#size celebration: Ashlee Jordan Pryor

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, Ashlee Jordan Pryor.

Q: What's your current occupation? 

A: I'm a full-time toddler momma, designer and seamstress of Crafts & Arts Clothing, virtual assistant, and #bossbabesATX Content and Vendor coordinator. Just your run-of-the-mill jack of all trades, really.

Q: How old are you? 

A: Sometimes I'm 7, sometimes I'm 60—but mostly (and actually), I'm 24.

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

A: Growing up, I was always thin—I'm talking no muscle, people asking my momma if I was sick or experiencing serious body issues thin. I have slightly bowed legs that were extremely noticeable on my small frame and were constantly ridiculed by dance mates at a young age. (I remember trying to push my legs together or bending my knees slightly when I stood, as an attempt to lessen the gap.)

But my first taste of self-awareness came when my senior year in high school brought on my first taste of arm muscle. It was not welcomed well. I was referred to as "buff." Not in a negative way or a necessarily positive way, but in an "I've never noticed these things about myself, and I don't know how to handle this new feature" way. I did know that I didn't like that word... buff. It was something used to describe my dad.

Don't get me wrong, my dad is incredibly fit, but he was towering over me in size. The word didn't suit me and I definitely didn't want it to describe me.  My first year in college and weekly dance intensives brought on leg mass. It brought the word "buff" back, too. Except this time I couldn't fit into my jeans, there were stretch marks on my butt, and I could not emotionally cope with that happening to me. This puberty-driven muscle growth drove me into a serious depression. I didn't know what to wear because "everything looked terrible." My over-analyzation of the word "buff" drove me into this habit of over-analyzing every image comment thrown my way that I'm still guilty of committing today. My hair was "big," my skin was "dark," I was "thin," and I was "buff." Sometimes I see them as my most beautiful features and sometimes they drive me to a dark, insecure place. Words that could mean nothing meant everything to me simply because they were constantly called to attention. 

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

A: Being on dance team in high school really made me notice size. High school girls are so aware. They are so aware and can be so, so mean. Especially when uniform, costume, and impressing (gross) high school boys are involved. But, there was always a group of girls that had negative remarks about "how so-and-so shouldn't be wearing something because it was so not made for them" or that someone was "too tall," "too short," "too fat," "too thin." There was a constant feed of what was wrong with someone that didn't look like you or your mental ideal.

There is a real issue with comparing yourself to others at such a young age, which is where a large part of my insecurities stem from—especially since I grew up a black girl in a sea of girls that looked nothing like me. I think that's why it's so important to teach our girls about body acceptance. Not just with our own bodies, but with everyone else's body.

 

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

A: I've come to know that no matter your shape, size, or color, we all have issues with body image. I used to feel bad about verbalizing my insecurities, because I was raised to think that there couldn't be any negative feelings toward being thin. I thought that my insecurities were wrong and therefore I was wrong for hating these things about my body. In reality, someone else can have 100-plus problems with the same form that someone else thinks is perfect. Insecurity is personal. It is extremely personal. 

Q: How do you celebrate yourself? 

A: With Micheladas and low-cut rompers.


Q: How do you think the world (society, etc.) should change the way it celebrates beauty?

A: My initial answer was that we should all mind our own damn bodies and business, but that's not going to happen. So, instead I think we should just be more open toward the appearances of others and aware of the negative effects that words can have on someone's self-esteem and psyche. But seriously, no matter what I do and where I go, my body and self-beauty is my business. 

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

A: We can compliment each other. We can compliment ourselves. We can push ourselves to wear that pair of shorts in our closet that we really love, but might be a tad too short or "not our style." We can listen to "Flawless" by Beyonce every morning while we're getting ready until we embody every meaning of the word in its most personal sense. But most importantly, we can be kind and aware of one another. We can really practice thinking before we speak. We can be as encouraging and open-minded as possible, toward anyone and everyone.

Q: Why are you participating in this shoot? 

A: The chance to be a part of a message that I feel very strongly toward, mostly. But I also have this habit of psyching myself out when it comes to getting in front of a camera. I'm full of verbal doubt towards myself: "I'm really awkward." "I don't know how to talk to people." "I'm probably going to look dumb." "Let me know if I look stupid."

I'm constantly putting myself down for things that I know I'm capable of. It's become a really unhealthy second-nature habit, so any chance that I get to push myself out of my comfort zone, and break down that self-doubt, is a chance I'd like to take.

Q: What does #sizecelebration mean to you? 

A: It's the celebration of our personal body victories. It's a chance to acknowledge our bowed or narrow legs, our flat or round tummies, our wily hair, our thick legs, all of the things that make us who we are, all of the things that make us beautiful—even when we don't feel beautiful. It's a chance to say, "This is me. All of me. I've accepted what I've been given and I love myself for it."

Jane Claire HerveyComment