Flashing Comfort Zones

It’s a chilly 45 degrees outside, but the sun is shining bright through the clear glass ceiling protecting the pool from the cold winter day. Today is UNC Culture Magazine’s: Underwater Photoshoot and I am one of the models.

Before any photoshoot, my body begins to react in the same way.  My palms become sweaty, my heart begins to race, and my spirit becomes heavy. The simple act of posing in front of a camera becomes a mental battle between my voice of self-doubt and confidence.

You are not pretty enough. Your teeth are too small. You are not the “rightsize. The hobgoblin on my shoulder begins to whisper in my ear.  You will never make the final spread.

Lined against the edge of the pool are six beautiful young women awaiting the directions of the photographer. Their makeup is natural and their lips are bright, their vintage bathing suits hug their bodies in just the right areas, accentuating their curves… and then there is me in the background on the bench still awaiting to get my makeup done and pulling my one piece over my thighs to hide my wide Cuban hips.

Haha, would you look at that, you are the plus size model.  It whispers as I glance over the top of my compact mirror at the girls in their bikinis strutting their stuff.

Trying to ignore the anxiety building up inside of me, I walk to the bathroom, finding a mirror deep in the crevices of the locker room.  Staring at my reflection I start the exercise I have been doing for a few years –pointing out the aspects that I find beautiful about myself.

My freckles, my eyes, my smile, my hair…  I repeat this out loud over and over again, slowly the anxiety begins to die a bit. I muster up my courage, give my myself one last breath-taking model look and walk out the door.

Everyone is in the water already so I make my way to the shallow end of the pool, where all the girls are posing in an arm locked circle with their heads in the water, staring at the sky as the photographer shoots from above.  After a couple of shots, we are moved to the deeper end of the pool where each of us are asked to do an interesting pose underwater. So one by one, the girls line up and take their turn.

Finally, it is my turn and as I plunge underwater my heart starts to race again, it suddenly feels as if I am drowning. What’s happening!? My brain seems to yell.  You have never come up for air so quickly! You love the water –you’re are practically a fish!

Instantly, the years of swimming lessons, pretending to model, or being in a cool underwater movie scene vanish. Water floods my lungs from every direction and when I came up for air I am gasping like a fish out of water.

It doesn’t make sense. This is not me. I am supposed to be the role model of Beauty for Ashes –redefining beauty, loving yourself and all that. I mean, I do love my body and I know I have a pretty high self-esteem but, I can’t understand why I seem to be failing myself and my ideas right now. Why am I picking out every minuscule detail that is wrong in the pictures…? It doesn’t make sense.

But then it hits me, I am scared of the camera.

Never has it been so easy for us to see such distorted images of ourselves.  Photos can be manipulated by so many different means such as lighting, color, zooming, angles, and Photoshop. So suddenly, all this body confidence disappeared because, I’m comparing myself to others. I am highlighting the same quirks I love so much about myself as defects because I didn’t look like the “typical model” and they stood there frozen in a picture for the world to see, including me.

“I want thank you all for coming today” the editor-and-chief of the magazine announced as we took one final shot of the whole group. “All of you are beautiful and truly made the bathing suits pop! The spread for this shoot is going to be amazing and I am so grateful that you all took time out of your busy schedules to help us today. We love models of every shape, size, color, and race. I am so glad I had the chance to work with all of you.”

As everyone gathered their stuff and left, I stood there for a minute. I realized she was right. I am different, and that is what makes me beautiful.  I am a different shade, different race, and different size. So, I might not be as tall or as thin as a traditional model. But, I have my long wavy hair, voluptuous Latin curves, and my quirky smile that attracts others. And those are my model secret weapons.

Beauty for Ashes strives to help individuals redefine beauty and stepping out of your comfort zone is one of those means. It will teach you to find positivity in every experience.

Today I stepped out of my comfort zone, and with a few more practice rounds, I know the camera won’t scare me anymore.

Brigitte, 21

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Here are some photos of me and my best friend after the photoshoot embracing our beauty!

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