It is said that one way to overcome a fear, is to face it head on…
It started years ago; a camera pointed in my direction would immediately plummet me into a self-conscious tailspin. Yes… I know I was a model. I used to say that that was precisely the reason for my aversion – occupational hazard and all that. I remember my disinterest in viewing the photos after a shoot and others’ disbelief at my refusal to look at myself (I mean… I was a model!). What no one understood was my terror at what I saw. So, for the first time ever, let me hold a mirror up to myself and reveal this truth to you. Be patient with me as try to explain the truth behind your belief and exasperation that I am simply trying to be coy, even fishing for compliments. Please… let’s address this.
It was never a dream of mine to model; I have never been either that confident or arrogant to view myself that way. I got approached and after much prodding from friends, decided to give it a try. As the years went by, I remember thoroughly enjoying the dressing-up process and the walking? Well, I admit to having a torrid love affair with a runway. There was/is something seductive about standing at the top of an expanse of walkway, centering oneself and asking your core to move in unison with your stride. In knowing that from here to there, you can move your body as a reflection of all that you are… in every step. The movement is a celebration of childhood, womanhood, motherhood and queendom. It was the one place I dominated and every footfall silenced those other noises.
The noises that ruled when I was asked to stand still and pose. The noises that shone through my eyes and fashioned my mouth in celebration of its dominance over me. Listen, there is truth behind the phrase, ‘still photography’ because that moment is one you can ill do anything about once captured. So, for as much as it was possible, I shunned the camera. I rejected all voluntary opportunity to document the pain and insecurities that lived inside of me. I refused to be complicit in opening that particular window to my soul. I mastered the art of looking away and reveled in the staged “candid” shots.
In this era of social media and documentation, I receive a lot of flak from those that still believe I am simply being difficult when it comes to picture-taking. It saddens me. Often I wish I am able to be as spontaneous as many and always be camera-ready. But for me, “camera-ready” does not mean perfect hair and make-up (although there is an element of that as well), but it means searching my soul to see how it is doing. It means being brave enough to allow my insides to permanently be displayed for all to see. Staring into the lens of a camera means trusting you enough with the outward manifestations of my emotional history. Knowing that every divet, wrinkle, scar, curl of the lip, droop of the eyes, frown or smile means something. Acknowledging that every harsh word, criticism, slap, punch, spit on, ridicule, lie, abandonment, infidelity had permanently etched its presence into my skin.
I have challenged myself to own the strength I give away every day. I force myself to embody the words of love I offer. I remind myself that scars mean I have survived and should be proud. I have dedicated myself to forging a legacy to my daughter (and future grandchildren) that epitomizes strength and the presence of determination… especially in the face of fear. So, I am taking more pictures and with each one, I am gaining more confidence. Smiles are reaching my eyes and laughter is loud. Movement has become a celebration, where it was once a mechanism to drown out the noise. So, I am challenging this fear not as an act of vanity, but as one of sanity. With each snap I am drowning out the voice of the critics… both external and internal. It is still a struggle, but I am learning to smile and laugh through it. I am slowly taking the steps to look at; not away.
One day soon I will look you all dead in the face and never look away. Then you would know I have fully healed.