NO I'm not a perv. I've just discovered an incredible YouTube channel called StyleLikeU and a series of videos they have created called 'The What's Underneath Project'. Any of you hoping for for something saucier click away now. I'm about to get all feminist...
"We've asked a select group of individuals to participate in a project in which they will remove their clothes... to honour how style is not the clothes you wear. Style is not about money, it's knowing who you are, it is your spirit, it's what's underneath."
The concept is simple. Strip down. Open up. Be vulnerable. Be powerful. Be you.
I read this and thought, yeh sounds cool... and then I watched an episode and within five minutes I crying big fat baby tears. Now anyone who knows me will know this is literally an everyday occurrence, but trust me, these videos are powerful, and to call them videos about 'style' as we know it doesn't really do them justice. These videos go much, much deeper.
The first one I watched was by actress Jemima Kirke from Girls. Within the first minute she talks about why she cut off a lot of her hair, saying she wanted to know what it felt like to not use her long hair to feel beautiful. Having cut off about 10 inches of my hair over the past year, I was interested to hear another woman talk about the impulses behind doing what she did and why.
Now it might seem contradictory to tackle the issues of judgement and perception by asking people to take their clothes off and allow themselves to be judged... BUT... StyleLikeU have managed to show the extraordinary beauty of each person as they allow themselves to be vulnerable. All of these women, regardless of what they are choosing to speak about, quickly become very emotional, very exposed, and as a result what they are saying becomes INCREDIBLY powerful. Something about revealing yourself; literally through taking your clothes off, and metaphorically through speaking about extremely personal issues, means somehow the words ring truer and louder because of it.
Tackling the assumptions we make of people based on their image is not an easy task. We are all guilty of making snap judgements of people, based on their size, weight, skin colour, hair colour, clothes, body language... the list goes on... and it's almost impossible to escape the idealised bodies and lives we are told we must strive for on a daily basis, especially in the social-media soaked reality (or fantasy) of our everyday lives. Self-confidence is not a state you reach and stay at without persistent and continued effort. Model (I refuse to say plus-sized because look at her - its total madness!) Iskra Lawrence is a serious powerhouse when it comes to taking on body-shamers. Breaking boundaries with her honesty and determination to succeed in a world renowned for its narrow-mindedness on beauty, she represents a new generation of 'real' models, 'real' people who refuse to sell an unattainable ideal. I already adore her!
Whilst watching I ask myself "Could I do this? Could I take off all my clothes and speak honestly about my hopes and fears and let thousands of people watch me doing so?". I'd like to think I could... I'd like to think I could uphold my own ideals and principles, put my money where my mouth is... but the truth is I'd be absolutely terrified. So instead I ask myself why... why am I so scared? Why should I feel anything other than total joy and comfort in my own body and its abilities? After all, I've hardly had to battle any real hardships in my life. I'm white, I'm fair-haired, I'm educated, I'm healthy, I was born into a privileged family and given all the opportunities I could have wished for - when it comes to the lottery of life I'm a winner.
So... What makes a person beautiful? What does self-acceptance mean? Why do we feel ashamed or embarrassed by our own bodies or emotions? What are we all so afraid of?
I don't know if these videos ever really give a definitive answer to the questions they pose, but maybe that's the point. Maybe its the diversity of the responses, the difference between each woman's story, and the bravery of what they are doing that makes it such compelling watching. I dare any of you not to be moved by what you see, and I hope it leaves you feeling as inspired as it did me.
The road to true acceptance, true equality, true self-love is a long and hard one. But it's one I now consciously wish to walk down. And If I walk in the company of women like these... Hell it's gonna be quite a journey!