Photos by Zeno Gill
Occupation: Writer & Editor, Founder of the #ImNoModelEither movement
Tell us about yourself in under 100 words:
I’m a body-positive writer and humorist from Cleveland, Ohio. I’ve spent the last five years living in Seoul, South Korea, and a few months ago I moved to New York City. I’ve never met a sandwich, baby, or dog that I didn’t like – in that order.
What is something about you that most people don’t know?
When I was a little girl, I used to compulsively shove small objects into my ears. Coins, beads, a Barbie shoe – if it was small enough, it was going down the canal. My pediatrician even found a small head of broccoli in there once. I’m not sure why I did it, but I think it was a combination of wanting to see what it would feel like, and having a funny little secret for myself. Of course, it didn’t stay a secret for long – I had endless ear infections and three sets of tubes as a result. Sorry, Mom.
Close your eyes and picture “beautiful”. What comes to mind?
A sweaty, slightly unkempt little girl: Crashing through the world, demanding respect and acknowledgment from people, dressing how she wants, and being absolutely, unabashedly herself.
What is the most amazing thing your body has done for you?
I’ve traveled a lot. In a general sense, I’m so grateful that I am able-bodied enough to see the things I’ve seen – even if I had to brave a tortuous hike or cramped budget airline seat to see them. I’m also supremely grateful for my iron stomach – when you’re traveling, it helps a lot.
If you could look like someone else who would it be? If offered the chance to look like them instead of yourself for the rest of your life would you take it?
I don’t know of anyone specifically that I’d want to look like – but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t ever think about what it might be like to inhabit conventionally “hot” or “sexy” body for a day, just to experience how differently the world might relate to me. I wouldn’t want it to be permanent – I’d miss myself too much. To be honest, if I was actually given this opportunity, I’d probably request to look like my sister so that we could play tricks on my mom.
You are a body-positive blogger who has a cult following of women that look up to and admire you. How did you get here
When I was in Seoul, I started to become really aware of my body, and how it was perceived by Korean people (who have their own extreme set of beauty standards). I also experienced a severe period depression that lasted over a year, and I didn’t really have an outlet in Seoul to deal with it. So, to cope, I started writing about my experiences with my body. I posted them to Instagram. My posts were initially shared by some body positive personalities with huge followings, and from there, women started tagging their friends on my page, sharing my photos and words, etc. I’m so grateful to have that audience – they don’t have a clue how much their words and ideas have helped me formulate my own and improve upon the way I express myself. For any writer, it’s an honor to have your work read by someone else. When it comes to this, though, it’s deeper than that – people are reading it and saying, “I’ve felt like that too, and now you’ve given me a way to articulate that feeling.” That makes me feel so proud and humbled, and motivates me to keep writing.
Do you ever receive any negative comments about the pieces you write or the images you share? If yes, how does this affect you from a confidence standpoint?
I’ve had a few nasty trolls, but they don’t bother me at all. To me, the people that go out of their way to operate behind a cloak of anonymity are really going out of their way to dehumanize themselves. So, if someone comes at you like a disembodied voice, why not treat him or her as such? Like, can I hear your words? Sure. But just as quickly as you say them, they dissipate into the atmosphere, and I never have to consider them again.
You wrote an article that shamed underwear line, Lane Bryant for pegging women against one another with their new #ImNoAngel campaign. As we see a new wave of marketing campaigns focused on “real” or more diversity in the women they showcase is there a danger of isolating yet another body type – naturally thin?
For me, the bigger danger is that large brands like Lane Bryant will continue to capitalize off of falsely “empowering” women by selling them products. It’s not just an issue faced by fat women and plus-size brands – it’s everyone. We need to consciously separate this idea that the things we buy are what add value to our existence. Whether it’s Lane Bryant making money off of bogus plus-size empowerment or Victoria’s Secret claiming they can help you have “the perfect body,” we need to remember that we are nothing more than dollar signs to them, and that our self-worth is built on a different plane than the one we spend money on. If we think of it that way, there is no “pitting one against the other,” because we’d realize that we’re all in this fight together.
If you could give one message to women of the world, what would it be?
Talk to each other. The most powerful conversations I’ve ever had have been when women talk candidly and openly to one another about their fears, strengths, struggles, etc. In fact, I think it’s part of the reason why my writing hits a chord with people – people read it and see that I’ve had the same embarrassing moment as them, or felt as unsure as them, and it puts them at ease. I feel like if women could just put all the self-preservation aside and really talk to the women around them, we’d find strength in our shared experiences. Find your people, let your guard down, and talk.