I wasn’t too concerned with being “pretty” until middle school. When I was 11, I went with a bunch of my friends to an open casting call at the Barbizon modeling school. In retrospect, it was a scam and a waste of time, but I wanted some kind of positive affirmation about my appearance. My friends made it to the next round, but the judges told me to come back once I got my braces off. I was taller than the most of the guys in my class until I finally stopped growing at 5’10” my junior year of high school. My first crush called me Amazon Arikia—which I think is awesome now, but at the time it horrified me. When I look at pictures of myself as a teenager, I can’t believe I ever thought I was fat, but I was convinced I had love handles.
Now I’m 27. I have scars, stretch marks, sun spots, I’m 170 lbs, and I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I love this body. This body has carried me around the world, up volcanoes and over rivers. It has protected me through two car accidents, five street attacks, a venomous spider bite, dengue fever, and a nasty Southeast Asian bacterial infection. It is powerful, and it can kick a lot of ass. It is also incredibly soft. It can release endorphins, give warmth, comfort, and pleasure to others.
It’s been a long process undoing the brainwashing that the media imposes on little girls to make them think they can’t be beautiful unless they tread down the capitalistic rabbit hole of endless artificial enhancements. I wish I could have spent my teen years believing that I am beautiful, and celebrating that confidence in all the ways I can imagine to adorn my body like I do now.
As the EIC of LadyBits, I’ve spent many hours creating and promoting content that supports body diversity campaigns, and calling out douchebag brands that limit their products to idealized body types. I will continue to work to stock the media with images of women who represent the beautiful reality in addition to the idealized fantasy so that the next generation can understand the difference better than I did.
So when a friend told me the founder of Dear Kate was looking for models—specifically, for size L women who work in the tech industry—for an upcoming shoot, I volunteered. At first I thought the shoot was for yoga pants, which Dear Kate is known for manufacturing the antithesis of the Lululemon brand (as in they’re not see-through and are available in many larger “queen” sizes), but it turned out it was for their new lingerie line themed around Ada Lovelace.
I wasn’t sure if I should participate. Would it ruin my personal brand until the end of eternity? Would people take me less seriously as a professional and an entrepreneur if they had seen my lace-clad body? Would I be harassed with endless troll comments?
No. Anyone who would sexualize me, objectify me, or treat me differently in the professional world would do so regardless of what I wore, and those who respect me would continue to. Why would I sacrifice the opportunity to be professionally photographed in what I feel is the best shape of my life? I’ve never kept myself from doing anything out of fear, especially when that fear is the burden of women alone.
So lo and behold, I’m now a lingerie model. And I feel pretty great about it.
Check out the whole lookbook for the Dear Kate Ada Collection and meet the other awesome tech models.
And FYI I’m not just posing on that computer, I was actually writing this blog post :)