I’ve known Drea since high school. We’ve shared classes, passed each other in hallways, and shared mutual friends. After high school we went our separate ways occasionally bumping into each other in public spaces, and having conversations via the world wide web. Drea has this dazzling smile that I feel encompasses all that she is. It tells us that she’s full of light. It tells us that she’s strong, independent, divine, knowing, and soulful. Drea, thank you for sharing with me.
I’ve started 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 Drea, (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?
To save time and avoid having to dig deep into my soul when I am asked this question, I usually tell people that my smile makes me feel beautiful. But, the most truthful answer to this question is simply, “my mind”. As women we are taught from birth that our bodies come before our minds, and that our minds do not matter. When in reality, our bodies can work with our minds to make a beautiful combination. I know that my mind makes me feel beautiful because I propose my own unique way of thinking, I can use my mind to reinforce the knowing that I am beautiful, and understand the beauty in others. That is something that my body cannot do on its own. I need my mind to connect to my body, and I need my body to aid in supplying the world with those ideologies.
2. What makes you feel powerful?
Alike, what makes me feel beautiful also makes me feel powerful. My mind. I have the power to understand, formulate, change, and/or accept anything simply by using my mind. There is nothing better than being able to use such a private and personal tool to feel powerful and use that power on a daily basis.
3. What would you tell your past self about beauty and bodies?
I would tell my past self, like I tell myself every Monday morning to start the week: “you were born with it, you’re going to die with it. Surround yourself with people who celebrate YOU.” As a result of going through a transitioning home-life and the discovery of new friends, I forced myself into a journey to self-acceptance during middle school. I refused to be lost in the transition. Which meant that I was accepting my flaws. I was looking in the mirror and loving what puberty was giving me. I was looking into the mirror and loving my skin color after years of being surrounded by peach-colored skin. I was figuring out what I did/didn’t want, and the types of friendships that I needed in order to reciprocate the love that I was pushing forth into the world. I was different, but in a good way. Through that I learned to accept a person for what he/she is, not what I feel he/she is supposed to be. I should not have unnecessary expectations. I learned that everyone is an individual. I am an individual.
4. How does your skin color make you feel?
My skin color makes me feel absolutely delicious. I feel delicious because people pay for what I already have. People pay for melanin. People lay out in the sun just to experience melanin. That’s how I learned to love my skin color, and the fact that I am my own being with my own set of beautiful features. My skin color just adds some spice to it.
5. How have you struggled with your body?
There are only two ways in which I have struggled with my body, both having to do with the internalization of expectations that others placed upon me. Both of those struggles were rooted in, past tense because I no longer care about those expectations, a European standard of beauty. In the midst of puberty, while my hips were filling out, I was told that I was fat and for a while I truly believed that my hips were the result of unhealthy eating. Of course, as an adult I realized that my hips were the result of a beautiful gift that my mother gave to me. Thanks mom. The second half of the struggle, stretch marks, took a little longer to overcome. For awhile, I was afraid to wear swimsuits, and really show off my body even though the stretch marks weren’t very visible. It was not until I realized as a woman of color that when your butt and hips are a little bigger than some of the peach-colored girls that you’ve been surrounded by your entire life, that stretch marks come with that package. The battle with stretch marks ended when I laid on the beach in Puerto Rico and saw women of all shapes, sizes, and colors walking along the shoreline without a care in the world. They are a part of me, what you see is what you get! Finally, I was able to free my mind, body, and spirit from those internalized expectations. The key is to stop caring what other people think. The key is to live life for yourself, not for others. Don’t struggle for the expectations of others.
6. Complete this sentence… “In my body is a safe place to be because….”
In my body is a safe place to be because only I know the depths of my soul. To know me is to love me, and I love me. I am safe within knowing myself. Simple as that.
From Drea, with love.