By Lee Cole–
As part of Body Awareness Body Appreciation Week 2012, Crystal Newman and others participated in the Body Testimonial Project, an event put on by everyBODY Unite. Crystal recently spoke with the Cardinal about her work and about body awareness issues, in general.
Q: How are you involved in the Body Testimonial Project and everyBODY Unite! and how does it relate to BABA?
A: The Body Testimonial Project is an event that the new RSO, everyBODY Unite Body Positivity Group, put on for BABA Week. The goal of this project was to have different people draw on their posters their personal body image stories or affirmative messages to people to love their bodies and also shout positive things to people walking by. We got about 10 volunteers total and it was successful. It relates to BABA Week because of the week’s goal to have everyone love their bodies more and treat it with kindness. Our group specifically offers the affirmation portion of the week because, although physical health and good nutrition is important, we want to express the mental and emotional portion of body image. In other words, why people should love themselves for who they are as a person regardless of their bodies. EeveryBODY Unite’s goal is to “promote positive body image and self-esteem through education, empowerment, advocacy and activism.”
Q: What sparked your interest in body awareness issues?
A: Body Awareness issues sparked my interests because it has been something that I have been dealing with all of my life. I was made fun of a lot for being fat when I was a child, and I was faced with a lot of bullying and teasing in grade school. People called me names, walked up to me and pinched my skin on my body, threw objects at me when I would try to walk the halls or board the bus at school. When I came home from school, I had overly critical family members say things about my weight. Even now as an adult, people would treat me differently because of my weight. So my environment was not a good one when it came to my weight. As a result, I developed low self- esteem to the point that I had thoughts about suicide and thoughts of starving myself when I was younger. When I came to college, things changed when I met supportive friends that loved me for who I am, and we had conversations about body issues. I also found the online fat acceptance and body acceptance community, which made me feel good about myself. I’m proud to say that I love my body now and this has become a passion for me to start everyBODY Unite Body Positivity Group, which officially became an RSO this month. It was to help others feel good about their bodies and themselves as a person.
Q: Why do you feel the Body Testimonial Project is important for students at U of L and college students generally?
A. This is important to students at U of L because body image is a big issue in our society. There are so many people that I come across that either are insecure about their own bodies or people who stigmatize people because of what they look like. As we did the Body Testimonial Project, we saw so many people that walked by and looked unhappy, couldn’t take a compliment, or laughed it off. Some people though, we did manage to make them feel happy and felt good about themselves when they walked by. Not many people know their self-worth, so the project and the organization can help. Through the organization and the project, our goal is to bring awareness of issues of body image, make people feel good about their bodies, provide a safe space for everyone to talk about it and go out into the campus and community to take a stand on promoting positive body image and self-esteem.
Q: What would you tell women or men struggling with body image issues?
A: I want to tell them that they are beautiful, inside and out, regardless of what you look like. Regardless of what another person says or what society says, just know that you can be yourself. Happiness doesn’t mean that you need to change or punish your body. Be happy now. If you need someone to talk to, talk to a supportive friend or even a counselor. Get some body empowerment books, movies, or music, go online to body positive communities or seek a support group,like us, to empower yourself. Also, practice self care. No one can love you like you can love you. You are worthy, you are important and you are beautiful.
Q: What can students do to become involved, beyond BABA 2012?
A: Students can be involved by coming to everyBODY Unite Body Positivity’s meetings that we have throughout the semester, you can volunteer with us and you can also join us on Facebook as well. If you want to know more about us and upcoming events, you can contact us at [email protected] and add us on Facebook under “everyBODY Unite Body Positivity group.” We are having events on March 8, March 22, April 5 and April 19.
Photo: Nathan Douglas/The Louisville Cardinal