Body Image Expert Gets A Lessons at the YNA Gathering
Guest blog written by: Shaquoya Hemmans
Body Image Expert Learns About Body Image:
Living in a world where beauty is power, I have always had trouble finding myself in it. Always keeping up with the ever changing trends, spa treatments, and gym workouts is hard and costly. All of that in an attempt for me to always be accepted and loved for the beauty ideals and attractiveness that was built before I was born. Needless to say I am not the only girl, only woman, trans-woman, man or child who lives this cycle of ridiculousness.
My name is Shaquoya Hemmans. Feminist. Progressive. Strong-willed. Strong. Woman. I work with women and young women from the ages of 5-19 who have been sexually exploited. I conduct workshops to promote Healthy Body Image. I was invited to conduct a workshop at the Young Naturists America Gathering at Juniper Woods. At first, I was very nervous to accept. I have never been in an open space around nude individuals before, much less to be nude around people I didn’t know.
The thought of letting them see my naked body, the body that I dressed and decorated for years, without my armor of beauty scared the shit out of me. How would they know how beautiful I can be without my long, beautiful scarf blocking the view to my round gut? How can I prove my status without my gold watch and studded dress? Who am I without the costume I worked to perfect for over 21 years? I have conducted workshops for over a year and a half, teaching others how to love themselves more, yet the thought of me being naked sent my self-confidence crashing down. But I love a challenge. I knew this could be a chance to do something I have never done before so… I gladly accepted and made arrangements. I have never been more excited, scared, and nervous.
I arrived with a friend/ assistant to Juniper Woods with a packed bag for the night and my notebook with 3 hours of notes from the long drive to the resort. I needed to make sure I planned as much as possible for the new audience of my workshop. I was greeted with smiles and bare skin. Everywhere I looked was a bare bum, bare breast and genitals. As much as I enjoyed watching, I knew that there were eyes on the young woman running the body image workshop…still covered with clothes. So for the sake of keeping others comfortable, I got naked.
N-A-K-E-D! I walked freely with the naked people. The people who would be considered strange or perverts. These “strange people” were more accepting than any “normal” judgmental people I have met before. They walked nude without a fancy scarf blocking their tummies. They walked nude with large visible scars, without makeup, without fancy jewelry, without judgment. It made it easier for me to take my clothes off and get naked. To undress myself of the perfected costume, to leave my fancy jewelry and status-telling outfit behind for some good old human conversation. At one point I looked at myself in the mirror. Studying my curves and flaws, trying to imagine what others see. Trying to understand why for so long I was hiding, ashamed of the body that cradles my soul. Who made me ashamed? Who gave me the social guideline that has held me back from loving myself without all the shit beauty magazines offer to help “fix” me? Why did I ever believe that this person, I, me, myself who I see staring back at me in the mirror was ever any less beautiful then what I saw in that moment.
I got my notebook, tore all my planned notes out of my book, and got my pen. I headed over to start my body image workshop.
This post was written by a body image expert and published by Young Naturists and Nudists America YNA