Can We Stop Calling Ashley Graham “Plus-Size”?

So in case you haven’t heard, there’s a big uproar over Sports Illustrated featuring a voluptuous, buxom beauty on the cover. Ashley Graham. Ashley Graham!! The 28 year old size 16 model was selected to show her shape off to the magazine’s 20,000+ regular readers. And as you might imagine, this has created quite a stir. Here she is, looking fabulous in this untouched cover shot.

And she’s not alone. Another gorgeous lady who’s been corralled into this category made the issue as well. Robyn Lawley, a size 12 blonde bombshell, makes an appearance looking absolutely phenomenal, and far from “Plus”. As some have noted, Lawley actually beat Graham to the punch of being the first “Plus-Size” model to grace its pages, making it into an issue of Sports Illustrated previously.

In interviews, both girls expressed dissatisfaction at being labeled as “Plus-Size”. Recently, Lawley expressed further unhappiness at the term, claiming that her curves were being used as a publicity stunt. And she’s not completely wrong. The announcement has blown up all over social media, and as exciting as it seems, it may not be the revolution we all were hoping for.

“With my ItalianVogue cover [in 2011] for example, there’s only been one, and it hasn’t happened again. I think American Vogue has only featured Adele. I think it’s probably going to be coming. But it can’t just be one issue every five years, and everyone yipping and yawing and getting excited, and then nothing happening afterward.” -Robyn Lawley, Allure magazine

Both models are outspoken about body positivity and acceptance at all sizes, and practice what they preach in their design careers. Lawson has created a fantastic line of swimsuits catering to larger sizes. And Graham has her own lingerie collection, which proudly proclaims:

“I AM STRONG. I AM BEAUTIFUL. #IAMSIZESEXY”

My question is, when can we stop calling Ashley Graham and girls like her “Plus-Size”, and start accepting them as normal instead? These women are sexy and successful; and the only “Plus” thing about them is in their patience, and the attitudes they hold towards fashion, beauty, and what it means to be a woman. Sexy isn’t a size. You aren’t a size. You’re not a label or a number, either. It’s time we set aside the scales and measuring tapes and started appreciating ourselves rather than trashing and belittling. While I still may be unhappy with the term, the fact that this is happening is cause for celebration. Beauty comes in all forms, and it’s time we started showcasing it. And to all you haters out there, try not to get down on someone else just for loving themselves, just the way that they are.

“We’re making girls lose weight to fit samples, rather than the other way around. We should make the clothes fit the girls. I find it remarkable, because beauty comes in all shapes and all sizes. It always has and it always will. And if you’re looking at catwalks, it’s not diversified at all. It’s the same body type [one] after another. I’m sick of it. I don’t see myself being represented in fashion, and I love fashion.” -Robyn Lawley, Allure magazine

Where Does Confidence Come From?

Today I thought I’d start with a prompt I didn’t have an immediate answer to:

Where does confidence come from?

Confidence, an unassuming little word, encompasses and impacts more of our daily lives than most of us would probably care to admit. But what is confidence? Where can we find it? Can it be bottled, captured, or taught? And why does it matter…?

Confidence can be seen from a mile away.

If you’ve ever looked in the mirror, given a speech, or had to work with a team, then you likely already know the basic concept here. Confidence, in the best terms that I can describe, is the assuredness in one’s own thoughts, being, or actions. And it really is so powerful and so important in achieving our dreams, because it lifts us up into a state of believing in which anything is possible–as long as we are driven and determined (ie: Confident) enough.

Confidence can be seen from a mile away. It’s in a person’s smile, their stride, the way they dress or how they behave around others. Confidence makes us better individuals, because instead of turning to dark or bitter thoughts, we gravitate towards the positive in life. Yes, confidence itself lives in the very realm of the positive, and it’s always waiting there, for whenever we happen to venture on by.

I don’t suggest trying this.

You don’t need to be flawless–or fearless–to be confident. You don’t even have to be confident all of the time (I know I most certainly am not). Confidence, like all things in life, has its cycle – its time and its place. Some of us have too much (raise your hand if you know someone); others could use a bit more (give yourself some credit!). But I wanted to delve more into the finding of confidence here, and how we can work to build and maintain a healthy dose of it.


Step One: Say Good-bye to Your Negative Nancy.
Each of us has a negative voice in the back of our minds; usually a fearful, timid little voice, whispering “What if’s” and “should have/could have’s” in our ear. And believe me, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, that worried little voice just might function as a survival instinct. We rely a lot on our perceptions to tell us what (and who) is a danger to us. So the first step here, is really, learning not to be afraid. A confident person isn’t a person who won’t recognize dangers or experience fears, but rather acknowledges all of these, and then chooses to express that they themselves are unthreatened.

