Dear Ames (I feel oddly close to you after following your spunky self on Instagram for a few years, so nicknames are in order),
First off, you m'dear, a fellow gal pal with boobs, a butt, and a cute lil' belly, are a breath of fresh air, as demonstrated by your Pirelli photoshoot.
Yesterday, while scrolling down my Instagram feed, I saw the most striking split-screen photo: on the left, a photo of a beautiful woman's torso cut from stone and on the right, a photo of a beautiful woman's torso cut from real-life flesh. There was something awesomely "Greek goddess" about the side-by-side — like the real-life version was the stone come to life.
They bore a striking resemblance. The sculpture was Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love and beauty) and, back in 101 B.C., society deemed her body, ripe with ripples, to be flawless. After perusing some nasty trolls commenting on the photo, it seemed that modern society had, several thousand years later, deemed the nearly identical image of the real-life woman's torso to be flawed. Why? The same bit of belly, the same rounded hips, the same essence of what is a healthy, natural, womanly body. I found myself perched over in disbelief, equally stupefied by the irony of the photo and saddened by the devolution of society all at once.
At a time when social media feels like warfare within oneself, too many of us meticulously plotting how to filter, brighten, and tighten our every flaw as if just BEING in our own skin is painful, you are a welcome reprieve from the norm. You own your curves unapologetically, and in doing so inspire millions of others to follow suit.
In a society where women are socially conditioned from adolescence to attribute their attractiveness to a number on a scale, you roar a silent but mighty protest with that gorgeous black and white photo oozing with belly folds and confidence. Behind your eyes you seem to say, "OH, ME? YES, I LOVE THIS BODACIOUS BODY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH."
And did I mention you chose to make this brazen statement inside the Pirelli Calendar, which is the ultimate #forthewin?! That calendar is forever changed for the better, and so are we.
With that one photo, with your recent retort at Glamour for posting your name under plus-size women, with your unfiltered bikini shots shared on your Instagram, you stand in solidarity with all the women who are fed up. The ones who are tired of sucking in just before a photo is taken, who are annoyed at themselves for choosing the one-piece bathing suits not because they want to but because they feel they have to, the women who almost instinctively cower away from men touching the curves they've been taught to loathe their whole lives.
I know this because I was this girl many years ago and on any given day am this girl again. For the record, I too, Amy, oscillate between a size 6-8 depending on my consumption of Nutella that week (I kid, I kid). I used to be 45+ pounds heavier in college, and thanks to a lot of healthy habits and hard work, I can say I'm really starting to love the skin I'm in. I recently rocked a bikini on vacation and had a new girlfriend tell me, "Thank you, Vicki, for having the confidence to love your body like that," before swiftly changing out of her one-piece and into a bikini to join me in belly-loving solidarity.
The crazy thing is that we EVEN have to talk about this. You and I are healthy size 6 women, who workout and eat well, and, yes, we've got a belly roll or two when we sit on a stool. That's healthy. The unsolicited amount of negativity hurled your way is not.
We need you girlfriend, desperately. Times are tougher than ever for women's perceptions of beauty: plus-size is considered a size 6 at modeling agencies, photoshop propagates unrealistic beauty standards, and fat-shaming perfectly healthy women occurs thousands of times a day by the media, by our own friends, by the men we date, and it's just gotta stop.
Luckily, we are gradually making progress and you're part of the movement. You're helping to normalize the insanely abnormal, unhealthy, and often contrived perception of beauty thanks to your unabashed humor and truth. You serve up body positivity on the daily to masses of women hungry for self-love. We need you and women in media (and in general) to be a beacon of light leading the way for a body positive future, so that my daughter and yours will focus on building themselves up for who they are instead of enabling society to break them down for what body shape they aren't.
I'm learning to love the times when my body is curvier (hello, perky D cup!) as much as the times when my high school abs make a momentary appearance. 10 pounds up or down doesn't change who I am, it no longer dictates how I feel about myself, and holy shit that liberation is a game-changer as a woman.
So what's next? Keep doing what you're doing and so will I. If we make a pact to not give in to these small but significant injustices, if we fortify our conviction by being mirrors for each other's progress, if we continue to lead with kindness towards the phenomenal machine that is our body, then we will conquer the bullies. I believe that's how change is catalyzed from pedantic, archaic ideals of women's beauty to progressive and fair standards relatable to all women of all shapes and sizes. We have got to become the change we so earnestly deserve.
For fear of being overly mushy, I'll leave you with a classic Maya Angelou quote. She once said, "When you know better, you do better" so I gotta thank you, Amy, for showing me how to be a better owner to this hell of a bodacious body and roar my own silent screams of confidence right beside you.
Gotta run... off to find the perfect bikini for that Bali vacation next month.
Cheers to our lil' bellies and being kind to ourselves,
For more from the author, visit www.yearofkind.com.