Lisa Marie drove two hours, and for much of the ride she thought about whether or not to wear make-up for her shoot. She was coming to tell us the story of her breasts, but the equally powerful story was that for much of her life, she has picked at her skin, her fingers seeking out perceived imperfections on her face. “Makeup is a layer between me and the pimples,” she told us. And something about that thin covering creates enough of a barrier to prevent her, momentarily, from seeking out that which isn’t wrong with herself.
She and Jade ended up talking endlessly about their journeys with their skin, how Jade spent years not looking in the mirror and when she finally did, it was only by candle-light.
Lisa Marie’s story about her breasts was equally as powerful: she had always been large-chested since she was young, and much of her identity was built around that physical part of herself. In high school, she recalls the time a rumored trickled its way to her ears that boys were calling her “Butta Face”, which is slang for “Everything is hot about her but her face,” a truly heart-puncturing concept tossed lightly be many guys that in reality is an emotional grenade on formative young women.
When she had her first child and breast fed them, her breasts rebounded. But after breast-feeding her second child, her breasts deflated, leaving her searching for her identity. “Who was I?” she wondered.
Six months after weaning her second child, she impulsively decided to get breast implants. And for a short period, she felt like her old self again. Her assets were back.
Until, a year later, when Lisa Marie realized the implants didn’t make her feel whole either.
14 doctors later, she finally found one who would take them out. Now she isn’t judging women with implants. “It just felt like I could breathe again,” Lisa Marie explained. “They seemed to literally constrict my breath.”
She went on to explain how she had stopped giving people real hugs because she didn’t want them to have to feel her less-real parts. It was powerful for us to listen to her, silently taking in her truths, her vulnerabilities. But what was evident was her joy, and her acceptance of that which she is blessed with: herself.
-Alok Appadurai is a writer, father, and co-founder of A Beautiful Body Project.
Photos by co-founder Jade Beall. To book a private shoot with her, email email@example.com
A Beautiful Body Project is building the largest source of women’s voices about their bodies and their lives in the world, through unaltered images, videos, podcasts, and stories.