Jillian Powers first became an advocate for body imageactivism the moment she started her photography project “I Woke Up Like This.” The project, which has grown to lift the self-esteem of hundreds of thousands of women from all over the world, began as a way for her to face her own body image insecurities. In a sense, the project was a bit of a coping mechanism. Up until that point, she had always tried to be positive about her own body. She’d gone through a dramatic weight gain that also changed the way a lot of people saw her. This was frustrating and humiliating. “It’s difficult going through such a fast transition in size and watching your treatment change, men stop looking at, approaching and smiling at you, and health professionals suddenly seem to think that all your health problems are because you’re fat,” Powers explained in an exclusive interview with Examiner.com. “People have these assumptions they carry -- that fat people are lazy. But, that just isn’t true.”
Though she was angry, Powers knew that she was not alone. She became vocal about the issue and heard other voices, too. She began looking for women of all sizes, races and ages. She wanted to talk with them and hear their stories. Her project was born out of that, October 2014, and has been picking up steam ever since.
Powers’ project includes people from all walks of life. It “is for anybody who doesn't love themselves,” reads the website for the project. The aim is to address all body types as a way to promote healing and understanding. The name of the project symbolizes a viewing of those subjects as being seen at the most vulnerable moment of their day. They are photographed with bedhead and without makeup and also in the nude. “The project isn’t saying ‘I just rolled out of the bed and I’m confined to the bedroom,” explained Powers. “It says ‘this is me in different situations where I would normally be wearing clothes.’ It’s a way to desexualize the human body, to show that nudity can be normal.”
Could you tell a bit about the interviews you do with the women you photograph for your project?
In each interview, I ask the girl her level of self-esteem from 1-10 to start. I ask them why they want to participate so that the audience can know why they’re there and I ask them if they’re nervous. I ask these things because I want to measure where they are before and after the shoot, so I ask the same exact questions each time. Typically self-esteem numbers will raise.
How are the shoots done?
The people are picked based on who wants to participate and the reasons they want to participate. I try to pick the people with the most need for a confidence boost. From there, we set up a day and we pick out the morning and the location. I always shoot around 9 a.m. at my home (though this project also now travels). That’s the best light this time of year. It’s slowly shifting to 10:30 a.m.
I ask them to just roll out of bed, exactly the way they went to bed, even if they forgot to take off their makeup or they had gone out the night before. I just want it to be genuine. Then, they come to my house, I pre-interview them with the questions I mentioned earlier and then, I shoot with them for about 45 minutes to an hour and afterwards we finish their interview and talk about sexism, their definition of feminism, their favorite body part, their least favorite body parts, how they’ve felt discriminated in their life and sexual abuse. Anything you can think of, we cover.
Do you think you’re going to have to become more selective and how are you going to maintain the integrity of your project when that happens?
I am going to have to become more selective. I’m going to have to prescreen a lot of these girls with more elaborate questions than just whether they want to participate because when I ask people that, I’m asking them to tell me their life story. I also need stories that connect with the readers and help people and show them, “I’ve been through this, and so can you.” I would love to shoot every single woman, because I know every single woman struggles, and men too, but for this project to be successful and reach people and make a big difference, I need these really big stories.
Do you try to keep a certain visual coherence to all of your images in this project?
I do. I make sure that I do a number of shots that are the same with every girl to show the differences in body types. I’ll have them on a plain wall, facing me, hands down, feet together, staring straight into the camera. I’ll have them looking up into the camera with their eyes, sitting down with their hands in their lap -- because everybody’s belly looks different when they sit down -- raising their arms up. These are just everyday body movements that you don’t see a naked body do but you know we all do.
Is this project part catharsis for you?
It is. I struggle everyday like everybody else. My self-esteem struggles center around my weight and my inability to have un-painful sex. These things really affect the way I look at my body. Add to that my anxiety and depression and PTSD from my extreme middle school bullying, all of that really plays into my self-esteem.
I work really hard to be as confident as I seem to people, but just like every other confident person, I have my downfalls, my bad days, where nothing goes right. It’s all centered around my body type and you can’t help but blame your body when it seems to be the center of all your problems.
What are some of the responses from the ladies who you’ve been photographing and interviewing?
Almost all of them have approached me and thanked me profusely for it because it really did change the way they thought about themselves. For them, too, the entire experience was a catharsis. It rebuilds their self-confidence by having them look at themselves at their most vulnerable moment. A lot of the girls come back to me and it gets emotional. They send me some of the longest messages. Others I just don’t hear from and I think that’s because they’re taking in what it is to be that vulnerable in front of everybody else.
