Smile For The Camera

The beginning of this post is an excerpt from “Chocolate Drop,” an essay I wrote for Sledgehammer Lit Magazine.

I never felt pretty, even when people told me that I was.

I should have been flattered.

I never listened to a word of it. Complements made my skin crawl because I didn’t deserve them.

Complements were for skinny girls. Lighter, skinned girls.

Not for girls like Black and fat me.

My body and I have had a rocky relationship for most of my life, and as I’ve aged, it seems like there was always something new to dislike.

I have a black birthmark on my stomach, just below my breasts.

The oily complexion that showed up in high school.

The extra skin that accumulated on my upper arms just before graduation.

The stretch marks that showed up when I was pregnant and never disappeared.

The way my boobs went from perky to exhausted soon after my son was born.

They were never big enough for me to begin with.

And the rolls.

Fat bulging from my midsection and limbs. The thighs are massive, but no booty to match. Back fat that was uncontainable. My jiggly body was always a source of pain for me. People made fun of me for being overweight in school, and I internalized those messages.

And got fatter.

I tried to lose weight, but nothing I did had any lasting effects. I was a Fat, Black girl trapped in a Fat, Black body and the world had no kindness for me.

Then, I Grew Up

Time passed, and I’ve lost weight since then. I’m at my senior year of high school weight currently. I’m satisfied for the most part, but I’m still battling the negative self-talk that is always there.

It isn’t easy.

The media is inundated with images of people of thinner people, people that are in better shape than me. It can be hard to spend any amount of time online without seeing a skinny person selling lies and dreams. Some of them can be pretty convincing. There are times when I compare my own body to theirs and have a twinge of shame. How dare I have the gall to love myself? I don’t look anything like the approved lovable models. Self-love! Perish the thought.

It’s a constant battle. I have to decide that I love my body. Every day, all the time.

Not only that, but I have also decided to love the body I have right now. Not when I lose another 50 pounds. Not even when I tone some more muscle, I love the body I have right now and the things it can do.

This is part of why I decided to do a boudoir photoshoot last December.

My pursuit of self-love was an essential factor, but the other piece came from my friend, Alijah. From the moment I told her that I was considering it, her whole attitude about it was, “Bitch, you better” and “When are we going?”

She was my biggest cheerleader apart from my husband. Alijah saw more in me than I ever saw in myself. I was the most intelligent, most beautiful, and dedicated person in her world, and she made sure everyone knew it. So, I tried to return the favor, but she had way more confidence than I did naturally.

“Yeah, I am the baddest bitch in the room,” She would say. “Except when your sexy ass comes through.”

It didn’t come from a mean or jealous place either. On the contrary, Alijah genuinely wanted the best for both of us. You couldn’t get better love and support than hers, and her absence is felt daily.

I’m grateful to have had such a supportive person along for my personal growth journey. I know not everyone is so fortunate. There are plenty of folks in the world that will cut you down and make you feel worthless because it’s a day that ends with y. You don’t even have to go far to find these people either.

I let her talk me into scheduling the session, and she helped me pick out some lingerie for the shoot. She went with me, too. There was no way she was missing this. We met a photographer at an Air B&B in St. Louis on a cold afternoon in December. I was super nervous, but my best cousin/friend was there to keep my ego inflated. I twisted into sexy poses and smiled for the camera for about an hour. It was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to any woman struggling with self-love. We had a ball and took the last pictures of us together that I would have. Alijah passed away in January, so I’m glad to have such a lovely memory with her.

Alijah and I, self love feels great and exhausting.

I have digital copies of all these pictures, and I look at them all the time. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to look at them at first, but I look at them daily. The old me would have never been brazen enough to take professional sexy pictures. She would have scoffed at the idea and told you to get lost.

However, current me is fearless and daring enough to want to do another shoot. I want to feel like the sexy and confident woman in these pictures I have again. The confident vixen that isn’t ashamed of her lumps or rolls. In fact, she wants you to see them. The woman that has run out of body shame and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her looks. The goddess with a fantastic smile that isn’t ashamed to show it off.

Look at that award-winning smile

It takes work, but if I can do it, you can do it. I believe in you.

Take care. Be safe. I love you!