People sometimes ask if I would ever consider signing my 1-year-old daughter up with a modelling agency. My response is always 'no way', to which they usually look at me like I have a third eye or flat out tell me that I'm crazy, that she's gorgeous and would no doubt be accepted - that we could make a killing (for her own bank account - of course).
This is all well and good, but something doesn't sit right with me about the message this would send to my daughter as she grows up. I'm in no way judging the modelling world, especially those who choose this path for themselves and are happy, but who am I to choose this for her, and doesn't getting paid handsomely based solely on my baby's appearance send a silent but powerful message that this is why she is valued?
We live in a world where 7-year-olds are dieting. Am I the only one who finds this heartbreaking and utterly ludicrous? Girls of that age should be playing and having fun - hell I'm 30 and I think girls my age should be doing the same thing!
While I’m flattered and agree wholeheartedly that Nyah is gorgeous to look at (in my unbiased opinion obviously), the most beautiful thing about her by far is her dazzling spirit, her eternal curiosity, independence and eagerness for every new adventure, and the immense joy she gains from simple things, spreading it all around her as she goes.
When I was about 10 or 11, there were some guys who made fun of my appearance and not only really hurt me, but made me feel self-conscious about the way I looked. Luckily, my parents always did everything they could to make me feel valued (less fortunately, like most kids, I was aware of their bias). My mom was a beautician so she taught me about taking pride in my appearance and before long, I looked and felt better.
Soon, there were plenty of guys who thought I was beautiful too and, at the time, this really boosted my self-esteem. But before long, it became clear that they valued me only for my appearance and this, in some ways, made me feel worse than I did before. Luckily, by this time, I was getting to know more about the person I was and was beginning to feel relatively comfortable with her. So more than feeling hurt, I was just ticked off.
I stopped worrying about making sure my hair was straightened, my makeup was done, my clothes were flattering, etc, etc. More accurately, I refused to do myself up at all. I was taking a stand, sending a message that I didn’t need to do those things to feel valued. Of course once I started going ‘au naturel’, I got comments like, ‘are you ok? You look sick’ and overheard people saying things like ‘what happened to her? She was so much prettier before’.
But I felt liberated. Recently, even more so. Because I’ve realised that not doing myself up because of other people is just as bad as doing myself up because of other people. Now I just do whatever makes me feel good on any given day without thinking twice about the reactions it will or won’t get. Still, this process has had some extremely positive side effects. People have become used to a new norm for my appearance, and rather than ask me if I’m sick when I don’t wear makeup, they compliment me when I doll up.
More importantly, I’ve become used to this new norm. I don’t have ridiculous expectations of myself. Recently, my family and I went on a photo shoot. When the time came to choose a portrait, the one above is the one my partner and I loved. It shows the chemistry we have as a family. Unfortunately, it also shows a smidgen of armpit fat. There were other portraits that were more ‘flattering’. But guess what? I’m not perfect. I’ve just had a baby, and if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure that armpit fat predates my pregnancy. So what? It’s me. We chose it, it’s hanging in my house, and I love it.
I feel good about who I am inside and I’m hopeful that this shines through to the outside. Sometimes it won’t and that’s okay. For people who judge me based on my appearance, I'm okay with whatever they conclude, however accurate or inaccurate. I’m not about to try and manipulate my appearance in an attempt to tamper with their perceptions. I think we’ve all come to realise that trying to please everyone is a fruitless exercise, so I just please myself. When I feel like dolling up, I do and I feel pretty. When I don’t, I don’t and I still feel pretty (well, most of the time!), because I work every day on the person I am inside. I try to be better, kinder, truer. And I give myself permission to be imperfect, to be human.
All I can hope and aim for is to help my daughter develop a genuine feeling of self-worth by encouraging her to put her energy into being someone she can feel proud of. As her mum, I want to place as much value as I can on who she is and what she puts out into the world, and not her outward appearance. The only importance it holds is that I realise it too can have an impact on how she feels inside, but I want her appearance to be determined by her, and not what anyone else is telling her – not even me, and certainly not some modelling agency!
So in the run up to a new year, here’s to the beauty of women – every woman, and to a bit of armpit fat. Cheers!