#sizecelebration: Shelley Neuman

All photos by Stef Atkinson

All photos by Stef Atkinson

#sizecelebration is a bossbabesATX series of photos and interviews, featuring women of different sizes in dressing rooms, proudly disrobing to dispel negative body image. These portraits were taken by Stef Atkinson, in conjunction with and in the dressing rooms of SoLa.

So, goodbye, fat-shaming. Goodbye, skinny-shaming. Toodles, crying in dressing rooms. We're done with you.

Meet this week's #sizecelebration model, Shelley Neuman.

Q: What's your current occupation?

A: I work in social media marketing, but I also spend a lot of time working on my passion project, a local street style blog called ATX Street Style.

Q: How old are you?

A: 28

Q: When did you first become aware of your own size? Was that a positive or negative experience?

A: In first grade. It was definitely a negative experience. I was told by a boy I had a crush on that I was too tall to be his girlfriend, and thus my (sometimes crippling) self-consciousness about my height started. 

Q: When did you first become aware of others' sizes?

A: I think it was something I became very conscious of when I was in elementary school, but I didn't think of peoples' sizes as being a "negative" thing or something that differentiated people until my peers began to comment on the fact that my size was "different." (Being called a Jolly Green Giant when you're a 7-year-old girl is not the biggest confidence booster.) 

Q: As you've grown, what have you determined to be true or untrue about size?

A: True — When you are a size minority (tall, short, plus-size, skinny, etc.), people will ALWAYS make stupid comments about your size.

Untrue — You are the only person experiencing the gawking and idiotic things that spew from people's mouths. The wonderful thing about the digital age we live in is that you can easily find others who have experienced exactly what you're going through. If I had known that there were other uncoordinated 6-foot-plus girls getting asked daily what WNBA team they play for, I might not have felt that I was "wasting my height" by not being into sports for the majority of my adolescent years.

Q: How do you celebrate yourself?

A: After years of thinking that my body was stupid for not being able to fit properly into everything I tried on, I celebrate myself by not conforming to usual style standards. My jeans will always be highwaters and IDGAF!

Q: How do you think the world should change the way it celebrates beauty?

A: It's got to start with how mass media portrays and conveys beauty. I, like many other women pressured by conventional standards, never thought I was shaped correctly and didn't appreciate the body I was born with for a long time. Shining a positive light on people who are not the "ideal" size that is constantly force-fed to us is the first step in teaching future generations that every shape and size is both normal and special in its own way!

Q: What are some immediate, day-to-day things we can change in our lives to better appreciate our own unique bodies? As well as others'?

A: I think that reminding yourself daily that your size is not the only thing that defines you, and being cognizant that this is true for everyone around you is very important. Because physical appearance is the first thing most people notice, be aware that comments concerning this can make or break a person's ego. We can help ourselves and help others by making sure these comments are always positive. If someone shames you, or dishes out something you perceive as negative about your own or someone else's outside appearance, do not spit that same hate back at them. Instead, catch them off guard by complimenting their appearance. My hope is that constant kindness can breed change.

Q: Why are you participating in this shoot?

A: I am participating in this shoot because I had body image issues for most of my childhood and adolescence, and I want others to know that this is completely normal! We will always wish we could change something about the way we look, because it is an inherent part of human nature to think you are flawed. As I've grown, though, I've learned that these differences, or these parts of me that I always saw as flawed, are actually what makes me a unique individual who stands out from the crowd and gives me a different perspective on life (and I don't just mean that I can see the tops of everyone's heads [laughs]).

Q: What does #sizecelebration mean to you?

A: It means giving everyone the confidence and appreciation they are seeking for their own unique bodies!