As I was growing up I became a woman early, at age 11. I was not prepared for these changes and felt isolated and out of place. The other kids were calling me names and I remember walking the halls feeling terrified and lonely. At some point I stopped eating.
I was starting reading about all the fads diets thinking that those might be my salvation. All I wanted was to be skinny but no matter what I did or try, I could never be that skinny. My bone structure was different. The frustration was immense. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, why my genes must be so screwed up. Why can’t I be glamorous like everyone else?
As time passed I slowly withdrew from the world and kind of gave up on myself. I knew that I would never would who I am and I began accepting this as my reality. I was stuck with this body forever and I didn’t want it. Of course now I realized I was just allowing myself to be brainwashed.
Then something unexpected happened. In 2009 a photographer I knew offered to take photos of me. He told me I was pretty and should be a model. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. At first I thought he was teasing me. When I realized he was being sincere, I took a leap of faith and went for it. I was so nervous.
It was a very intense experience for me. A distant voice inside me told me that I alone have the power to determine how I feel about myself. That voice was my own. The real me was emerging. I was getting stronger.
I had an epiphany: We all have the power to choose our self-image. We alone have the power to change it. We do not have to let some fashion advertising campaign define beauty for all of us. I decide that. You decide that. Together we can dictate a new diverse view of beauty. Together we are the new voice.