You should definitely be like this kid, though.

I hate to go off on a tangent here, but consider if you will for a moment the behavior of dogs. If you see a dog that is barking at everyone that walks past, lunging at other dogs, and not listening to its owner, you might just assume that it is either badly behaved, or aggressive. The fact of the matter may be though that the dog is merely scared and not reassured of its owner’s leadership abilities. Neither of them have any confidence in what they’re doing, and so the dog goes on the offense (another survival instinct). In contrast, a confident dog owner will provide greatly needed direction for their pooch, and a dog that has a confident owner is going to be more self-assured in their actions as a result.

It’s all about attitude – which brings me to my next point.

Step Two: Fake It Until You Make It!
If you’re not naturally confident in a project, a person (yourself), or a situation, the very best thing that you can do is pretend that you are anyways. Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back; you can smile or keep a calm countenance – whichever you prefer. The important thing though is to tell yourself (and others) through the use of body language that you are assertive… that you really know what you’re doing. Confidence inspires confidence. And what I mean by that is, if you appear relaxed and assured in your circumstance, it will help other people to feel more at ease as well. If you seem to have a firm grasp on what’s going on, you inspire others to feel confident in your character and your abilities.

It’s really a positive, self-rewarding system.

Step Three: Embracing a Better You


Human beings are truly incredible creatures, and our ability for adaptation and change is nothing short of remarkable. Have a trait you don’t like? Guess what: you can change that. Unhappy with your personability or how you present yourself to others? It’s all something you can work on and improve. Anything, from our behaviors to our personalities, can be re-shaped and molded into something exciting and new. And this can definitely be applied to our topic of choice.

The biggest step you can make in coming into a brighter, happier self is changing your mode of thinking. Try to compliment yourself, quietly or out loud, as often as you like. Reward yourself with praise when you know you’ve done well, and don’t be afraid to accept praise from others. The instant we accept that we can be as amazing as we want to be, the whole world just opens up to us. As if to say: “Here it is! Anything and EVERYTHING you could want is at your fingertips. Please, just reach out and take it!” My advice? Take it. And don’t let that little demon called doubt try and hold you back.

Roar and thump your chest. Get a little proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. And if there are things that you still want to accomplish, go out there and do them! When you erase limitations from your mind, you put yourself in the very shoes of Confidence itself. And nothing is better than being the very thing that you want.

 

The Short Hair Stigma: Learning to Love Your Locks

I had already decided to grow out my hair. Two weeks ago, while staring at my reflection, I turned to my boyfriend and said: “It needs to be long.” I still remember the moment I finally chopped it all off. It was only last summer, after all. And I’d only been waiting to do it for years.

The comment didn’t help any. “Heyy boys…” our bartender greeted. It was so hilarious at the time, I had to stop myself from laughing. My boyfriend didn’t say a word. It was a while after, as we were leaving from our lunch date that I realized that the comment had bothered me.

Short Hair    Short Hair 2

Truly, it shouldn’t have. I’ve made the mistake of buying into other people’s opinions before. You never end up anywhere fun living like that. And I loved my hair; still love my hair. It had been a long time in the making. A choice I’d been talked out of numerous times by stylists who all thought they knew better. A pixie wouldn’t “fit my face”. I should just try something chin-length instead. I’d done it all before, and never been happy with the result. So when I finally let myself have it, when I stopped taking no for an answer, I felt amazingly free. The cut looked fantastic, and beyond that, it was sexy!

Having short hair has this instant effect of helping you stand out in a crowd. It’s so simple to look put-together, cute, and trendy all at once! And honestly, I spent so much less time getting ready in the morning. The downside of being a girl and cutting off all your hair is that people tend to jump to some pretty wild conclusions about you. I’d gotten the lesbian comments more than once; the disapproving stares from older people, or better yet–men. But none of it had ever fazed me.

Until the moment I realized… I was done having short hair.

This would have made for a much more interesting movie…

The problem with going super short is, it’s not as quick to get it back as it is to take it off. It’s something you go into knowing, and yet it still doesn’t change the urge you get the instant you decide you want something new. I no longer wanted short hair. I wanted longer hair again, more freedom to straighten, curl, and style. Up-do’s and beachy waves! I wanted it all back. And the terrible thing was, I wanted it now. Not mid-length hair, either; but down to your chest, flowing locks – which sadly, just don’t come overnight. Believe me, I’ve hoped I’d wake up like Harry Potter, but alas, no such luck.

