The beauty of vulnerability

In my last post, I mentioned Petra Collins’ feature with StyleLikeU. I thought I’d explain a little more about what StyleLikeU is. (Unless you already took the initiative and watched hella of their videos, in which case I think we’re going to be friends.)

StyleLikeU is a mother-daughter team who were inspired to combat the “disempowering system” of todays fashion and beauty standards by “documenting real people with original personal style.”

Since 2009, they have been producing video interviews that discuss and encourage self love, and the results are inspiring.

Their motto is “True Style is Self Acceptance,” which speaks to the idea that while style is an outward expression of who we are, it is what’s underneath that shows our true selves. And not just our bodies, but our personalities, our souls. What we’ve experienced and how it has shaped us.

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“True Style is Self Acceptance”

“Dress to express your inner spirit. Be unapologetically yourself… Embrace your unique identity… Your body is your home.”— part of the StyleLikeU philosophy

In November of 2016, Cavel Whyte, Leonard S. Newman, and David Voss published a study on body image and body dissatisfaction that they began at Syracuse University. They explored the effects of media images on women’s views of their own bodies, and what they found supported what society has been telling us for a while:

“Although an individual’s body image (and satisfaction) is multi-determined, a great deal of research has focused on one factor in particular: exposure to media images.”

This media projection of an “ideal” body type is what StyleLikeU is trying to combat. They interview real, genuine, non-photoshopped people with diverse body types who tell real stories and show us their real bodies.

The What’s Underneath project is a series of video interviews where the interviewee is sat upon a stool in front of a blank wall. As they begin to describe what their style says about them, they are asked to remove one article of clothing at a time until they are left in just their undergarments. At the end of each video, they are usually asked questions like, “When do you feel the most vulnerable?” “When do you feel the most beautiful?” and finally, “Why in your body, is it a good place to be?”

This is the first feature of theirs I watched, the one that got me hooked:

It is different to watch people open up and share honest stories about their past while undressing themselves in a way that isn’t shameful or sexualized (which it shouldn’t be, unless you wanna be sexy ‘cause it’s sexy time). The process is eye-opening. At the end of each interview, you’ve been shown that each person is so much more than what they portray themselves to be outwardly.

To shave or not to shave

Eleven days ago at the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards, actress Lola Kirke walked the red carpet in a stunning baby pink Andrew Gn gown… and grown-out armpit hair.

And all the headlines read something like: Armpit hair?! What a statement. Which is kind of funny, the idea that a couple centimeters of natural body hair were suddenly the focal point of her look.

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Kirke was both criticized and commended. A Vogue article said she “expressed a bold message when it came to her own body—taking the opportunity to shirk conventional Hollywood norms.” Yes, Vogue. Amen to shirking those norms.

Body hair isn’t something that’s often talked about, probably because it isn’t supposed to exist on women. We are conditioned to shave it off, all of it, so that when we finally emerge from the bathroom we have become these smooth, hairless versions of ourselves. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s weird to think that we work to meticulously remove something that grows on our bodies naturally.

A lot of visible body hair on women is “gross,” but the same hair exists on men and it isn’t seen that way.

In the following feature for the StyleLikeU movement, artist, photographer and feminist inspiration, Petra Collins, said, “Not shaving was kind of the first step towards accepting my body as it was.” She talked about how, “in the beginning it was weird and hard,” but now she doesn’t give her body hair a second thought because it’s just a part of who she is.

“Why do I buy things every day to get rid of something that my body is just trying to grow?” —Petra Collins

I personally like to have my legs shaved and armpits waxed… but sometimes it gets to be too much. Then I get to the beach and hesitate for a second before taking my pants and shirt off because “agh my ‘pits and legs are hairy beasts what will the people think??” But I shouldn’t care what the people think. The people will always have something to say;  when it comes to our bodies the only opinions that truly matter are our own. 

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My #awesome #hairyarmpits

Of course, whether you choose to get rid of your body hair or not is a matter of personal preference. But the choice should not be reliant on what society says you should look like; it should be about what makes you feel the most like yourself, the most beautiful.