I went to the same all-girl’s school from grade 1 to grade 12.
I spent 8 hours a day with the same 46 girls,
wore the same 5 outfits,
had my 3 standard hairstyles,
looked forward to the same lunch-
roast beef and mashed potatoes-
every 2 weeks,
and spent roughly 3,240 days within the walls of the massive Wolseley-centred complex that most people said looked like a shopping mall/greenhouse/mini Leo Mol exhibit.
When I graduated, I stepped out from behind my thick green tartan and hauled ass to university, where my close-knit circle of friends from high school swiftly unraveled at my own accord.
Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for my life after graduating.
I had been accepted into Creative Communications right out of high school, but first I went to the University of Winnipeg (where I met some INCREDIBLE people). After two years of oatmeal chicken fingers, tedious night classes, and several instances where I asked myself, “Why are there escalators if they stall all the time?”, I moseyed on down to Red River College.
I was pretty excited to join the rumored CreComm Mafia. Not since my time in high school did I have a group of friends that a) I saw almost every day, and b) had the same mind-set and goals as I did. After a few awkward first weeks where all I did was nod and smile, I began to make some friends, and I discovered that they were as ridiculous as I was.
Like Dustin, the first person I spoke to on the first day, who told me he had accidentally ordered a children’s bag online instead of a standard messenger bag. Or Reena, my blonde, sassy counter-part and radio-wizard extraordinaire who basically ate an entire jar of pickles after falling down the stairs at Marc‘s house.
I was fucking thrilled that I was friends with these people. People who want no more than to succeed, and help their classmates succeed. People who work so damn hard that they sleep on concrete floors in edit suites to make their deadline. People who will print your assignment for you while you’re trapped in traffic, and people who will let you sob when you realize you didn’t hit SAVE ON PHOTOSHOP EVEN THOUGH I TOTALLY HIT SAVE LIKE 80 TIMES.
GOD DAMN IT.
Yet another unrealistic standard of beauty.
Over the last few months, I had the pleasure of photographing six beautiful CreComm women. I asked them five questions:
1. What is your definition of body positivity?
2. How do you stay confident?
3. How has CreComm boosted your confidence?
4. What is your favourite feature and why?
5. What are some tips you can give for newbies/others in CreComm? How can they stay positive?
These are people that I have had the pleasure to work with, and get to know both professionally and personally. All six of these striking individuals exude confidence and kick-ass in their own way.
To quote Beyoncé Knowles, “Who run the world?
AMY JEAN MACLEAN
The Girl Next Door
To me, [body positivity] is being comfortable with how you look, and being accepting of how other people look.
I have always been chubby, and so growing up, people would tell me that I was beautiful the way I was and that “real women” are thick. So while that helped me for a bit, I would compare myself to stick-thin girls, and remind myself I’d rather be fatter. But that still wasn’t right.
Stick-thin girls deserve to feel pretty too, and tearing them down to make myself feel better wasn’t going to work. So to me, body positivity is knowing that everyone is beautiful, and not buying into to an ‘ideal’ of beauty. There is no one way to look, and that’s what makes everyone so unique.
Oh, believe me, I don’t always stay confident. I think it’s very complex (and odd) to describe why I’m not always confident, but last year in particular, I had fairly low self-esteem when it came to how I looked. Which is stupid, because I’m fucking fabulous, but it happens every now and then.
I did two things: I started going to the gym (although, yeah, I stopped now…); not intensely, or to lose weight, or to become some fit girl on Instagram (I fucking hate that shit), but because, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” (Just to quote Legally Blonde.)
The other thing I do now is that whenever I’m feeling un-pretty, or like I can’t do something, or that I don’t want to do something, I tell myself repeatedly that I’m gorgeous, that I’m capable, and that I can do whatever because I’m awesome. I figure that if you tell yourself you can do it, then eventually you’ll believe it.
After one particular PR class in CreComm— I remember it well— I realized that I am very driven by what other people think. I’m glad that I was able to identify this because I never would’ve thought that about myself. But now that I’ve realized this, I often stop myself and say, “Who cares what everyone else wants? You matter too. What would make your heart happy?” It’s helped me in that sense.