The thing about making a decision for yourself is that you know you’re doing it for you. It’s something you’re already set-on; eager for, so to speak. But hearing others emphasize the things you lack that you’re working to reclaim… it’s super discouraging to say the least. I felt like a conformist. Like I was changing who I was to please the generalized public opinion. And that’s the worst feeling when all you’re trying to do is fulfill your desires. How had I suddenly grown ashamed of what was on my head? Because of something a man in a bar said, offhandedly? That simply couldn’t be the case. My boyfriend (the only person who matters) thinks I’m the hottest thing on earth, and he tells me so, every damn day. So what was going on here?

In simplest terms, it’s our own insecurities that leave us vulnerable. The moment I decided I no longer looked my best with a cropped ‘do, every oggle and backhanded comment became a missile aimed straight at my face. We leave ourselves open to attack when we’re uncertain of ourselves, and the biggest lesson I learned here is that standing by your choices also sometimes means living with them. Even if it also means suffering through something largely uncomfortable.

In the meantime, I’m just going to soldier on; see my hairstylist frequently, and have some fun experimenting with hats and head scarves! The upside is, I’ve never looked at my hair with so much potential before. This is going to be a truly great time to accessorize, and frankly, I can’t wait.

Stay strong, ladies! And remember, whatever you wear, to do so with confidence.

♥ Jenn

Real Beauty: A Cry to Bare It All

What is beauty?

I found myself deciphering that question one day while watching the unknown faces drift by. Every one of them I managed to summon some positive comment or characteristic for. Surprisingly, most of them were less about physical attractiveness and more about personality. A gentle smile, a kind laugh… the natural allure of a person’s sparkling eyes. Beauty, the most undermined and over abused topic in our daily lives, is not dead, my friends; it’s merely strung up in a coma and in desperate need of some fluids.

Let’s talk for a second about what it means to be beautiful. 

Beauty comes by many definitions. This, perhaps, is the most compelling:

The qualities in a person / thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.

So beauty, by our very definition, is a fallible, feeble concept. A matter, as we so often put it, of taste. And yet we have been bombarded, dare I say overwhelmed in our waking lives with the all-consuming trends of today. “Buy this, and you’ll know allure.” “Wear that to receive acknowledgement.” “The brighter, flashier, younger–the better!” Beauty has become a beast we can no longer afford to feed. Thanks to outrageous societal norms, even the most naturally blessed can now look at themselves and find flaw. It’s not enough to merely be beautiful, or thin, curvy or fair; golden skin and flowing locks just don’t cut it anymore. We’re in a generation of disappointment and dashed expectations. If I don’t look like the men/women/kids in magazines, if I can’t command the presence and glamour of the stars in the media, then I’m undeserving of attention. Less than is our new popular phrase.

The unworthiness bug is catching quick, and hundreds of petitions and cries for realistic role-models aren’t changing things any. The fact is, this is a worldwide crisis, and it starts with judgement. Now I’m not talking about judging others strictly, but rather drawing from the outside and coming to judgments about ourselves. My nose is too big, my calves could be smaller, and on and on! Just a short time ago, awareness of our own image wasn’t even that great – and now we have social media and other self-obsessed hobbies to keep us company. It’s no wonder that public morale is down. Instead of spending time with others, we’re turning all of our energy (and destructive energy at that) inwards. In a world of so much connectivity, we have never been more alone… and we’re suffering for it.

What we’ll find is that we’re filling this world with angry, unrealistic people. People who watch television and think that celebrities look that flawless all the time, or that someone who has good skin or a great figure doesn’t have to work hard to achieve those things. Instead of expressing our humanity in a positive way, we reflect negatively upon ourselves and spend time brooding over how we could be better. And makeup is largely to blame. It’s one thing to improve your appearance and boost your confidence by covering up a pimple, or dabbing a little color on your lips. It is far another to conceal and fearfully hide every aspect of your true self.

Best accessory? Your smile.

Best accessory? Your smile.

And if you respond with, What if that is my true self?” Here is my answer: Does any of that make you happier? Each day, does it get easier to accept that you are a beautiful person, inside and out? Or is that mask on your face just helping to grow and fester your own backwards sense of insecurity? The truth is, beauty comes from inside. Cliché, I know, but that’s realer than any woman in a Covergirl commercial. And if you don’t believe me, try going without that face for one day, and see how, emotionally, you fare. Until you can step outside with a bright smile and a confident heart, maybe it’s time to reconsider your daily “beauty” routine.