Feeling the Love…

I always feel so honored to have one of my RBU girls give the project some love! 

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Featuring Dani

So I guess it’s time for me to write my story.  Ever since I can remember I would always question the way that I looked.  I think for me the biggest change had to be when I first came to live in the US.  Being the only spanish kid in my grade for a very long time, I realized then I was different.  Not that my parents didn’t make it any easier sending empanadas to school for my, “almuerzo.”  I would get, “ay mija why didn’t you eat your empanada today?”    Or the, “I know that you are learning English in school, but here in the house you can only speak Spanish.”

At times I would look at my peers and wonder how I could convince my mom that peanut butter and jelly was not something that was just a small snack.  And that I really shouldn’t be eating  fried brains for dinner!   As time went on, the awkwardness became something of the norm for me.  I was the tallest in my class including the boys, and was the first one to officially wear a bra.  It was devastated!  On top of all those differences that were in front of me, I was and still am one of the clumsiest people that you will ever meet.  Ouch is pretty much a daily word in my world, so much so that my kids hardly even ask anymore if I’m alright.

The list can go on and on with insecure moments in my youth and for the most part of my adult life. From not feeling pretty enough, or smart enough, or even seen enough.  I worried that I wasn’t doing it right.  That I was disappointing someone. That if I was just a bit more organized, or a bit more fit, or if my nose was just a bit smaller that everything would be perfect.  But what is perfection? If not the illusion in which we are feed constantly through the media, through our thoughts, through our perceptions.

I came to understand through all of the self doubting and through some hard lessons that I’ve had to go through, I am beautiful!

So how did I come to understand that I am beautiful?  I understood that I was just me.  I learned to love the “flaws”  that makes me who I am.  I understood that loving all  of the little aspects of myself lets me see not only myself as the woman I am, but also to see everyone as they are.  Loving myself has made me love others in such a deeper and more connected way.

I’m not going to write here that I don’t have days in which some thoughts creep up.  But I am going to say that by allowing myself to just be who I am it makes it easier to let go of those thoughts.  To let go of the idea of what I thought was perfection.

Radio Interview with Cristina Maria Rojas-Fernandez for Transforming Gifts!

I was so honored to be interviewed by Cristina for Transforming Gifts! She made me feel right at home and talking to her about how Real Beauty: Uncovered became what it is today.  For anyone who knows me this is not such an easy task because I do tend to get a bit shy when I talk about my personal things.  But I wanted to audience to really get to know me and the reason why this movement is so important!

Before we started she guided me and told me some of the questions she was going to be asking.  Even when we had a little hiccup she was right there cool and collective!  Such an amazing women who I have the privilege of getting to know!

Thank you again Christina for your light and your wisdom!

Take a listen!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/transforminggifts/2015/06/11/live-wdani-allen-co-creator-photographer-of-real-beauty-uncovered

Introducing Nicolette V.

And now, it’s a great honor to introduce Nicolette!

Her Story…

“When I was in high school, my older sister battled an eating disorder. However, the way it came about is a little different than what they preach about in the media. My sister didn’t start restricting because she was unhappy with herself. She was never overweight and was absolutely beautiful. Her stress and anxiety took control of her mind and body and caused her to become extremely underweight. Her organs started failing and she was slowly killing herself without a choice. Throughout the entire process, she knew how sick she looked. She wanted to gain the weight back, her body just wouldn’t let her.

Fast forward 4 years and now I’m in college surrounded by people who have no idea what my sister went through. You wouldn’t believe how many times “I’m gonna stop eating” or “sometimes I wish I was anorexic” gets thrown around in casual conversations each day. These statements would infuriate me because I knew that my sister did that, was there, and absolutely hated herself for it.

From watching my sister fight her battle, I didn’t learn to eat solid meals, I didn’t learn to you have to be a certain weight, and I sure didn’t learn you had to follow trends to be beautiful. I learned beauty is what you make of it. If you’re overweight and feel beautiful, then you are. If you have a six-pack and are proud of it, then you have a reason to be. To me, there is no definition of beautiful. If you feel beautiful, you are.”

Lillian Faderman…

It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone with such a rich history.  I was fortunate enough to sit down with Lillian Faderman after a powerful presentation at Rider University.  I knew I was in the presence of a wonderful speaker when the first sentence was spoken and the whole room gazed upon her, eating up her every word like the most delicious sundae on a hot summer day. Refreshing and very much needed. In the busyness of our lives, we forget to slow down and remember our past. Remember where we came from and how far we have come.

Lillian Faderman is an internationally-known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Her work has been translated into numerous languages, including German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, Czech, and Slovenian. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship, including Yale University’s James Brudner Award, the Monette/Horwitz Award, the Publishing Triangle Award, the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives Culture Hero Award, and the American Association of University Women’s Distinguished Senior Scholar Award. The New York Times named two of her books, Surpassing the Love of Men and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, on its “Notable Books of the Year” list.

When sitting to ask her some quick questions and take her photograph (which by the way was not on her schedule, but she agreed to do anyway because she is amazing), I noticed the tenderness in her eyes. It was truly an honor to get to talk to her. Here is my favorite question and answer from our chat:

Q. “What is Beauty?”

A.  “Nature is Beauty. The ocean gives me energy and peace. Beauty for me is two chairs looking at the ocean.”

Thank you, Lillian!!!

 

Gearing up for Montclair State University Exhibition…

Dani says: So excited to be going to Montclair State University for Women’s History Month. RBU will be at Life Hall from March 1st till the 31st! The women I interviewed were amazing and I can’t wait for them to see themselves on screen. For this show, we also added a video-based gallery in addition to the live photographs that will be hung. I can’t express the depth of the gratitude I feel for all of the real stories that the women shared, their openness, and the tremendous heart they showed. I love my Montclair Girls thru and thru!

Introducing Michele F.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Michele F.  I hope that through her story you will find inspiration!

Michele F: “I had a subscription to Seventeen magazine when I was 12 and can remember trying to recreate looks in my bathroom mirror.
Wishing my hair curled like hers, my eyes wider, legs slimmer.
I strived to attain that perfection on the page.
I always considered myself confident but the physical comparisons I made between myself and others never really left me.
25 years and 2 kids later, I find myself bombarded with images of physical perfection. Specifically, an image of a mom holding a new baby surrounded by her other 3 or so kids.
She was fit, ripped, and had a caption reading, “What’s your excuse?”
And I found myself wondering that too.
Then Dani called and wanted to take my picture 5 weeks after baby #2 was born sans makeup.
“Uh, no.”
Except this project stuck with me and I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if I said ‘yes’?”
What if rather than complaining about the Photoshopped images we are bombarded with each day, I was part of showing the real woman.
Who loves her family, herself and her body.
The body that pulled me out of a 4-year illness with nothing but self-exploration, nutrition and herbal supplements.
The body that helped turn a 100-year-old run down house into a home.
The body that created carried and delivered 2 amazing children.
Children who are completely unique and their own.
A daughter that I hope never knows the word diet. That picks clothes because they express her individuality not hide her “problem areas.”
A son that will see a woman’s smile and want to know her heart and what it feels like to be loved so completely by another human being.
Who won’t choose where to look for that love based on a jean size.
What’s my excuse?
I don’t have one.
I live, I love, and I appreciate my body.
Every pound, every inch, split ends, wrinkles, freckles, and cellulite.
I can say this now because I saw how beautiful I can look.
Without the mask.
Without the smoky eye.
No Photoshop.
Dani showed me how beautiful I was.
Just as I am.”