Another reason I’m confident in CreComm is because I realized you don’t need to feel beautiful to feel important.
Beauty is cool, yeah, and I like to present myself well, but it’s not the only thing. I feel important when I’m smart, and I feel important when I can figure things out for myself. That’s what CreComm has been for me.
My favourite part of my body has got to be my nose. Why? Look at it (see above image). It’s pretty much the cutest nose ever. I honestly do not like to brag about my looks or anything like that, I think I’m a little too humble, but I will make an exception for my nose. It’s the same little Icelandic nose that my mom and my grandpa have, and I think it’s just… Cute! It’s almost delicate, which I like because I am sooooo not delicate. One of my biggest fears is that I’ll get into a fight and get my nose broken. (But then I think, this would be motivation for me to fight harder.)
I don’t know if I would give any advice to CreComms that is different than I would to anyone else.
Love what you do and how you do it.
Take shit, raise hell, and be cool.
Oh, but the one thing I do actually tell myself when I feel shitty, “Bad times make the good times better”- and dance a little bit, too! Even if it’s just in your kitchen. Dancing makes everyone happy. Find play in your day. I’m struggling with that, but you need to balance fun and work.
As cliche as this may sound, body positivity to me means being comfortable in your own skin. I think the key to being body positive is not comparing yourself to others, or an idealized body type. I also think it’s super important to recognize your body in terms of functionality- not just aesthetically. That has been one of my biggest challenges in over-coming an eating disorder and low self-esteem.
I don’t think body positivity is feeling great about yourself and your body 24/7; it’s a delicate balance. Everyone is allowed to have crappy moments where you feel less than perfect. That’s okay; acknowledge how you’re feeling and find a way to overcome the negativity. Don’t let one moment of feeling crappy take over your self-worth.
To stay confident, I surround myself with positive like-minded people. Negativity is contagious, as is positivity! I work out because working out releases endorphins, plus I always feel so accomplished when I finally am able to master a new yoga pose, and I wear bright lipstick! Lipstick is an instant confidence booster for me, the weirder the colour, the better!
I can’t even count the number of ways CreComm has made me more confident… It’s wild.
The program has definitely made me get out of my comfort zone and learn to deal with my social anxiety. The first time we had to do a streeter (walk up to someone on the street and ask them interview questions for an article), I felt like I was going to cry and/or barf. I still felt anxious in streeters and interviewing people in general, but I’ve come a long way.
Being uncomfortable and unfamiliar with my surroundings helped me tell some of the best stories. In turn, I feel like I can pretty much walk up to anyone now and chat them up. As most of my friends know, I had a thing for blind dates, all thanks to CreComm for giving me the confidence to meet complete strangers without sweating compulsively.
My butt is my favourite feature. I’m grateful for genetics and squats for giving me a juicy backside. The features I like most about my body now are all areas I used to be insecure about. I used to take a iron– not a flat iron, an iron for clothes! –to my curls, because I thought boys wouldn’t want to date me otherwise (oh, grade nine. Yikes!) Likewise, I used to use tanning beds, but I’ve banished them in favour of not developing melanoma. Plus, crazy shades of lipstick pop against my fair skin. I think it’s all about using your features to your advantage.
Balancing school, work, and play was probably my biggest challenge in staying positive [in Creative Communications]. As I adjusted to the influx of assignments and late nights, I had to adjust my usual day to day schedule. I was worried that my healthy eating habits and workout regime was going to be completely sabotaged. I learned that I had to be a bit easier on myself and do what I could. I started working out at home, instead of spending an hour and a half plus at the gym. I prepped healthy meals and snacks when I could.
Just go out and enjoy a few drinks and hang out with your friends. CreComm can be an intense program, so you deserve some fun and relaxation!
Body positive is being happy with the way you look, whatever your shape or size. It’s being able to throw on an outfit and rock it, not obsessing over how wide you think it makes your hips look.
