Denise Jolly is my new body positivity hero. For 30 days Jolly took pictures of herself, often in public places, often with very little clothing on. As Jolly explains in the Huffington Post essay she wrote about “The ‘Be Beautiful’ Project”:
“I dated my body for 30 days. I took it to all my favorite places, put it in juxtaposition with some of my favorite pieces of art. Every day I took time to recognize how beautifully fierce, and gracious my body really is.”
The words “Be Beautiful” appear in every photograph, sometimes on Jolly’s clothing, sometimes on her skin. It was only once Jolly decided on these words that she was able to understand what this artistic journey was really all about. As she so beautifully puts it:
“At first I wrote “be Vulnerable” across my stomach, then I realized seeing myself as beautiful is one of my greatest vulnerabilities so I wrote “BE BEAUTIFUL” across my stomach, snapped a photo, shared it and declared via social media that for 30 days I would redefine beauty.”
As we all know, the internet can be a pretty mean place, especially if you’re a woman, ESPECIALLY if you are a woman who doesn’t fall within the narrowest guidelines of conventional beauty. We know this and Jolly knew it too:
“I wanted to vomit when I shared the image on my social media page. I was so scared of all the horrible things people would say in response to the picture.”
This is a completely valid fear because, I repeat, the internet is SO MEAN, like horror movies don’t even scare me anymore because the comments section is usually way more terrifying than anything the Blair Witch or the Exorcist Demon could pull out of their freaky sleeves.
However, this time around, the internet (mostly) didn’t suck and as Jolly reports “nearly all the responses I received were in love and support.”
I’m head over heels in love with this project. I’m always down for art and media that support body positivity and expand the definition of what it means to be beautiful. What I love in particular about this project is how Jolly “dated” her body for a month, really getting to know and love herself piece by piece, from every angle. As women, so many of us tear ourselves apart piece by piece, from every angle.
We all remember the scene from “Mean Girls” where the Plastics stand in front of Regina’s full-length mirror freaking out about their pores and “man shoulders.” It makes me want to stand up and cheer to see a woman work hard to love herself from every angle. Here’s to art that makes “beautiful” a more inclusive word.