Have you ever called yourself “too skinny?” Or maybe “not skinny enough?” What about “too tall” or “not tall enough?” These are all labels we place on ourselves; words we let get into our heads for some reason. But the truth is, labels like these don’t define us.
A new body-acceptance photography project created by body-positivity activist Brooke Van Ryssel and shot by Mandi Rae Leclaire is putting that truth on display by using photographs of eight real women.
For the project, Van Ryssel and Leclaire took two individual shots of each woman. The first shot features each woman partially clad; written on their body is the negative label they or another person gave them. Before the second shot, they washed the negative labels away and replaced them with positive ones.
“No matter what the connotation of the label, humans can not be reduced to labels. Our WORTH cannot be defined with words,” Van Ryssel, the creator of @mybodywpg, a body-positive fitness community, wrote in an Instagram post.
She explained that this project had been a dream of hers since she first started her Instagram page, and it’s easy to understand why. When you’re scrolling through social media and see photos of women who appear to have features you wish you had, it’s easy to get caught up in senseless labels.
One of the models for the shoot, Natalie Bell, first wrote the words “ashamed,” “never good enough,” and “not equal,” across her body. When it was time for round two, she left the negativity behind in favor of “powerful,” “proud mama,” and “queen.”
After the individual photos, all of the women shed their labels, both negative and positive, and Van Ryssel and Laclaire shot the entire group au natural in their bras and underwear. The result? Pure beauty.
The group photos also show that when women band together and choose to collectively reject labels, we encourage one another to love ourselves just the way we are. As more of us rise above self-doubt and reject negative labels, the easier it’ll be for all women to do the same.
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