind and what fed them.
T: When I was younger I used to struggle a lot with the idea of who I was supposed to be, more specifically how I was supposed to look. I felt like I could only accept myself after the world had accepted me, and obviously that’s not the right order. The more I talked about this with my friends, the more I realized that so many other girls have their own personal story to tell. I think highlighting some of these stories can essentially help every single woman, since we’re all somewhere on the ladder to self-acceptance. Even if we’re at the top, there’s always going to be things that will challenge our mental and physical position. So I basically wanted to create an archive that reassures, reminds, remembers and celebrates.
N: Do you ever experience a tension between neglecting social media completely, just detaching yourself from it, and actually coming forward to share your opinion, as you’re doing now?
T: For a long time I thought of social media as such an unhealthy and fake place, where people essentially mostly pretend they’re someone they’re not. And I felt like I had to make a choice between getting rid of all social media and trying to plant a seed of pure, raw and honesty in the midst of this fakeness I saw on there. I chose the last option, because I felt like I needed to use my voice and the images in my head to try and make a change. It felt like a waste to stay quiet – I think no one should stay quiet, really, except when it’s to protect your own mental health and mind peace.
N: Do you think Instagram could actually have a positive influence on the journey towards self-acceptance or can it only be a potential obstacle that we have to either avoid or appropriate as women in order to be able to deal with it?
T: I definitely think Instagram can be a positive tool for the body-positivity movement. Everyone’s free to express themselves on Instagram, we have the space, and there’s always someone who’s willing to listen. I just want to be part of that move from simply being overly perfect and living an unrealistic (online) life towards being bravely open, raw, unedited and passionately opinionated.
And send her a DM if you’re interested in shooting with her! She’s also looking for assistance on her side of the camera.
Text: Nathalie Meertens