Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Behind the Scenes with BoPo Babes: curvycottoncandymane

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

Melissa, aka @curvycottoncandymane, started her Instagram page just over a year ago. She quickly got to the heart of the bopo community and has amassed over 24K followers! She grabbed my attention in the sea of bopo babes with her cotton candy colored locks and got me hooked with her positive energy! In the real world, she uses her perky disposition as a school teacher – inspiring young minds every day. She expands her love of teaching to the bopo community, sharing personal stories and her unique style with the world.

“Finding the body positive community on Instagram changed my entire life, and that's no exaggeration. Never before had I ever seen or heard of other women who not only accepted their bodies, but LOVED them! I was awestruck. All I'd been taught previously was that I was supposed to hate my body until it finally conformed to the societal ideal of perfection. And boy did I! My body was enemy #1! The internet connects you with people from all over the globe who are finding ways, despite the garbage being hurled at us from every angle, to celebrate life and beauty in every way. Find and follow those who inspire you personally. Look at as many different bodies as you can. After doing this your stretch marks don't feel as abnormal anymore, your cellulite and rolls become a normal part of being a human, and your purpose in life will become greater than trying to shrink.

My main source of inspiration was Anna @glitterandlazers. I actually knew her from our university days where we lived in the same apartment complex. I'd been following her on instagram for quite some time and she inspired me daily. I began to think, "If she can love herself this much than dammit, so can I!" I had just moved from Utah to Washington and had made some pretty major life changes, the main one being leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I felt personally empowered and wanted to continue nurturing that new feeling. I was discussing the idea of starting a plus size fashion/bopo instagram account with a cute boy (who is now my amazing boyfriend) and he encouraged me from the moment I brought up the idea. He also happened to be my first follower. :) So buoyed by my new found confidence and some loving encouragement I set my phone on a windowsill and snapped my first picture.”

Over a year after posting that first shot, her body positive journey is going strong.
“It's easy to put on a glossy veneer online and seem like you're body positive 100% of the time. That simply isn't true for most of us. I still have dark days and nights like anyone else. I think it's important to try and be transparent online so that there is no huge disparity between your online content and your real life. I still struggle removing my wrap at the pool, I still struggle wearing short shorts on a hot day in front of a group of people. But the important thing is that I continue to do it and that feeling of inner turmoil decreases every time I do. (My Instagram) keeps me motivated to keep loving myself and (hopefully) it motivates others as well. Body positivity has no end date for me. I won't wake up one day and just be done because I've reached the end. There is no end. It's a continuous path that I must mindfully walk everyday.

I've made it a habit to experience my body at least once a week. I lie in bed naked and run my hands over my bumps and lumps and feel the grooves and wrinkles. Or I stand in front of the mirror and trace my stretch marks. I take photos that are only for me. And it's amazing what a change in attitude can do. I did these same things before out of self-loathing and pity. I do them now as a form of worship and celebration. Positive affirmation is real and powerful. I choose every day to love myself, to love the body I've been blessed with, and to spread that love around in the hopes of inspiring others to love themselves too.”

She told me body positivity not only changed her attitude and happiness levels, but her wardrobe as well! “I used to have a fall/winter wardrobe that I wore year round. Now I have actual summer pieces that I wear during the actual summer! Novel, I know! haha! Body positivity has made me more comfortable and confident in my day to day choices and actions. I feel like nothing is off limits for me and I try and live every day as a reflection of that.”

As a teacher, she couldn’t stop at just improving her own life. She started her Instagram to spread the joy of self love and is not limiting that message to the online world. “I think one of the best ways to encourage those around you is to simply live a bold and free life. I have close friends who I've always looked up to for showing me it's possible to be comfortable in your skin and not feel the need to apologize or make excuses for yourself. Now I try and be that person for others. It's also important to point out ways that society is brainwashing us whenever we see it. Make it plain and obvious so that the subtle and sneaky damage isn't subtle and sneaky.”

An example of some sneaky body shaming that’s been happening recently? – Mermaid thighs, a seemingly body positive response to the thigh gap. “Honestly, I don't care for trends. I think trends are harmful, even when they're "body positive." Mermaid thighs might be just as unattainable for some as thigh gaps. Bodies shouldn't be trendy.”

Another sneaky tactic is being told we should look up to women celebrities because they’re beautiful or they wore a beautiful gown on the red carpet. Women are beautiful creatures, but society has tried to hold us to that standard and only that. “I love love LOVE so many of the women in comedy who are 100% unapologetically themselves. Melissa McCarthy, Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, Kristin Wiig, these women have been my idols for years! They are strong, independent, successful women who have really shaped a new generation of young girls. We finally have women to look up to who aren't celebrated just for their beauty, but are celebrated for their accomplishments and illustrate the importance of body diversity in the media.”

Even with the leaps and bounds we’ve made as a community, there’s always room to grow. Melissa sounds more ready than ever to see what we can accomplish together. “Like I said before, (body positivity) has changed my life. I've never felt so wholly embraced and loved. I feel so honored and proud to have a voice in this community. It's not perfect, even within the community there are judgments being hurled constantly. We have our own improving and changing to do, but wow, look how far we've come! We are changing the world.”

Lightning Round
Favorite Happy Song?
  • This changes all the time! Right now my happy song is "Hold My Hand" by Jess Glynne. It makes me want to dance and sing at the top of my lungs!
What’s a movie that never gets old?
  • Sandlot. I'm pretty sure I can quote that movie from start to finish. Don't watch it with me and my sister. Trust me, people have and they regret it. haha
What’s a book you could read repeatedly?
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It's a young adult book, but I will continue to read it forever and always. It's the first book I read that taught me it's ok to be yourself and to not worry about what others might think of you. It's a game changer. I always read it to my students every year.
Favorite ice cream?
  • Anything with peanut butter! Peanut butter is my WEAKNESS!
Favorite brick and mortar store?
  • Can I say Target? Target! haha! I'm the ultimate sucker when it comes to Target. Just the other day I went in to buy a new blowdryer since mine had pooped out on me, and I ended up leaving the store with bags and bags of stuff. I was like, "What did I buy? How did this happen?" Like it doesn't happen every single time... haha.
Favorite online store?
  • I think I'd have to say Forever21+. You cannot beat their pricing and I've just found that their clothes are always a great fit for my body!
Favorite drink?
  • Honestly, water. It's boring, I know, but nothing refreshes me more! I'm not a huge fan of sodas. If I'm drinking an alcoholic beverage it has to be fruity and sweet...and not taste like alcohol. haha! My boyfriend recently introduced me to Bai juice drinks and I might be a little hooked. Check it out, they're DELICIOUS.
Do you have any hobbies?

  • Just anything creative! I love design of every kind. Decorating my condo is hugely satisfying for me.

Check out the rest of the series HERE.

Until Next Time,
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