Manic Delight

I am a model, singer, dancer, poet, competitive pistol shooter, and an avid yogi. Though I am fairly new to modeling, I have been interested in it since I was a child. In elementary school a friend convinced me to go to a casting call for a talent agency in Atlanta. At that point I had no idea I was even interested in modeling or acting, but out of the many who showed up I was chosen. When talking with the talent scout I realized modeling was something I wanted to do. I remember him telling me that I had “the spark” and that stuck with me. 99% of everything is technique but there’s that 1% that makes something or someone truly special. My family was understandably nervous about the whole thing so I put modeling on the back burner.

In high school I became interested in goth and alternative cultures. I began putting together my own outfits — mostly corsets, lots of leather and lace. I started thinking about modeling then and how much I would love to at least get professional photos of me in these outfits I had put together. My family was a bit put off by the whole goth thing, so I was unable to pursue modeling. I went to college, still wanting to model but not having the confidence to try. I ended up in a relationship with someone who was not comfortable with the idea so for his sake I chose not to. Now that that relationship has ended I have begun modeling with a passion. I have only been modeling for a few months but I love every second of it.

Modeling has been a source of empowerment for me, a way to make peace with my body, an artistic endeavor and even a part time job. I am also grateful that I waited and began modeling now, as I have many more life experiences to draw upon and a better understanding of what I want out of modeling. I am not here just to make pretty pictures, though I still enjoy doing so. Instead I am more interested in modeling as a form of collaborative art between the model, photographer and anyone else who is involved.

[Dance Photo]

I enjoy making and appreciating art of all kinds. My first love was dance. I have been dancing since I could walk. I have danced ballet en pointe, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, ballet folklorico, a little ballroom and belly dance. My favorite style is belly dance because I feel like I have more freedom to move as the music tells me to instead of being forced to stay within set choreography. I love the spontaneity of it.

I next fell in love with the written word, poetry in specific. I began writing at age 12 and have been ever since. I have always had a place in my heart for music but was unaware that I had any talent in that area until a friend heard me singing in church and was blown away. I became involved in both theater and chorus throughout grade school and am a classically trained soprano. I considered pursuing opera as a career but my life took another path.

[Headshot]

I currently hold two bachelor’s degrees, one in sociology and the other in psychology and am a premed student. My long term goal is to become a psychiatrist. I have just as much passion for that field as I do for the arts. I have always included psychology in my poetry, which is mostly of a confessional nature with some artistic license of course. Naturally this interest in psychology, as well as my own experiences, led me to the idea of creating a book wherein I convey the experience of having psychiatric disorders through modeling, photography and my own poetry. One of my first shoots was an idea that I had a long time ago but had never fully realized- a shoot based on depersonalization disorder and my own experiences with it. After doing that shoot I decided I wanted to do more in that vein and while I enjoy modeling of all sorts this project is my main focus right now.

[Anorexia]

I have done shoots for Depersonalization Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Substance Abuse and Anorexia thus far. Aloha Bob was kind enough to help me with my latest shoot for Anorexia. Anorexia is something that hits very close to home for me. I have known many friends who suffer from it and I too am a recovering anorexic. I wanted to do a shoot that would show how I truly look, how I think I look when I see myself, and the way that others see me. When I look at myself I am constantly worried about whether I have gained weight or not, I try not to let this bother me but it does. I feel like I can almost feel the fat growing when I eat something I should not have or when I binge eat. I also have issues with binge eating on occasion and then exercising excessively or starving myself to try to make up for it. I find fat in my reflection that is invisible to those around me.

I wanted to include a shot of how others see me as well to point out how judgmental others can be towards those of us that are naturally skinny. This doesn’t get talked about near as much as the body shaming addressed to curvy women, but it does happen. I take issue with the idea that “real women have curves” and all these movements that try to celebrate curviness at the expense of those who are naturally skinny or even boyish in figure. I have no problem with people celebrating their curves- I think they should! Just not at my expense. Not being curvy does not make me unattractive or less of a real woman. Women and men come in all shapes and sizes. I have had numerous people, with mostly good intentions, criticize my body for being too skinny even when I am at a healthy weight. As I have issues with weight and body image these comments have been damaging to my self-esteem. I wanted to include a picture of me how these usually well-meaning but misguided people see me at my natural normal size.

