Spreading Positivity When People Need It Most: Introducing #MyAfter

November 14, 2016 • #MyAfter, Eating Disorder, Recovery, Yoga • Views: 1218

This week has been hard for many people, there’s no way around that. In my mind, there is no better time to share a project that has been in the works for about a year. I call it #MyAfter – Body Boop is completely shaking up your perceptions about what having an eating disorder looks like, and what being recovered from an eating disorder looks like.

  • You do not have to be skinny to have an eating disorder.
  • You do not have to be bigger than you were previously to be recovered from an eating disorder.
  • Your life experience does not have to include in-patient or out-patient experience to have had an eating disorder.
  • A formal diagnosis is not required to validate your eating disorder experience.
  • If you are from a marginalized community including but not limited to LGBTQ, different ethnicities and cultures, and men, your eating disorder experience is true and valid.
  • If you are a white college-age woman, what everyone expects of an eating disorder, it is not just for attention or vanity. Your eating disorder experience is also true and valid.

If you say you have had an eating disorder or that you are recovered from an eating disorder, we hear you, we see you, and we believe you.

We are no longer interested in “before” pictures from when people were sick! Let’s see where you are NOW, healthy and in love with life. And even if you’re not there yet, you’re on your way.

The first installment of #MyAfter #edrecovery portraits were taken by the talented photographer Brad Ogbonna in New York City. Ogbonna was born and raised in the Twin Cities, and has been featured in publications like The New York Times and W Magazine. I look up to him so much, and have followed his work capturing men and women from all walks of life for several years now.

Our first subject for #MyAfter #edrecovery portraits is, funny enough, someone that Brad had already met once before in South Africa. Only upon seeing each other at the shoot, did they realize it wasn’t their first meeting. 🙂

Shayna Goncalves is a freelance fashion writer, teacher, and editor of the Endangered Bodies NYC blog. She has higher qualifications in fashion design, history of art, gender and sexuality studies, and fashion studies. Shayna received a certificate of distinction for her thesis essay as well as for a course called “A Visual Anthropology of the Body.” Her consistent study on the intersection of fashion, art, and visual representations of African female bodies earned her a curatorial internship award at Wits Art Museum (WAM). Since graduating with her her MA at Parsons School of Design, Shayna has written and instructed the fashion syllabus, produced the end term fashion show, and published the first educational Zine for Oxbridge Academic Programs in New York –in addition to her current positions.

Shayna’s intensive work and study of fashion, feminism, race, and gender encourages her to think about her own body image and the subsequent relationship she forms with her body. While she cognitively understands the larger politics which entrap us within negative self-imaging, she occasionally battles with accepting her own appearance. Her love with herself comes from claiming ownership of her body and taking charge of what she considers beautiful. From this mind’s eye, Shayna chooses to see the beauty in herself as much as she loves to see beauty in the world and beings around her.

Shayna is such a hero to me in heart, spirit and mind. And, yes, she is recovered from an eating disorder. I met her and instantly bonded – she radiates love and energy, and to think of her struggling makes me hurt.

But look at her triumphant, on the other side of her eating disorder! No before pictures needed, no proof required that she once struggled. We believe her, and we see her.

Shayna's #MyAfter Photo by Brad Ogbonna

Shayna Goncalves – #MyAfter Series, September 2016
Photo by Brad Ogbonna

When we spoke at the shoot, Shayna said:

I work with Endangered Bodies, a global organization that focuses on raising awareness about the way bodies have been imaged in the media. They focus on the how the portrayal of very standardized kind of beauty has a very personal effect on people’s self esteem and the way they view themselves, so it’s really important us to open up different perspectives not just on people’s bodies, but people’s perspectives on themselves. The tag line [for Endangered Bodies] is “Be you, inside out.” Although we’re looking at image and what people look like, it’s also focusing on how it makes you feel on the inside.

 

I found out about Endangered Bodies about a year ago through school. I’ve been studying fashion for seven years. I studied fashion design and I worked as a stylist and junior fashion designer in South Africa, which is where I’m from. I moved here to do my master’s in fashion. I’ve had this love/hate relationship with fashion for almost all of my life, especially growing up playing with Barbies, which were white and definitely did not have bodies that any normal woman could have.

 

For a very long time in my life, I felt like I was chasing an image because of the Barbies I was playing with and the celebrities that I idolized. That same pressure was coming from my family, as well. Different family members would always make commentary on my weight.

 

I wanted to be on a fashion shoot that didn’t make viewers of the editorial feel badly about themselves, and so I got in touch with Endangered Bodies and told them this was something that I wanted to do on my personal journey in my life and my career. They were very supportive. I took a break from them for about five months while I wrote my thesis on fashion media and rape culture, and then in July of this year, they asked me to be the editor of their blog.

 

I was never in treatment and I never went to rehab or anything for body dysmorphia or eating disorders, but I know for sure… this is probably the first time I’m saying it aloud… I know for sure that I had an eating disorder for a long time.

 

It was very much [motivated] by how to get the perfect body. I would go through periods being very conscious of not eating, then binge eating, and so my weight was constantly fluctuating. I would lose weight and I would gain weight. I would exercise compulsively because I hated my body, not because I loved my body. [I was] constantly be trying to live up to things that didn’t really exist.

 

I’m turning 26 this year. Since I was about 19, I started practicing yoga, and that’s probably changed my life in ways that I could never ever take back, or never want to take back. That’s what yoga does. It fixes you from the inside, so that you start to form a connection between what is on your inside and what is on your outside, so what is happening on the outside, you don’t compare to anything else. You’re comparing it to how you feel on the inside – emotionally and spiritually.

 

I’ve had an interesting two or three months. Physically, I have gained weight, and I thought that I would be upset about it, and I only know that I’ve gained the weight because my underwear doesn’t fit me [laughs]. It’s not even something that I feel badly about anymore. A few years ago, I would have gone through the same cycle.

It took me a while to transcribe our interview because we were laughing about 50 percent of the time. We are celebrating you today and every day, Shayna. Look at how far you have come with your own perception of your body! Consider that every single day, how far you have come.

Please share on social with the hashtags #MyAfter #edrecovery! Are you a photographer or recovered individual interested in participating in the next installment of #MyAfter? E-mail me at mybodyboop@gmail.com.

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