image activism

  Self-portrait, taken this afternoon.  I'm still learning how to take control of my own story.  But I'm getting better at it.

Self-portrait, taken this afternoon.  I'm still learning how to take control of my own story.  But I'm getting better at it.

This weekend, someone shared the following video in my Facebook feed.  I was going to save this for an upcoming This Was A Good Week post, but honestly, I haven't stopped thinking about it.  It's about 6 minutes long, and I invite you to grab a cuppa and sit and listen to these beautiful, wise women.

I've watched the video again and again, and I've become enthralled with the three of them.  I googled each, trying to find out more.  Sadly, I found very little on Jo-Ani Johnson, the woman with the long, beautiful grey hair; however, I can tell you that I'm now even more determined to own an item of clothing designed by Norma Kamali, and I've fallen in love all over again with Michaela Angela Davis.  

I've been a fan of Michaela's for a while -- I watch every interview that I ever come across of her, she's so whip smart, with such grounded confidence -- but I hadn't really researched her before.  It turns out that she was in fashion for a long time, as the editor of several national magazines, and a stylist.  But most interestingly, I learned that she also calls herself an "image activist," and fights to broaden representations of women of colour in the media.

Image activist.

When I read those words, something in me stirred. It's the first phrase I've ever heard that feels like it encompasses the work that I strive to do, albeit with a slightly different take:  while Michaela works to change how the world views each of us (as she rightfully should, it's a worthy cause), I'd like to help change how we see ourselves.  For example, with The Beauty of Different, my hope was to redefine what it means to be beautiful, yes; but mostly it was to encourage people -- all people -- to take control of their own beauty story, by sharing the narratives and portraits of people who have done just that.  Because more important than "accepting flaws," or "learning to love yourself," I think it's imperative to truly believe the truth:  that who we are -- the entire package, inside and out -- is a precious, precious thing, too precious to allow anyone else to define its value and worth.  It's about each of us taking control of that narrative, because it's our right to do so.  

In other words, we get to decide that we're beautiful.  Straight up.

This belief is also the basis behind my Thrive Portrait Project, and the associated book that I'm writing based on the project:  just like the women in this video, aging, and what it means to age, is something that we each have the right to define for ourselves.  My hope is that both the project and the book illustrate that there are as many definitions of what it means to age, and what it means to thrive as there are people ... and thank heavens this is the case.  

Anyway, I'm going to keep talking about authenticity, and courage, and cultivating the grounded confidence to create our own stories.  Because I think when we do this -- and equally value the stories of others who are different from us -- that's when we'll really start to change the world.