I have something that I would like to talk about. It’s My Issue. Everyone has a whole list of issues that they care about, but there is always one that is the most important. You know the one. It’s the one you wrote essays about in school, the one that always makes you stop and read anything relevant when scanning the internet in the morning, and the one that fires you up the most when you hear people talking about it. Your Issue. Mine is body image. Specifically, the quest for and creation of positive body image. Everyone has a body, and a perception and opinion of that body. Men, women, children, teenagers, adults; it is not just a women’s issue. However, there does seem to be a dangerous combination of an overabundance of images and ideals of what women’s bodies should look like, and a widespread vulnerability that lets these images have an influence. How did this start? Why has it continued? How have we as a society let it get to the point where women in photographs are being digitally slimmed down and smoothed out rather than being shown as they are? Technology and the internet may have made unrealistic ideals more readily available, but they certainly didn’t start the problem. It breaks my heart to witness so many of the beautiful women who shop at Neena gaze longingly at a dress or top and say: “I’ll be back for that when I lose weight.” “I could never wear that!” “Do you have anything that will hide my stomach?” “I hate the way my thighs look.” STOP IT. You only have one body. If you resent it, it will still look the same, but you will be miserable. Have you paused to think about why you dislike your “problem area?” Would it still be a problem if you no one told you it was a problem? LOVE IT. I had an encounter with a woman recently that started me thinking a lot about My Issue. I was representing Neena at an offsite trunk show, when I was approached by a woman I had never met. She said: Hi Ronni. You don’t know me, but I have seen your pictures on the Neena Facebook page. I just want to thank you for being curvy and modeling those clothes proudly! I’m not skinny, and I don’t relate to the standard model type. When I see you wearing something, I think, hey I can wear that too! To say this made my day is an understatement. I was beaming. This is the embodiment of everything I believe in, and to know that it was me who helped this woman have that positive feeling about herself is a cause for more joy than I can put into words. I felt good about myself, she saw that, she felt good about herself. That is what I took away from that conversation more than anything. I embraced being a curvy girl a long time ago. By some standards (not my standards) I might be considered chubby. I prefer voluptuous! Hourglass! Owww she’s a brick...house! Guess what? I love it. Guess what else? We need more people bragging about their bodies! It’s not conceited, it’s healthy. I’m healthy. I exercise. I’m strong. I wear clothes that I like, that flatter me both because I like them and because I like how my body looks in them. Not by hiding, by embracing. The styles only meant to flatter those with less body fat? I’m too much woman for that dress to handle! I’ll bust yo’ buttons clean off! People of the world, and customers of Neena: you may see something you don’t like in the mirror, but we don’t see it. Everyone’s beauty is different, and it’s not all related to inches and numbers. Pause before you criticize your reflection, and offer a compliment instead. Silently, or out loud. I’ll go first! I like the curve of my torso between ribs and hips. It’s soft. I like that you can see the muscles in my forearms move when I wiggle my fingers or type. I like that my hips make their presence known (watch out corner of the table! I’m coming through!) I like, no, love, that any curvy, busty, short, pale, or hippy woman who comes into Neena will find an understanding friend in me. Now you try it. You might get some looks. Don’t worry, they’re just admiring the view.

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