It seems that this project is needed without question.
It shows in every person that participates, every person throughout the day telling me that they’re thankful for everything I’m doing.
This project for me was just everyday, I’m going to shoot a girl; I’m going to interview her about her problems and confidences, and try to relate that to people and help them increase their body positivity.
One of the things that is really unique to your project is that at some point in the shoot, you appear in one of the shots. Could you explain the significance of that?
I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to tell all these women to “Hey, get naked, be confident and shoot with me!” I want to tell them that I’m right there with them. ...and it’s another part of the coping mechanism that I have designed to help boost my own self-confidence. So, getting in every shot, and seeing my body next to another person’s body whether it’s bigger or thinner or shorter or taller helps me to separate the parts I don’t like and just focus on the things I have in common with other people and what makes us human.
This project is absolutely humanizing and it’s kind of radical. There are a lot of photographers who take nude photographs and they’re very beautiful but there’s always the delineation between subject and photographer. Yours however takes that delineation away.
And those shoots are always taken at angles that are flattering. I purposefully try to put the girls into poses that are just straight to the point focusing on body parts that they don’t like because I want them to see the aesthetic beauty in them.
How has censorship affected your project?
Censorship has affected my project since the very beginning. Trying to reach an audience is very hard when you cannot post your content on social media. Facebook censors nudity as do most platforms, but they do allow pictures of butts and shots of women with nipples covered. As long as no vagina is showing, the image is typically allowed to stay up, even if it is reported. I learned that the hard way. I was blocked from Facebook for 24 hours for posting some images that I thought were okay. They almost took down my entire page, but luckily I had a friend who was able to communicate with them that this was a good cause that shouldn’t be taken down.
After overcoming that, I decided to start a GoFundMe to raise money so I can continue this project all over the world. I used the same images on GoFundMe that had been approved by Facebook. I had assumed that they had similar guidelines. After receiving $180 worth of donations, or so, they took down every picture. It had said “Crowdfunding for everyone,” but apparently, except for projects that contain nudity. I emailed back and forth, apologized for the initial images that did show breasts and I took them down and reuploaded other ones but it didn’t make a difference. By that time, they had told me “You can start another project on GoFundMe but it can’t be about anything that contains nudity. I couldn’t even post a link on the page that said “not safe for work” above it. I couldn’t even write about it without a link. Same thing for IndieGoGo.
I had friends go in to GoFundMe and find projects that included nudity, but male nudity...and those were not taken down. GoFundMe was very not human in their answers except for the very last girl who contacted me who said ‘We’re sorry. We know your work isn’t porn. We’ll get you the donations and here’s the spreadsheets of all the people who have donated.’ They did make an effort to recover from it but the terms of GoFundMe prevent me from crowdsourcing the money I need to continue this project.
Censorship of the human body is outdated. Part of this project’s goal is to desexualize the female body because a photograph of a woman in a non-sexual pose, sitting without making any sexually suggestive movement should not be seen as sexually suggestive. I literally have women standing straight on, hands down to the sides, looking at me. And that’s sexual to people! That just shows you how much we cannot separate sexuality from beauty.
It’s a frightening idea to think about; if someone is just standing there and they’re sexualized, it’s something that’s imposed on the body whether that person is being sexual or not.
This is another way that a woman’s choice about her body gets taken away. By denying my project a platform to raise funding, but provide that platform to projects funding kitten calendars featuring topless men, no matter how much of that money goes to charity, is a great disservice to society and quite frankly going against their own terms.
How does your work inspire others? Have you received messages from people whose work has been inspired by yours? Are there offshoot projects that have been formed out of that inspiration?
Yes. I’ve had photographers mention that I inspired their boudoir to become less sexual and more about the beauty of a woman. I’ve had people who are doing similar things as me who have reached out, as well.
Ultimately, I’d like to have a collective of photographers to do that sort of thing for women who have been through trauma and just offer that as a non-profit service. Kind of like “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.” It’s a photography nonprofit that photographs your baby after they have passed away. If they are stillborn, photographers come to the hospital and photograph the baby so that you have something to remember them by. I want to do that for victims of sexual abuse who have come to terms with it and want to take back control of their body. I want to do this for basically any woman who has severe self-esteem issues, whether it be from abuse, eating disorders, or whatever it is.
