I’ve known Marina since the middle and high school days. I have always found her to be warm, chic, charismatic, and of course beautiful. To be honest, I’ve always admired her. I thought she carried herself in such an inspiring way. Marina and I left the middle and high school hallways and continued bumping into each other at the same university. Bumping into her was (and still is) a joy. She’s approachable and meets each interaction with a smile and a brief exchange of words. I wish I would have known her better in high school and college. Marina, thank you for sharing with me.
*Picture Credit: Kyle Alexander
I’ve stared this series because through my own self acceptance search/journey I’ve realized that we, as humans, all have problems with our skin suit no matter what it looks like. The point of this series is to confront our flaws AND to highlight our excellence. I hope one day we’ll all be able to wake up and that voice in our mind which lists all our faults on repeat will be much quieter if not silent. The mirror will be less scary. We’ll smile as we pass our gorgeous selves. We’ll have a bounce in our steps. One day we’ll love our bodies exactly as they are right now. We might have bad days . We might have bad weeks. Yet once we unlock that key, that key of self love we’ll know we can get back to a sanctuary within our bodies. Our bodies and our selves are waiting for that love, waiting for that permission to just be. As I said to Marina, (and as I say to all my future spotlights), be gentle with yourself, you are meeting parts of yourself that you have been at war with.
1. What makes you feel beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I stop caring what people think. When I’m wearing clothes that I find cool, or makeup that expresses how I feel. For a long time, I would stand in a room and compare myself to every other person. I had an inner dialogue telling me negative things, and the more I listened to that, the worse my body image got.Then I stopped caring. I stopped comparing myself to girls in the room, girls on Instagram, girls in magazines. I started seeing myself in other places though — In works of art by ancient sculptors from Rome and Greece, in Impressionist paintings from France, in video channel works by Ana Mendieta. Even if I don’t look like the figures depicted, I can see myself through the lens of art, and that makes me feel strong, confident and beautiful.
2. What makes you feel powerful?
I feel powerful when I walk into a room with my chin parallel to the floor. “Dancers walk with their chin’s up.” That was the best advice I ever got. Dance itself also helped. When I feel weak, I channel my inner performer. I stomp instead of tip-toe. I think of Beyonce, and of Lady GaGa. I become someone else when I feel I can’t be me. When I walk in to an uncomfortable situation, with my head held high, and just embrace the fact that I am who I am, I exude confidence when I don’t have it and then true confidence follows.
3. What would you tell your past self about beauty and bodies?
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” – that’s from RuPaul, and she’s changed my LIFE. It’s okay to be different, to look differently than others. Don’t straighten your hair because you think you have to. Don’t curl your hair because you think you have to. Don’t work out three times a day because you think you have to. Don’t wear Abercrombie and Fitch because you think you have to. (7th grade realness amiright?) Wear that dope vintage bomber that you want to wear because people will ask you where you got it. Wear shorts even if some guy poked your leg and asked you when you got shot, even though it’s cellulite. It’s hot in St. Louis and nobody has time for jeans in summer. Everybody struggles with things they don’t like, and never forget that. Something that you may not like, someone else will think is beautiful. Embrace that, love that. Take care of yourself because you want to and because it’s healthy, not because you want to look like someone else. You’re you and you have one beautiful vessel of a body that’s in tune with the Earth and the stars and the sun. OWN IT.
4. How does your skin color make you feel?
I’m a white woman with heritage from all over the world. I don’t struggle at all with my skin color, but I do love that it reflects a history; Native American ancestors, Russian ancestors, French ancestors, Irish ancestors. My skin is a tableau weaved from different threads of pink, red, tan, and white. I think it’s pretty cool, and hope that anyone who does struggle with their skin color can begin to embrace it, because colors are so beautiful and reflect the strength of the people who came before you.
5. How have you struggled with your body?
Starting from second grade, I was uneasy in my body and unkind to myself. I remember sitting in the bathtub and just crying. I looked down at my stomach and at my legs and felt incredibly frustrated with the way I looked, which is not something a second grader should be feeling. I remember sitting in gym shorts, looking at other girls and their legs. I came home and asked why mine didn’t look like theirs. She told me, “Because you have Beyonce legs.”
That was the first time I realized that my shape is unique, and doesn’t always fit with everyone else’s standard of what is beautiful. I am so grateful for the representation of bodies that weren’t stick thin in the early 2000’s. At that time, female musicians and actresses were lauded for their “bootyliscious” bodies, and that awareness helped me understand that my body was also beautiful, even if I didn’t look like Kate Moss.
I struggled with image all through high school — Probably because I lived in an affluent area that prioritized thin-ness over everything else.
In middle school, there was a Facebook App called Compare People, where you were literally compared to your friends, and people could write comments. I remember reading thinks like “hook-nosed bitch” and “if she lost weight, she’d be way hotter.”
In high school, I hit a breaking point. I was out at a party, and one of my friends pulled a prank on a guy I’d grown up with since elementary school. He thought I was the one who did it, and he turned around and yelled “Marina, you fat stupid bitch.” After that, I lost 20 pounds in a month, and barely ate for a year. I got a lot of positive reinforcement from just about everyone, which only fueled my obsession with “being thin.” I didn’t want to be judged anymore. Then I gained the weight back and felt exponentially worse.
Those years were hard. People were mean. I rarely speak openly about these experiences (there are so many more but these two definitely impacted me the most), but I know that other people go through similar things, so if sharing my story helps one other person, it’s worth it.
Entering college, I made a lot of changes. I got out of an environment that was toxic, aka away from high school. I started realizing that I didn’t care what those people thought anymore, because some people just suck, and no matter how much you change, they will still tear you apart for one thing or another. I did things that I liked, found people who loved me for who I was, and for the first time, I was honestly content. My hormones leveled out and I took care of my body because I wanted to. Obviously there are still aspects of myself that I judge and sometimes self doubt creeps in, but I know that those things I thought were flaws make me who I am.
6. Complete this sentence… “In my body is a safe place to be because….”
“In my body is a safe place to be because….”
It’s an incredible design. We have cells that are engineered perfectly. Bones and muscles that support our motion. Skin that protects us. A brain that is capable of logic and love. We are formed perfectly from trial and error over millions of years, and we are here and living and breathing and experiencing the world. What a time to be alive.
From Marina, with love.