I stay confident by going to the gym. Exercising makes me feel healthy and energized, and it makes me feel good about my body. A single workout can change your mood entirely. You go in feeling weak and unmotivated, and you leave feeling stronger, lighter, and happy that you were able to accomplish what you did.
I definitely felt intimidated going into CreComm. There are a lot of brilliant people, and like any program, there are those people who just outshine everyone. But the good thing about CreComm is that there are so many things to shine in that you’re bound to find something that you shine in too.
My confidence took many hits in the last year, but it’s also improved a lot. There’s nothing more rewarding and satisfying than getting an A on anything in CreComm, and knowing how hard you worked your ass off to get it. It also helps to be surrounded by people who support you, cheer you on, and push you to your full potential.
My favorite feature? Probably my eyes. They’re like a combo of dark and light blue, and yellow, and when I cry they turn turquoise! (No big deal).
My biggest tip for newbies is: don’t sweat the auto-fail! The auto-fail sucks, and it’s even more awful when you auto-fail on something like your name, or your hometown, or something you never would have missed normally. It happens… But guess what? You probably won’t ever let it happen again. The auto-fail is there to teach you. Don’t get angry with the instructor, ’cause it’s your own fault, and don’t cry about it because that won’t solve anything.
Laugh it off, move on, and learn from your mistakes. It will only make you a stronger proof reader!
To me, body positivity is about self-love and self-acceptance. I feel like sometimes, if we talked to friends the way we talk about ourselves, we wouldn’t have many friends. I’d say it’s thriving to be your best, letting yourself be the only judge of what that means, and being accountable. Definitions of beauty vary cross-culturally, and so I think it’s important to have the agency to make your own definition, and then try to follow that.
I think it’s hard to stay confident all the time. It’s so easy to get worn down comparing your situation to that of a neighbour. What I’ve tried to do is find out my core values. What I define as a good person, be it integrity, humour, looks, etc., and then try my best to live up to that. If I’m true to those values, then naturally, I feel good.
I feel like I’ve really found my element [in Creative Communications].
I sort of coasted through university, following the old adage “C’s get degrees”, and I never really felt fulfilled. Once I started the program, I was forced to be accountable for the outcome, had no choice but to power through the challenges and leave my comfort zone. Seeing how far I’ve come makes me feel like I could do anything.
I think the group of people in this program also make me confident. Few things boost me up like sitting in a classroom with brilliant ideas flying around the room from my classmates and then realizing that I’m a part of that group. I made it this far.
My favourite feature… That’s a tough one. I have to say that since you’ve (Cella here: hello!) pointed them out, I’ve grown to love my eyebrows and my eyes. I feel like they’re a nice contrast to my porcelain (or pasty white) skin. My eyes are sort of blue, green and yellow depending on the day. I used to get teased for my thick dark brows, but now I like to rock them, and I’m one of only few of my friends who can wiggle both of them separately!
I think my best advice for new students would be to keep in mind that this is only two years. It’s so easy to get caught up in CreComm life and lose sight of your individuality- or of the rest of your life. I’d suggest making time to do things you enjoy, and make efforts to see friends and family, because it’s back to reality sooner than you realize,
and this is just a small slice of a big pie.
[What is your definition of body positivity?] This question shouldn’t be so difficult to answer, but it is.
Body positivity implies a negativity, and I, like everyone I know, have grown up surrounding myself with others definitions of what is beautiful.
I have always read fashion magazines. Kate, Linda, Coco, Cara, and all the other one-name beauties are some of my favourites. The perfect ones. The ones who walk, smile, pose, and party for money. They live a life I don’t, in a world that doesn’t exist for most people. But they aren’t the ones that define the beauty trends- the late-80s amazons, or the early 90s waif- they are just the ones we are told are beautiful. And they are, but so are so many others.
I look at myself through the lens of an industry that is trying to sell me an ever-changing perfection. Keyword sell.
I think I’m too fat or too skinny depending on the day. I’m trying to stop viewing my body through their eyes. More through my own. Perfection is boring. It’s the quirky strangeness of people that I find attractive.
