Andréa Unplugged

It’s been a little over two weeks now since I reemerged onto the social media scene after my one month hiatus. I received a lot of folks reaching out asking me if everything was okay… I’m not sure if I should be concerned about that reaction, if I’m being completely honest. Just to clarify for all you reading this out there, I was and am okay. Well, mostly.

I decided to take a break from social media partially to see if I was capable and because I wanted to take some time to focus on real life, you know, the stuff that’s actually right in front of me?

And so, I started off on my journey and I’ll be damned if it didn’t put some things in perspective:

-    I found that I got back what felt like an extra three hours every day.

-    I spent time reading. Specifically, I read Brené Brown’s “Daring Greatly” and “The Tao of Bill Murray” by Gavin Edwards. I can’t help but feel these two books couldn’t have come at a better time. I highly recommend both.

-    I started paying attention; to my partner, to myself, to the people around me.

-    I took pictures for me, not for anyone else. I took pictures that I knew I wouldn’t be sharing in stories or on pages. I took them because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to.

-    I played. I played games and engaged with family and friends. I made real connections and conversation with people.

-    I found myself more focused and less distractible both at work and at home.

When my month was up, I actually struggled wanting to be back online. Truthfully, I still have yet to download the Facebook app back onto my phone. I’m working on taking many of the lessons I learned from this experience and trying to maintain them while still having an engaged online presence and it isn’t easy. I believe social media has its positive attributes. It allows for people to connect with one another, stay in touch with people at a distance, and share snippets of their lives. It also allows us to see how other people live and know that we’re not alone. While these are all wonderful things, I think it’s important for us to not lose sight of what’s in front of us. To be present and engaged with the people who are physically in our lives. To live real life and not measure our worth by the amount of followers we have on our pages or the amount of likes our last photo got.

In the words of Bill Murray,

“I just really only want to work when I want to work. Life is really hard, and it’s the only one you have. I mean, I like doing what I do, and I know I’m supposed to do it, but I don’t have anything to bring to it if I don’t live my life.”

Photo by Jamie Buckley Photography.

Photo by Jamie Buckley Photography.

Curves in Bloom

Calling all babes! I’m going to need you all to take out your planners, pull up your calendars and get ready to take note, like now. Something big is coming to the PNW. Big, big. I’m talking a full-blown event celebrating all bodies through dance, shopping with local fat-positive vendors, workshops, a red carpet event, fashion show, panel of amazing individuals, silent auction, raffle and more! (So glad I’m typing this all out because that borderline run on sentence would have left me winded.) All of this is happening at the inaugural Curves in Bloom conference in downtown Seattle at AXIS Pioneer Square, Saturday, February 24th.

Coming to help kick this event off are some pretty big players in the game; Jess Baker (The Militant Baker), Troy Solomon (A Bear Named Troy), Little Bear the Bearded Lady, and Bevin Branlandingham (The Queer Fat Femme). If you’re not familiar with these folks, you should be and I encourage you to take the time to check them out. If you are familiar with them, are you fangirling as hard as I am?!

If all of the aforementioned wasn’t enough (though I’m really not sure how that’s even possible) there is also going to be an exclusive happy hour where one can mix and mingle with the visiting panelists with purchase of a VIP ticket. What more could one possibly want from an event?! For a conference’s first year, the Curves in Bloom team is pulling out all the stops and I have to admit I am wildly impressed.

If I haven’t already made this clear, I can’t begin to express not only how exciting something like this is for Seattle, but how important it is. As it stands there are few events like this in the country and what few there are do not happen in our corner of the world. Whether you’re new to the body-posi lifestyle or you’re a veteran, this event is for you. And let’s be honest, after a long, cold, and wet winter here in Seattle I cannot think of a better way to kick off spring than overloading on some always needed body positivity.

Interested in going? Get your tickets here and I’ll see you there!

Photo by Sarah Gonia Photography.

Photo by Sarah Gonia Photography.

Just a Number

Friends, I have a confession to make; on Sunday, October 29, 2017, I will officially leave my twenties and enter into an entirely new decade. Thirty.

Thirty. It’s hard to say and it was even harder to accept. Milestone birthdays can be dangerous. They cause questions like, who am I? What have I done with my life? Where am I going and why am I here? They can also allow insecurities to run amuck. I’ll be honest, I’ve spent the last year working my way through all the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and now, finally, acceptance.

Acceptance because what other choice do I have? But, more importantly, because these past thirty years have taught me that when something gets scary, you have to lean into it. Hard.

When I finally decided to own this “thirty thing”, not only did I plan three weeks of birthday celebration (I’m currently writing this from my hotel room in Las Vegas), but I also enlisted the Jamie Buckley of Jamie Buckley Photography to assist me in getting older by documenting my own adult cake smash.

I met with Jamie in the park during golden hour with birthday décor, an ostentatious pink cake, a sequined dress, bottle of cheap champagne, and flower crown and what came of it was pure magic. In retrospect, I suppose there’s some symbolism to be had with plunging one’s hands into a cake in the name of bravely facing a new year. Symbolic or not, it felt good. 

And so the time has come to say goodbye to my twenties, but with hope and optimism for this next chapter in life. Here's to a new decade, a new outlook, and many new adventures. In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright,

"The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes."