You’ve said in the past that you are considering including men in your project. What would it take to include them in the project?
I actually shot my first male very recently. It went really well. I didn’t take as much time as I needed but I got some amazing shots with him. I used similar poses so that you can compare the male versus female in a different light and different body types.
Do you include transgender individuals in your project and have they asked to be a part of your project?
Men have asked to be a part of the project or moreso commented on the lack of men involved in the project. A lot of guys will look at this project and their initial thought is not “Oh, this is beautiful,” but more like “where is the men’s project?” As a woman with my own self-esteem issues, I wanted to start with women’s issues but I quickly realized how much men need this project, too.
I’m trying to bring this to the discussion and bring this to the forefront for us to talk about men’s issues because if we’re going to work on women’s issues, we have to pay attention to men’s, as well. It doesn’t just work one way. Yes, women have gone through so much more but we’re getting to a level of humanity where things are starting to reverse. Some men are starting to adapt to women’s roles and women are taking men’s roles and while there are many who don’t like it, it’s happening.
And yes, of course I include trans-women in the women’s project. I’ll include trans-men in the men’s project as well. I also include all sexualities, ages, races, class, and abilities.. I include anybody with disabilities. They are especially invited because their bodies are never talked about.
What are some of your personal favorite body positive projects?
The messages I get after I do a session. It feels really good to hear that I have helped people validate these feelings and increase their self-esteem in overall life. That’s what inspires me.
Are there some tools that you can offer that are particularly helpful in gaining self-esteem?
Set reasonable goals for yourself. Don’t overwhelm yourself with having to be 100 percent positive. Just look at the language you are using for yourself and think about it as if you were talking to somebody else. Ask yourself if that is how you would talk to anybody else.
I try to leave everyone who leaves from a shoot with tools to improve their self-esteem. I correct them during interviews when they talk negatively about themselves. I’ll try to encourage them after I get the question answered because the way they feel is 100 percent valid. I don’t want them to ever have to feel wrong about being frustrated with their bodies.
It’s actually okay to be frustrated with your body. Take it one step at a time and try your best to focus on what’s best for you and your self-esteem and your mental health. It’s all about your mental health.
A state of emergency has been issued in Baltimore city. Monday night exploded with violence, looting and fires after the funeral of a young black man named Freddie Gray. Gray died from a fatal injury that went unaddressed while he was in police custody.
In a place that was already highly policed, approximately 500 national guard troops have been deployed around Baltimore’s City Hall and there are plans to increase military presence four fold as a way to support Baltimore law enforcement, which has amassed in the thousands to contain the city. A city-wide curfew has been put into place for the next week in efforts to stave off more violence in Baltimore’s streets. Baltimore City Public Schools are closed and major events have either been canceled, moved or postponed.
Creative Music Works(CMW) -- one of the few performing arts organizations on the Front Range promoting musical diversity, innovation and local and international artists in this vein with concerts, and educational events such as artist lectures and workshops -- announced in a press release April 25 that they are bringingDavid Torn(Splattercell) to Denver’s Walnut Room on May 22. The show will feature Paul Riola’s Dragonetti Ensemble (Denver) and is in support of Torn’s new ECM releaseOnly Skywhich is in many ways an extension of his 2007 ECM releasePrezens.
“This record is the closest to capturing what it is I do alone with a guitar at home – and in that way, Only Sky is the most personal record I’ve made,” Torn says. “When I’m improvising on my own in this way, it’s like a kind of self-hypnosis or, to put it another way, a sort of sonic, secular meditation. It’s real-time composition, but it’s about relaxing into it, enjoying the flow of sound, letting the music happen in its own time – and being open to the unexpected.”
“Only Sky is haunting, refreshing work,” writes CMW. The music on the release features “distressed blues/country roots that become freeform...creating meditative landscapes.” The album and tour represent Torn’s first-ever real time solo guitar release and takes the listener straight into the meditation with him. The album features David Torn’s guitar, electric oud, and real-time loops and alterations from some of his favorite fuzz boxes which create timbre and ambience.
Torn has worked with many artists throughout his career such as Jan Garbarek from The Bad Plus, film composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Carter Burwell and pop artists such as David Bowie and David Sylvian. He is also a noted film composer. Some of the scores he has composed include those for the movies “Friday Night Lights”, “Lars and the Real Girl”, “Everything Must Go” and “The Order.”