So I guess that’s it. You are your body, but your body doesn’t define you. But yeah, love your body because you only get one of them, and it’s kinda awesome that it can do so many amazing things!
I stay confident by buying leather boots, dancing, listening to Patti Smith, and surrounding myself with the loveliest people.
CreComm broke me down and then built me back up again. I had to realize that I am not my work. Once I started learning how to accept criticism and roll with it, my stuff- words, pictures, design and whatever -got much better. I also realized that time goes by and all those things you don’t think you can do, you do, because you have to, and then it’s all good and done and you move on to something else.
… I think I just answered how I cope with life instead of the original question.
What really boosted my confidence wasn’t CreComm. It was getting braces for a year at 21. I was one of those stupid people that you hear about when you’re sixteen, the girl that lost their retainer and had to get braces as an adult. I am the girl your orthodontist warned you about. The night before I once again became a metal mouth, I looked at pictures of Gwen Stefani circa 1999 with pink hair, blunt bangs, and braces. So I got the metal cemented to my teeth, and I loved them. I thought I looked great, well I thought I’ve got nothing left to lose.
[What is your favourite feature and why?] I like my hair because it’s big and blonde.
I don’t know if anyone should really listen to me about how to deal with CreComm.
I drank a lot of beer. I stress-smoked cigarettes. I ate too much Tim Hortons. I stopped sleeping. I cried. I got angry. I worked hard. I had fun. I made friends.
Write it out. Make nice.
Everyone is in it together and really it’s great. You blink and the weeks, months, and days have all slipped by, so enjoy it while it lasts. Remember that nobody wants to listen to you complain about the really amazing projects you get to do. And read, it makes you a better writer, and overall a better human being.
Oh yeah! If you go home with someone and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck ‘em (I stole that from John Waters).
The New Girl
Body positivity is being confident and comfortable in anything from your birthday suit, to a ball gown. Being able to roll out of bed, look in the mirror, and say with conviction, “I’m fucking cute/fabulous/rad/awesome”.
I’m not going to claim that I feel confident 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, because I do doubt myself, but when when I do crash and burn at something, be it on live radio (which I’ve done), or while doing a presentation in front of people I respect, I’ve learned to forgive myself fast and let it go.
In my mind, my work ethic is a strong source of my confidence because I’m a relentless person, and I take pride in that. Granted, everyone needs a break once in a while, but I know that no matter what the task is, what resources I have, or how much I know, I will get it done to the best of my abilities – and that’s something about myself I will NEVER doubt.
[How do you think CreComm will boost your confidence?] I like a challenge. No doubt, having to rise to the occasion and make it through the program will make me confident.
Making new friends certainly will too. I absolutely can’t wait to meet my classmates. I think the program also makes you a mentally strong person because it puts you through a lot, and at the end I’m sure I’ll look back and know I’m better for it.
My collarbones are my favourite feature. I mean, it’s not on my face, but I have an athletic body type and I feel like they make me look more soft and feminine. Except for sometimes I sneeze, and I bang my jawbone on it and it hurts like hell (Does this happen to anyone else? Am I the only one?)
I’m not going to even remotely pretend that getting into CreComm was easy for me. I got in the third time I applied. The first time I didn’t complete my application, and the second time I didn’t make it to the interview, and that was because I decided I had nothing to lose.
This is probably the best advice I have: start saying ‘yes’ to things that are outside of your comfort zone and don’t stop; don’t be afraid to pursue things, send follow up emails, and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS say thank you. Agree to do things you are wildly under-qualified for (because most of the time those people are there to help you improve your skills), be willing to work for free, and know that shaking someones hand in person is much more meaningful than any sort of online communication.
Most importantly, just know that you have something unique to offer the program, and that if you put in the work to present yourself well, you’ll be just fine. Also: the program doesn’t define you, you define yourself.
May the odds be ever in your favour!
“We women talk too much, but even then we don’t tell half what we know.”
― Nancy Astor the Viscountess Astor