 

 

At Face Value

“No makeup.” A request that shook me to my core. I was being asked to show up to a shoot barefaced and not because there was going to be a makeup artist present. For those of you who don’t know, often times models will have a face full of heavy handed war paint just to get along with the camera they’re facing. Some of you may be saying to yourself,

“I don’t understand! This girl just told the entire world last week that she’s fat. What could possibly be so scary about going makeup less?” Rationally I see where you’re coming from, now let me try to explain. Sometimes wearing makeup can feel like a mask or a security blanket. For me makeup has become part of my identity as a model and perhaps is deeply rooted in the “big girl with a pretty face” thing. Either way, when you’re asked to strip yourself of persona and show your underbelly to someone, it’s a little intimidating.

Regardless, I accepted the challenge. I showed up to my shoot nervous, vulnerable, and with knots in my stomach. Luckily my photographer, Mark, put me at ease and the session I had with him was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. This clearly was not his first rodeo. He asked me to warm up by stretching, he told me jokes, we laughed together, we spoke of life and philosophy. Coming out of my session left me feeling as though I had just stepped out of a yoga studio. I was absolutely glowing.

In the weeks that followed I anxiously awaited the return of my photos, as every good model does. I spent the time worrying that perhaps my makeup less face proved too hideous and Mark just didn’t know how to tell me. Finally, the moment of truth arrived in my inbox and while I had sat down to open the photos I received, what I saw nearly made me fall out of my chair.

I cried. I cried, not because I was dissatisfied with my photos, but because I loved them so much. They were me to my core. I had nothing to hide behind and all that was there was, well… me. The “me” that my partner sees when we wake up in the morning together, the “me” that my family loves, and the “me” that my friends know and it was beautiful.

Insecurities are funny things. They can be so small, but cause us to make such big decisions about the way we live. Confront the things that make you uncomfortable, my friends, because that’s when the personal growth and learning about yourself really starts to happen.

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

Photo by Mark Laubenheimer

The "F" Word

Friends, let’s take moment today to reflect on the “f” word. You know the one. We use it selectively, dance around it, try to use cute alternatives to replace it, and never ever use it when speaking to our mothers. The word I’m describing is “fat”. Ready for the second part to this? Here we go; I. Am. Fat.

Now, once you’ve finished gasping and before you all reach out to remind me of my redeeming qualities and insist that I am definitely not “fat”, let me stop you. The truth is, I don’t want your sympathy. This post isn’t for attention, it’s not meant to make you feel bad for me, or for you to lie to me about how I’m not fat and feed me some line about being big boned and well-proportioned with a pretty face. Nah, that’s not what this is at all. I’m simply stating a fact.

Check it out; “fat” is an adjective. I am not thin, nor slender,  I'm not even average in size for that matter, so what else does that leave? I’ll give you a hint; it’s three letters and rhymes with cat… Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat. Whew that felt good! Now that we’ve established that, let me throw out a couple other things; I am tall, I am smart, I am fair skinned, I am brunette, I am sassy, and sometimes I am funny (or at least I think so). Do you see where I’m going with this?

The word “fat” doesn’t have to be offensive and really shouldn’t be. When we choose to guard ourselves from the word, treat it as some vile thing, and only bring it out to use in an insulting manner do we give it power. Start treating it as a descriptor (as it’s meant to be) instead of a putdown and you might see it in a completely different light.

Moral of the story is this; words only have as much power as we choose to give them. I am fat, and that’s a statement of fact. And while I may be fat, I am so much more than just that.

Photo by Julia Kinnunen Photography

Photo by Julia Kinnunen Photography

Mission Impossible

“Mission statement”. Words that evaded me for the longest time. Two years ago, when I started my Plus Size Pioneer Facebook page I knew I wanted to also begin a blog, but I didn’t know where to begin. I brainstormed content, angle, what I could share with the world about life as a plus size model, and I kept finding myself uninspired because I still hadn’t figured out just exactly what my mission was. Dictionary.com defines this allusive term as such;

mission statement

noun

1. an official document that sets out the goals, purpose, and work of an organization.

2. a written statement that sets out one’s personal goals for the future:

Having a personal mission statement brings focus to your life.

Overwhelming, right? If I’m being completely honest I started modeling for selfish reasons. Riddled with insecurities and lacking confidence, it felt so good to get in front of the camera, showcase my informally trained make up skills and receive and share photos of myself that I thought were beautiful.

Unexpectedly, before I knew it, I had people reaching out to me expressing how they were inspired by my work. Women who suffered from self-acceptance, men who informed me that they too experienced body image issues, or even some people who expressed that my work caused them to look outside of their initial perceptions of traditional beauty and see that people can be beautiful regardless of size.

Suddenly, this "feel good project" became bigger than myself. It became about my social obligation as a person of size. If you would have asked me two years ago what my mission statement was I would have probably given you an unfocused and disjointed answer that would have left you confused and me wondering if I’d said the right thing. Now, ask me. I dare you, because it’s really quite simple,

“To represent an underrepresented demographic, normalize unconventional body types, and redefine 'beauty'.” That’s it.

Do you have a mission statement either personal or in your own business? I’d love for you to share it in the comments. Don’t have one? That’s okay! Sometimes we have to start the journey before we discover where we’re headed.

Photo by Harp and Hare Photography

Photo by Harp and Hare Photography