Walking the BlogHer Fashion Show: Anything Is Possible
By Erin Kotecki Vest on August 07, 2012
I will admit it: I’m a blog snob.
Those silly fashion blogs? Pfffft. So long as they don’t take over the political news of the day, or the REAL news (as I stand tall and like to remark) -- then fine, they can have a headline or two. But they aren’t important and are fluff and as far as I’m concerned have no place getting higher ratings or more coverage than what I consider to be more important -- real news.
So when the BlogHer team asked me to be a model in the first EVER BlogHer fashion show this year at BlogHer ’12 in New York, I had to laugh.
Not only was I being asked to participate in a space I had very little respect for, but I was struggling with coming to terms with a body that is not my own. One I have written about time and time again since I began steroid treatment for lupus. The dramatic shift from my 119-pound self to my steroid-induced, 219-pound self has been life changing. Nearly as life changing as the disease trying to kill me.
The truth of the matter is I have not felt beautiful, or even comfortable, in a long time. 18 months, to be exact. I’ve learned to shop in the plus-sized section, and cry when things even there didn’t fit.
I sobbed uncontrollably when all I wanted to hear from those I love was “you are beautiful no matter what” -- which was said early on, but after so long that sort of talk seems frivolous. OK, so I haven’t heard it in 15 months, to be exact. Not because they don’t love me, but because it seems unimportant in the sea of things going on. Treatment, medication, plans of action. My appearance should be the least of anyone’s worries, and it would be insulting to even bring it up. Vain maybe. And downright stupid.
But as it turns out, you notice and remember things when you don’t recognize the person looking back at you in the mirror. You crave to know you are still beautiful to those who love you -- if not in words, than in a kiss on the forehead or an arm around the waist. But that waist is now double in size. The forehead round and moon-shaped from the drugs, and I certainly wasn’t feeling worthy of a kiss.
That’s not the Erin I know. But I was cutting her some slack, considering the hell we were going through.
Everyone treats you differently as a big girl, too. Everyone. My kids love “Squishy Mommy." In fact they want to make sure I don’t lose ALL the weight I have gained as I diet because they insist some squish remain for cuddle time.
Then I realized how the outside world treats larger people. They aren’t nearly as nice to me as they used to be. At first I was angry. I wanted to wear a big sign that said “I AM ON A STEROID THAT SAVED MY LIFE THIS IS WHY I AM FAT.” And then I got even more angry, realizing that no one deserves to be treated differently simply based on looks and size -- from those of us here involuntarily to those beautiful women born with curves to people who just are who they are.
So I said yes to being a model. Because my self-esteem needed a boost, I knew I had to learn about other blog communities, and -- most important -- I wanted to show the world every size, shape, and sass of a woman is beautiful.
But could I really do it? Could I walk a runway in front of hundreds in New York, knowing full well I’d be in tears and hating the body I’m supposed to show off and love? Would it be a big lie?
No. No. I could do it. I just had to believe. I had to believe, I had to get comfortable in this body of mine, and I had to own who I am now. OWN IT.
So with that thought in my mind, and some nudging from some people reminding me that others like me might be inspired and get that “you are beautiful” comment they too have been waiting for ... I said yes.
Flash forward to rehearsals, fittings, hair, makeup, shapewear discussions, stretch mark discussions, bra discussions, heels or flats discussions, order of models, how to walk, how may beats to count before posing ... and on and on and on.
And at every point I wanted to bail. To run out of this thing that put butterflies in my stomach. Would the community think this was lame? Would anyone believe I was beautiful and model-worthy? Would they see all the hard work and diversity of women of every stripe and say “that is awesome,” or would they say “where are the supermodels?”
And I stood on the steps off the stage, music blaring, and knew there was no turning back. I was told that if I could do it, maybe next year another woman afraid to show her cancer scars might say yes too. Maybe, just maybe, a blogger who feels like the ugly duckling due to a birth defect will volunteer and say “ME NEXT!”
Image: Kelly Cheatle of craftyb
And I closed my eyes, and I counted my beats, and I believed, for the first time in so long, that I truly was beautiful. I believed what I had always written and told my daughter -- it’s not what is outside, it’s what is inside that makes you pretty. My inside has sass, and silly, and attitude, and power. POWER enough to be winning against a disease that kills. Power enough to be humbled by the “fluff” bloggers who I realize not only work hard, but work super hard to show every woman is beautiful, fighting the stereotype that you need to be a tall, skinny, white, blonde female to be the ideal.
They taught me everyone is the ideal woman, and I most certainly was welcome in their ranks. Not everything needs news and politics, but everything DOES need beauty.
So for every woman who isn’t society’s usual cover girl ... I stepped on stage, walked to my mark, and soaked in what I KNEW was already there: family and friends who love me for me. And who all taught me EVERYONE in this community and beyond has an equally important voice. Because that voice gave me the confidence to return to who I really am.
And I am beautiful.
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