Some news outlets are calling it a “heartwarming promposal” to top all others. ‘Tis the season. High schoolers are entering that section of the year where they are thinking of ways to ask their hoped for dates to accompany them to prom. It’s a time of excitement and for many, well. . . disappointment.
Anthony Martinez, a junior at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas bemoaned the fact that he never got asked out to the dances at his school and figured that he probably wouldn’t be asked to prom, either. He has helped plan plenty of dances, being on student council, but he hasn’t gotten to participate in the same way as his peers, reports New Now Next April 23. As a gay teenager, Martinez had a dream of being asked to prom by a guy and was fairly certain that it wouldn’t happen.
But, that’s where his best friend comes in. After seeing Anthony’s social media posts about not having a date for prom, Jacob Lescenski, also a junior, wanted to do something really special for his best friend. Overcoming the initial anxiety of what others might think of him and with the assistance of some really good friends, he took it upon himself to create a bright red banner to be unrolled in front of the whole school with silver letters reading, “you’re hella gay, i’m hella str8, but you’re like my brother, so be my d8?”
Martinez related to CNN that the surprise was the “sweetest, coolest thing that has ever happened.” And he’s not the only person who thinks so. The two young men’s story has gone viral with notes of support on social media from people all over the world. Writes Anthony on his Twitter page, “I'm so excited you have no idea!! We're gunna go tux shopping and restaurant searching. We got this.”
The action has sent positive ripples out that have “made a huge change in the world somehow,” Martinez told CNN. The action is also in line with the work that Lescenski and Martinez have been doing together on their student council which CNN reports “has been about making great change in the lives of many, and in ways they would never expect.”
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com
Bodybuilder and trans activist Aydian Dowling is the current lead in the annual “Ultimate Guy” contest which is held each year by Men’s Health Magazine. If Dowling wins, he will be the first trans male to appear on the magazine’s cover. The contest is open to contestants until June 21 and voting ends in July. The winner will appear on the cover of November’s issue of the magazine.
USA Today reported April 20, as of Monday afternoon, Dowling had received more than 46,000 votes. That number surpassed any of the other contestants by more than 30,000. In a statement to USA Today, Men’s Health wrote that they were excited that the contest has been resonating with so many different people. “Men's Health is a profound agent of positive change in the lives of all men. We can't wait to see how Aydian finishes with the reader vote—an important piece of the overall criteria in the contest."
There are other factors, however, that will get one contestant the win. Public votes only account for about 10 percent of the overall criteria. Judges base decisions on a number of other factors which include fitness, professional success, healthy lifestyle and how much each participant gives to his community.
Any photo of Dowling shows that he’s strikingly good looking and absolutely ripped. He told NPR that despite this, he was nervous that there would be some pushback from the magazine. However, Dowling has heard from the magazine and other platforms who have also relayed the magazine’s message that all men are welcome to apply. In fact, Dowling is not alone. A couple of other trans men have also applied for the contest. “I think it’s sending a really positive message to the transgender people out there from Men’s Health. I think it was a great move by them,” said Dowling.
You can keep up with Aydian Ethan Dowling on his Facebook page on his YouTube channel as well as other places on the internet.
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com
Clinical depression is a global health issue and it affects millions of American adults. Each year, roughly 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, 18 years and up, suffers. Undiagnosed depression costs millions of dollars annually in lost work days and decreased productivity as those affected may not be able to think clearly or perform well. Statistics show that these numbers have been growing with repercussions that can lead to other health concerns such as heart disease and stroke. Awareness is key in changing these disheartening facts. It means educating the public about measures to take in order to prevent and treat depression. A recent study also states that awareness, as in mindfulness-based cognitive therapies can also be key as a practice proven to be just as effective as taking antidepressants.
A new trial study published in a medical journal called The Lancet, which found that the usage of MBCT proved to provide “enduring positive outcomes in terms of relapse or recurrence, residual depressive symptoms and quality of life.” While there was no proof that MBCT results were better than taking antidepressants, results were shown to be comparable.
Medical best practice, which is endorsed by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, encourages patients who are at a high risk for recurrent depression to take antidepressants for two years as a prevention tool for relapse. What often happens is that when people stop taking their medication, the depression returns. That is why the team of researchers from the University of Oxford decided to conduct this study; many people are interested in alternatives to pills.
