Let's Be Frank: We know Better, so Why don't we do it?
In my desperation, I decided to start educating myself on the epidemic of self-loathing, and much like Madison (Best Friend and founder of this website, Su La Po), turned to one of the few things I've often overlooked; my own relationship with self-love.
I was unhappy with myself, and as a result, depriving myself of many things. At the very least I was determined to understand why I was allowing this to happen, even though I knew better. Throughout all of this, the thing that baffled me most was seeing girls and women I found to be exceptionally intelligent and wise commit, almost without exception, the same crimes of self-hate. Women of any age that were successful, beautiful and strong by any standard; women that knew better but were for some reason incapable of making different choices. Rather than just accept this as the crude status quo, I wanted to understand the larger patterns that led us to do this to ourselves, and consequently, each other.
I started paying attention to the people behind the scenes. I started raising these questions to bookers, editors and anyone that I trusted within the industry. I knew the girls were generally in less favourable positions to ask their employers tough questions, but as a photographer my relationship with the people calling the shots was different. Whenever these women weren’t comfortable to openly discuss their own struggles, I'd noticed they’d always be the first to remark just ‘how fat they looked today’ or ‘how much they always hated their face in pictures.' By that time these comments were pretty much considered daily mantras to everyone; nothing worth lifting a brow for. It was only when I started paying conscious attention that I realized how disturbing it was for us to so wilfully accept hearing each other talk down to ourselves.
Whenever someone did open up, their stories marked me and never left my mind. I will never forget one of my friends and bookers telling me she had removed all the full length mirrors in her apartment, because she couldn’t stand the sight of her own reflection anymore. Or the agent that told me she cried at night because she was aware of the irreversible psychological damage she was exposing ‘her girls’ to. And yet all of them continued to be cogs in the same wheel and accept this state of misery as part of the deal.
You see, I believe that to some extent, to the outside world, we were all considered the lucky ones. The ones who are part of a world that creates the kind of imagery and products that teenagers (much like I once was) dream about while staring at their bedroom ceilings. I think that none of us felt like we truly had the right to complain or denounce the hurting we were experiencing. The models were envied by the outside world, seemingly leading a life of luxury, travel and being adored by the ‘cool crowd,' and as for the rest of us, we would see how much the girls were suffering and fear to speak out because we didn't have it as bad, we weren’t under that same magnifying glass. Also, as the people contributing to the creation of their hardships, I think we felt that we had no real right to speak up about our own issues. Too many of the women I met had been (and are) suffering in complete silence. I don't think that's okay.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that we were all part of something that pushed young girls to go, in too many cases, physically over the edge. This in turn inspired the rest of us to aspire to the same insane body standards, all to produce a message (editorials, advertising, branding) that “inspired” women in the outside world to obsess over looking like that too.
There have been many voices questioning the industry's obsessions with physical extremities and eternal youth, which are without a doubt legitimate issues in need of answering; however I just didn’t understand how we all just succumbed and, as WOMEN, chose to continuously contribute to each other’s insecurities, knowing we were all, and always have been, in the same boat.
Let's be Frank is a serialized chronicle of the fucked up shit artists endure to feel "deserving" of a fashion industry job. Through some serious #realtalk, we are working to reveal that no, you are not alone, and no, you don't have to look like anything but yourself.
Stay Su, Stay tuned.