On Overcoming

“You’re cute, but we don’t do plus size.”

The words cut through me and my tepid confidence like a knife. Those words, spoken to me by the waif-ish casting director of a New York modeling agency, confirmed every worst fear I had ever had about myself. As long as I could remember, I was bigger than all the girls I knew (and most of the boys). I was taller than my 5th grade teacher. I had about 50 pounds on the girls around me throughout middle and high school, and I wanted so desperately, more than anything, to be able to blend in with a crowd. At 5’10 and only 15, I felt like some sort of ogre. Many times, people would tell me how great it was that I was so tall, and how envious they were. I would often joke in return, “You can have a few inches if you want!” I was joking, but I may or may not have googled “height-reduction surgery” a few times. I was battling an eating disorder, disdain for myself, and above all of that, the natural turmoil of being a hormone-riddled teenager.

By college, things had gotten a bit better. I was taking better care of my body, working out regularly instead of depriving myself or punishing myself after heavy meals, and was starting to have a bit more self-esteem. Unfortunately, I had my weak moments. I bought diet pills on Amazon, desperate to be thin like my sorority sisters. All of the 55 women I lived with would swap clothes and raid each others closets’ before a night out. I had no such option at 6’1 and a size 12. The pills turned me into a basket case. When I wasn’t having hot flashes or dizzy spells, I was snapping at friends and family for no reason. My moods, my skin, my sanity, and just about everything else were negatively affected- but I was losing weight, quickly, and that was all that mattered. It took me fainting outside a classroom, and going to the hospital with what I thought was a heart attack (it was a panic attack, but I was convinced I was dying) for me to stop taking those horrible pills, and to begin my slow road to recovery.

In the years since then, I have found many things that have helped me find myself amidst the heavy shroud of insecurity that has always lingered. I found success in my career, which helped me build confidence in my intelligence and drive. I started working out 3 or 4 times a week, and drinking less than in college, which made me feel altogether more clear and present- I stopped hating my body, and beginning to see a sliver of the potential for strength it had. I found love with a man who made (makes!) me feel like I can do absolutely anything I want- and I started to believe him. I discovered SoulCycle, where I learned to appreciate the work my body can do and the release you can feel when you push yourself to the utter brink of exhaustion as a team. Then, most recently, and most importantly, I had my son. After 9 grueling months of morning sickness (why do they call it morning sickness when it’s all damn day?), 3 days of early labor, and pushing our beautiful boy into this world, I realized how powerful my body is, and how tightly loving my body is woven into my loving myself. Finally, I was ready to revisit something I had wanted for so long, but had never quite believed I could do.

After a glass of wine (or two), I submitted polaroids to Wilhelmina Denver online. I clicked submit, shrugging as if to say “eh, they won’t call you anyways so just do it”. I’m so glad I was wrong. I was called in for a meeting with a casting director, who told me on the spot that they would be offering me a contract. I honestly thought it was a scam. I was so convinced they were preying on someone who clearly desperately was clinging to a pipe dream. But soon after, I shot my portfolio session with a highly regarded photographer. I started being submitted for roles in the area. I attended a runway workshop, where I was told I nailed my walk, and was asked if I wanted to do a show at the end of this month. Today, I attended a fitting with the designer for that show (who happens to be an old classmate of mine from University of Colorado), who said “you’re perfect! I’m booking you to walk, in this dress”.

While in Seattle last week, I did a photoshoot with a local photographer (IG: @abigailjaephotography) who typically does weddings, maternity shoots and family portraits. I told her I wanted to do something a little different. We shot at Golden Gardens, a beautiful beachside park in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. It was 8:00pm, with sunset soon approaching. I thought we would have enough time and light for us to walk down the beach, away from the crowds, but because time was so limited, we just started shooting right then and there. The second I heard the first shutter sound, the rest of the world had faded away. I didn’t care how many people were there, how many were watching and commenting (or taking pictures with their flash on- yes, that actually happened), or how frigid the water was. What mattered was capturing the light, creating a beautiful photograph, and living in this moment of pure elation. The cover photo for this post is the preview I received later that night from the photographer. When I look at this picture, I feel like I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve done. When I look at this picture, I feel capable, powerful, and beautiful- but mostly on the inside. When I look at this picture, I feel healed.

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