Researchers in the study initially thought that they might find MBCT to provide better results than taking pills. The numbers in their study, however, were solely comparable. MBCT relapse rates came in at 44 percent, while 47 percent of those who were taking antidepressants relapsed. Neither method was bulletproof and five “adverse events” occurred in both groups, including two deaths. This out of a group of 424 adults who were willing to be a part of the trial, half of whom were sectioned off into each group.
Adults in the mindfulness camp were assigned eight two or more hour long group sessions along with a home practice regimen which involved mindfulness training, group discussion and cognitive behavior exercises. Subjects had the option to follow up four times over the course of the year long trial.
Psychcentral explains mindfulness training as a way of paying full attention to the present moment that can “mitigate the cognitive symptoms of depression.” The practice can be very beneficial as it trains individuals to slow down enough to become more aware of their thoughts without passing judgment on them but acknowledging them as inaccurate reflections on what is really going on. This process empowers the individual as the practice helps them to become less and less carried away by distorted visions of themselves and the world.
According to Forbes Magazine, there has been an increasing number of evidence that this type of therapy has positive effects on the brain. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy marries mindfulness training or meditation with cognitive behavior therapy. These two practices are similar, even when not combined. Together, they take a goal-oriented approach that teaches those who use it to change the patterns of their thought and behavior which also changes they way they feel and react to their everyday lives. Negative and destructive thoughts are replaced with more positive and productive thoughts, causing subjects to become less imposed upon by the thoughts that were once crippling.
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com
Your sweat stink is contagious. That is, your happy sweat can also make those around you happy. The Sun Daily reported April 19 that chemical compounds produced while people are happy can be detected by those who smell others’ sweat. Therefore, if you’re happy and you know it. . .go work out (?).
This is not to say that your sad sweat won’t make others sad. It can. Studies in the past have pointed out that negative emotions, such as fear and disgust, could be communicated as effectively as a frown by the smell of someone’s body sweat.
Semin stated that the research shows that when others are exposed to the sweat of someone who is happy, a “contagion of the emotional state” is induced. Something in the body’s receptors reacts, subtly causing a change in perception, emotional state and even behavior.
The double blind study called on 12 caucasian men to be “sweat donors.” They watched video clips, amongst other activities, meant to instigate certain emotions while sweat pads under their armpits collected the sweat used in the study. Sweat samples were catalogued according to their emotions of fear, happiness or neutralness. Then, 36 healthy caucasian women (chosen because women are said to have better sniffers and emotional intelligence) were recruited to sniff the various sweat samples.
Researchers watched the women’s facial expressions and found that when they were exposed to “fear sweat”, they showed “greater activity in the medial frontalis muscle, a common feature of fear expressions.” When women sniffed the “happy sweat”, they “showed more facial muscle activity indicative of a Duchenne smile, a common component of happiness expressions.” Though the results were not outright, the findings provide a beginning to more research that suggests that sweat odor can communicate emotions to others especially when emotions have no or little words to back them up (ever have an instance where you are unable to describe how you’re feeling?).
The researchers are already thinking of practical uses for their findings. For example, such knowledge could be commercially beneficial for the “odor industry,” an industry that has already employed the use of pheromones(chemosignals) which not only give away your moods but your your sexual orientation and even your genetic makeup.
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com
Amandla Stenberg, who portrays Rue in 2012’s "The Hunger Games", posted a video up for her history class called “Don’t Cash Crop on My Cornrows” that absolutely schools everyone about the subject of cultural appropriation. The video’s powerful message has become viral showing up in social media and news feeds this week such as MSN on April 17, Jezebel and The Daily Beast.
The 16 year old eloquently and calmly discusses the issue, showing how America has fallen in love with hip-hop culture and how many top ranking pop stars have “adopted blackness” as part of their image as a way to gain an edgy appeal. Black hair styles (which are often functional) as well as other details from black culture are adopted without speaking up whenissues of racism become mortally apparent and important to address as with Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and more.
“Pop stars and icons adopted black culture as a way of being edgy and gaining attention," Stenberg explains, citing artists such as Eminem, Riff Raff, Iggy Azelea, Kesha and Miley Cyrus. But not only that; often in videos, such as Katy Perry’s “This is How We Do,” or Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” images of blackness, including cornrows, bridges, dance styles, ebonics and black women are used as props and accessories. There is no feeling of the culture having been shared but instead outright taken and used as black dancers, often with their faces nixed from the screen dance in the background.
The video was created months ago but released to the public this week. The best way to learn more is to watch it (above).
*originally published on the now defunct Examiner.com