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Relax because your judgments aren’t real
Like most latchkey kids I was very impressionable to the images I was constantly being exposed to. I believed everything I saw in magazines, in movies and on television. Those media representations of real life seemed like copies of the real world. I had no knowledge at that point that they weren’t. As a naïve youngster I was easily mesmerized by the glow of television and the glossy pages of magazines. I saw magazines and movies as a way to inspire beauty and creativity in the world. Helping people be the best people they can be. When I first started getting into fashion, beauty and fitness everything seemed possible. That bikini body like the model on the pages was only 4 weeks away. I would be transformed before my very eyes. I would look glamorous with just a few key pieces from the mall and the drug store.
I took diet pills in high school. I finally started working out for the first time when I went to college. I lost weight but it wasn’t enough. I was nowhere near the standard of beauty that was burned into my my psyche. I was very interested in the arts and acting. I wanted to be a great actor but all the actors I liked didn’t look like me. I wanted to be a fashion designer and a model. I drew sketches and even designed my own prom dress. I keep trying to get that beach body but it never came. I became a very unhappy girl chasing after an image that I thought would bring me all the success I wanted. I decided to study the industry that I wanted to be a part of so I got a degree in mass communication. I learned what it takes to put any type of broadcast across television and I learned the importance of advertising funding those broadcast. I learned that most print in all advertising, especially when it comes to women’s magazines. Have you ever noticed that the skin cream that’s being raved about in an article is advertised in the last pages? You should’ve, but advertising was hoping you didn’t and just took the advice from the well meaning columnist.
Some media is meant to help and inform but the majority of the mass marketing and entertainment industry’s purpose is to financially support manufactures and corporations. I hope I’m not telling you anything you don’t already speculate yourself. If I am, then, welcome to thinking of images critically, we’ve been waiting for you. Days of being fed images and leisurely accepting what’s popular is over. For our own sake and for the sake of our impressionable youth. Everyone is affected by media images but the difference is in the individual. Seeing the same limited images makes the side effect of eating disorders and body dimorphic disorders so common and ceaseless.
We can’t give all the blame to the industries if we don’t do anything to combat this war. This war is on our individual judgments where images are weapons. We must start looking at images skeptically. Images are meant to sell you something or sell you on something. Analyze what about an ad makes you interested in buying a product. Even if you think advertising doesn’t affect you. Once you start looking at images critically you might fine there is nothing very appealing about it at all. Ask yourself how many women characters are in your favorite movie. Then think about what role each of them play in the story. What they wear is important too. Details that seem to wash over us is being embedded into us. Why were high school students in my favorite movie donning crop tops? And on school property? I wasn’t allowed to dress like that in high school and I couldn’t if I wanted to because I had a gut. Television shows about love and romance are popular because experiencing love and attraction is a very common thing. A very common human interaction made into drama, crafted in style and a specific standard of beauty, exploited and then presented back to us with a ribbon and a rose. Look at advertising as a game or a puzzle. Try and uncover the tabloids riddles. What’s being presented isn’t’ actually the story. The reason tabloids portray beach body and which celebrity suffers from eating disorder is to keep that in the fore front of people’s judgments. Celebrities give to charity, they adopt animals and they cut themselves shaving. Celebrities get the flu, buy cars and go to the movies outside of premiers. But we are only presented with what they are wearing, eating or not eating and their bodies.
You are in control of the way you think of images. Constructed stories and images has nothing to do with us. The media industry is not the best judge of the way we should look and live our lives. The industry is forever changing the appropriate standard and simultaneously, standards that are impossible for any real human to achieve. Consuming ourselves with trying to reach those standards is insanity. We are beautiful just the way we are. We are lovely because we love ourselves enough to love others.
Tekoa Smith is a plus size model, blogger and aspiring writer who is dedicated to helping women of all ages accept the gifts they were given. As a model and with her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication she has seen first hand the decisions of media executes. Tekoa has learned to not take things so personally. Tekoa can be found in any karaoke bar in the Baltimore area, strolling through the aisles at the grocery story for hours getting inspiration for her next vegan recipe or pampering her 15 pound black cat named after the incredible Frederick Douglass.