What is beauty and does it really matter?
At 37 weeks pregnant I
trotted (waddled??) on down to a studio in North Melbourne to take part in the True Beauty project. I was nervous. Glamour photography? Me? Not something I had ever considered doing before. What would it be like? What should I expect? The questions swirled in my mind…was this a completely ridiculous thing for me to be doing?
The True Beauty project is the brain child of Ulyana Protassow, a Melbourne based photographer who is on a mission to show women how beautiful they are. Through the project Ulyana photographed an initial 25 women, all of whom spent a few hours with her and her team of hair and make up artists as she set about awakening in them some of the spark they might have misplaced in the humdrum of daily living. I don’t believe that all the women who took part in this project were mothers but I know a good number of them were. Does being a mother leave a woman in any greater need of rediscovering their beauty? I don’t know…what I do know is that I, Louisa, the mother, fell into that category.
The photo shoot was unlike anything I had experienced before – while having my hair and make up done reminded me of my wedding day, the photography itself was much more structured that the shoots I am used to. But I trusted Ulyana, she is a truly beautiful soul – one of those people who oozes gentleness and grace and I knew I was in good hands. She didn’t let me down.
My 4.5year old daughter is currently obsessed with all things princess, fairy and unicorn related. If you can find a way to combine these three things then she might just implode with the excitement. In many ways this is a harmless, very normal, little girl obsession. However, in some ways, it’s not so harmless…
I am pretty upfront with her about some of these issues. She owns a few Barbies but I won’t have her watch the Barbie DVDs. When she asks why I tell her quite simply “because Barbie says that the only thing that matters is how you look, but in our family we don’t think that’s what is important” or words to that effect. It’s the same when she talks about dolls or people being “pretty” all the time. I’ve blogged before about liking my daughter and wanting her to know and see in herself all the wonderful qualities that we see. It is imperative to me that she grow up not placing undue importance on her looks, or the looks of others.
But I’d be lying if I pretended that for most of us, how you look doesn’t matter and doesn’t make a difference to how you feel about yourself. Or that how I look, doesn’t matter to me. As much as I try to be careful about the language I use about food and my appearance, I do want to feel that I look my best and that my husband, if noone else, thinks I am beautiful. (which I am pretty sure he does, phew!)
Perhaps I shouldn’t… maybe I’m trying to have my cake and eat it too… but I’d like to think there’s a way to marry the belief that beauty is more than skin deep with a desire to feel good about my appearance.
Spending the day with Ulyana was this amazing moment of indulgence, as people fussed about my hair and my make up and Ulyana set about capturing the best version of my physical self. Instead of thinking about a time “when I will look like x” we spent the day celebrating how I look now, or rather, pregnant. When I put on my dress and my bright pink lippy and happily laughed I felt like me…ironically, like the pre-kids me.
The post-kids me is much more confident than the pre-kids me…about my body but about a whole lot more than that. The post-kids me also knows now that I didn’t realise how good I looked back then!
The gift Ulyana gave me, was the chance to see myself the way I like to think of myself. While I don’t look like this everyday, when I do manage to get it together and get dolled up, it’s fun and sexy!
And it’s a good feeling.
Beauty is not about how I look. I know that, I believe that and I want my daughter and my sons to believe that to their core also. But allowing myself the chance to celebrate the body I have been given and to embrace it in a really simply way was a really lovely experience. I am so glad I participated in this project! As I think about how to teach my daughter about what really matters, I was reminded that these lessons have to start with me.