My personal history with anorexia is a bit of an odd one compared to most people I know who have it. Eating disorders usually surface in adolescence, yet I went through high school completely okay with my weight even though I weighed much more than I do now. I felt nothing but confident about my attractiveness and never worried about what I weighed, how much I ate, etc. But something changed when I turned 19. I had jaw surgery and was forced to be on an all liquid diet for a couple months. This resulted in me losing a significant amount of weight. I loved it. My friends would call me skeleton and I secretly took that as a compliment. I continued my all-liquid diet until I reduced it down to nearly nothing at all. I felt superior to other people when I was doing this; after all they had to eat and I didn’t. I could survive on nothing!

I also decided right then and there that for the rest of my life I would never weigh more than I did then. I have a very competitive nature and anorexia became sort of a competition with both myself and others around me. I always had to be the skinniest girl in the room. It was never about body image for me at that point, although that became an issue for me later. It was a competition and it was all about control. I have had a rough life and being able to control my weight made me feel better. At least I had control over something and I can’t resist a good competition even at the detriment to myself. I was able to hide my issues with anorexia because I had a convenient excuse — my surgery. Then it was food allergies. Then it was other medical conditions. Then it was the prescriptions I was taking. There was always an excuse.

I had an ex-boyfriend who enjoyed cooking and that helped me somewhat for a time, as cooking was a hobby for him and I began to enjoy gluten free baking. He always knew if I ate, so I knew that if I started starving myself he would notice and that helped for a time, although anorexia ended up getting the better of me. I began limiting my food intake again and exercising excessively. After we broke up was when I hit rock bottom with this disorder. I no longer had someone preparing meals for me and I was so rattled from the breakup at the time that I had no appetite anyway. My weight got so low that my doctors began to notice, as did my therapist, my family and my friends. I couldn’t hide it anymore. My therapist and doctors were considering placing me in the hospital, not for mental reasons but because of the damage anorexia had done to my body. I had a moment of clarity when I put on my size 0 pants and they fell right off of me. I remember looking in the mirror and it was like seeing myself for the first time. I was sick. Very sick.

Besides the arts and psychology, my other love is athletics. I am training to be a yoga teacher and have been doing yoga daily for over six years. I can honestly say it changed my life. I found my spiritual self again, gained mental clarity and physical strength and flexibility. It is also very important to me that I know how to defend my own person, be it with weapons or empty handed. I want to be strong physically and mentally. I am training to compete in defensive pistol shooting, as well as cross training in Karate, Judo, Hapkido, Krav Maga and Kali Escrima. I realized that I could do none of this if I continued to treat my body this way. That was a huge motivator in my recovery.

I feel very strongly about individual rights and feel that all people should be treated with kindness, dignity and respect both physically and otherwise. Having been abused myself and knowing many people that I love who have also been abused in some way, nothing seems worse to me than abuse of any kind. For a long time, I had held these beliefs but did not extend them to myself. I felt that I was not worthy of love or even respect and I treated myself horribly. I realized that through starving myself and treating my body and mind so poorly I was being abusive. I was abusing myself and abuse is never okay. I started eating again and have since attained a normal healthy weight.

I am still in recovery but I have made it through the worst of it and I am stronger now. Part of the reason I want to go into psychiatry as well as create art relating to it is so that I may reach others who have had similar experiences. I want them to know that there is someone out there who cares and understands. I want others who have not dealt with any sort of psychiatric issue to become more aware of how those who have feel and learn how to effectively help. I only hope that my art and my story may touch someone in a positive way. My psychiatry project has also been a way of healing for me. I bring something personal to all the shoots I do, even those that have nothing to do with my project. Though at times this takes me into the dark places I try to avoid, at the end of each shoot I feel a sort of catharsis and while emotionally and physically drained I feel fulfilled, brave and strong.

I am very grateful to those who have helped me thus far and for those who have seen my work and given me feedback that has been overwhelmingly positive. That lets me know I am doing something right. I look forward to continuing my project, as well as collaborating with gifted photographers and helping to bring both my own and others’ artistic visions to life.