Looking back, it’s a bit ironic to think that I was a swimmer in high school… because it necessitated so much of my body being shown. A body I was acutely aware of and which I covered as much as possible whenever it wasn’t being obscured by chlorinated water.
Throughout high school and college my arms and upper legs were covered with keratosis pilaris, or raised, red and white bumps that look like acne. Along with the cystic acne on my back and face, and the thick, Greek body hair that sprouted up, well, everywhere, I became a kid who only liked to expose her ankles and wrists. I wouldn’t wish my long-sleeve-sweaty-childhood on anyone.
I began to idolize women in magazines with flawless, caramel skin that had the consistency of a See’s lollipop (I had no idea what photoshop was and oh how that knowledge could have saved so much pain). I believed flawless skin was the definition of beauty, above anything else. And because that supposed pinnacle of beauty felt so unattainable to me, I believed I was unlovable for a very, very long time.
Ten years after high school, the keratosis finally subsided. And five years after that, the scars from it began to fade as well. But they were replaced with a plethora of other fun things such as stretch marks across my hips, varicose veins on my legs, cellulite on my ass and stomach, more cystic acne with more “ice pick scars,” and one gnarly scar on the top of my right wrist that I stare at everyday while I type.
When I had surgery last year to fix my broken wrist, the only thing I was concerned about was that impending scar. Not my wrist’s mobility or recovery, but what was the scar going to look like?? My forearms were the one part of my body that could pass for a See’s lollipop, until now. My obsession and dread over that scar proved to me that my body dysmorphia was an ongoing struggle, instead of something I’d overcome in the past.
While the body positivity (and body neutral) movements have blown open the doors to what is considered beautiful, I still find too few images that show the truth of women’s skin. That it’s not an untouched lollipop, but rather a map of their lived life and unique genetics. Things one can point to, and tell the story of who they are.
So I asked four women with very unique skin to tell me about it. Because without our stories, we’re just dust to dust.
Aleque Reid | @alequereid
I was diagnosed with Scheuermanns Kyphosis when I was twelve. It’s a back disease that affects the curvature of the spine. Essentially, one side (the back) of the vertebral body grows normally and the front grows more slowly or abnormally. This leads to a vertebra with a distinct wedge shape, which leads to an increase in the bend in your upper back, called an increased dorsal kyphosis.
I always knew I’d need surgery. After I was pregnant and started carrying my beautiful daughter, the pain increased exponentially. I eventually found an incredible doctor who performed the surgery for a very low cost. (He’s now a buddy).
I consequently had complications from the first surgery (no fault of the surgeon) that led to my lungs filling with fluid and my right lung collapsing. The second surgery was to handle that. Ha!
I just love my scars. I was never scared about the possibility of a back scar. I believe scars add to my story. I have this thing about leaving a legacy. What kind of a legacy do I want to leave: in spirit, with those around me, physically? The scars let me know what I’ve gone through. They help me tell my story. All the trials associated with them help remind me of how strong I am. 2017 was not an easy year, physically. And yet, I learned to accept more help and love than ever before. I recognized how powerful my body is, what a miracle it is. I used to have severe body dysmorphia. I don’t anymore. My body is capable of so much.
Bree Darby | @blindiangirl
The lighter spots on my body have been around for the past year and a half. I believe that they are genetic because my mother and maternal grandmother have them as well, but I never noticed them because they were usually covered up.
I am just a plus size woman of color who is still trying to navigate her place in this world, but who is slowly embracing who she is.
Arianna Margulis | @butlikemaybeI’ve been spotty [with moles] since I was a kid…but, they are definitely starting to multiply with time! I feel like every time I look closely, I’ve got a new dot I don’t recognize. My mom and dad both have moles, and it’s actually something my entire family has to be very careful about. Regular dermatology checkups!
I haven’t always loved my moles – I was teased in high school because I had them all over. Boys used to joke that I probably had them on my bum…which indeed, I do! I did some modeling when I was in college and I remember getting my first big shoot–my arms were completely smoothed and photoshopped to “look more commercial.” I didn’t recognize my skin! Now, I love them because they set me apart. I feel there is an amazing movement right now to embrace and champion the non-conformity. Difference is cool.
I like to call them my chocolate chips, (as an ex aptly named them). My favorite is a giant puffy one on the side of my hip. It’s like a bathing suit beauty mark.
Editor’s Note: Arianna has a book coming out early next year that we can’t wait to read!
Alexis Manson | @VoguishgraceMy freckles started to appear when I was six and we went on vacation to visit my family in Costa Rica. It started with just a few on my nose and then every year we returned to Costa Rica, more and more appeared. The sun there is no joke!
By the time I started 4th grade, my freckles had multiplied. I remember an occasion when my classmate drew a photo of me with a square face and lots of polka dots. I was so embarrassed, I went home and told my mom. She said to me, “Lec, they are beautiful, don’t listen to silly boys.” Well unfortunately, her advice didn’t reach me until I was 18. I was finally at an age when I looked in the mirror, I saw my family in me, and it made me very proud to carry their genetics. Those who know me can attest to this, my family is my entire world. So I’ll take the freckles and whatever else they want to give me.
I try very hard not to cover them, I tend to apply Eighteen B rich cream and Coverfx (Radiance C + Lemongrass) with a little mascara and call it a day. I’m all about showing off these bad boys and making them glow.
At the start of 2018, I launched my brand, called Voguish Grace – publicizing my journey as a represented model, while collaborating with individuals within my niche to merge and expand our networks. I live by this quote that I created: “When all else seems to fail, enlighten the world with your presence.”