Monif C is not the first plus sized brand I've had the pleasure to work with; it's not the first plus swimwear line I've worked with. But what set this project apart for me personally was the was the palpable sexual energy. On the one hand this should have been pretty obvious, I was shooting swimwear; barring robes, what you see here is what our lovely models (and they are lovely, classy, hardworking women) ran around in for most of the day. On the other hand this shoot was a huge wake up call.
For pretty much my entire experience shooting plus size for brands like Hey Gorgeous and Mynt 1792 I have always been impressed by the models, their talent and work ethic, and more than anything else their body confidence. All of their stories, their paths to being on set with me, are stories of intelligent, determined women working to build a respected place for themselves in the fashion world and actively redefining what it means to be sexy and attractive for millions of women and girls across the country.
I was one of those girls who would have benefited from seeing diverse plus models growing up rather than the typecasting I was used to in the 90's and 00's. I'm about 6'1" and even though I spent most of my childhood playing sports, I have always battled with the straight size/plus size line and my weight has often been a point of extreme frustration. Even at my thinnest I was still thinking that I should lose a couple more pounds and was living in fear of gaining any weight, as though on some visceral level (that my otherwise strong, feminist brain should have been able to obliterate) I still believed that some important part of my value lied with my weight.
So as I was sitting on my apple box shooting this project, past the part of my mind focusing on the finer technical points of photography, past the dancing to the killer hip hop playlist and engaging with the models, was a younger version of me in awe of these women who were in complete control. They captivated everyone in the room. They had no interest in trying to hide anything. There was irreverently and wonderfully absolutely no shame in their game. More and more, women's bodies have become a battleground for different aspects of our cultural consciousness, not the least of which being body positivity and sexual ownership. Even though on a very basic level these women we just doing their jobs, to show up and slay this shoot, working with them was an incredible experience in that they seemed immune to shame and their ownership over their bodies and sexuality was almost its own physical force. l may not be running out of the house in a bikini anytime soon (it's gold here in NYC), but this was a reminder that people's opinions about someone else's appearance and size are exactly that, theirs. Letting yourself be limited and defined by someone else's opinion of what beauty is, or how you should be is a waste of time. And if that's a message we can share through fashion and media, then I'm excited to continue that conversation.