"I wish I had known not to listen to other people’s comments about my body."

 
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Jasmine King Koi

Founder of ‘Her Pyramids’

"I’ve always been small. Now, when I look back at photos of my siblings and growing up we’re basically skin and bone despite eating until we were full at every meal. Being petite was just a result of my genetics. My relationship with food and my body image changed when I started dating my first boyfriend at sixteen. I used to dread having dinner with his family as they would endlessly mock me for the small portions of food that I ate. They called me “Sparrow.” I knew myself to always have a healthy relationship with my body, but their teasing brought on discomfort and anxiety. I’m sure they considered it harmless fun, but it made me conscious of my body and my food intake in a way I hadn’t been before. When the relationship ended, I packed up my life and moved to the other side of the world. I lived off comfort food and pastries. My active, healthy life was a distant memory and I began moving towards an unhealthy weight, but I think I wanted to prove to myself that it was okay and that I could do it.

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The word sparrow has haunted me. It was one of the main issues I spoke to my psychologist about. Today, ten years on, I am still working on disconnecting the link I created with food and anxiety. I now live an active lifestyle and my passion for food, especially cooking, has become a source of fulfilment and something I truly enjoy in my life. I may be small and petite, but I am strong: much stronger than I look. And that is something I am proud of."

 

"I wish I had known that having a creative outlet would lead to my self-acceptance."

 
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Zoe Milah

Puerto-Rican/American, woman & artist.

“As a little girl and as a teenager I struggled to figure out where I fitted in. I grew up in a very ‘mixed' household. Both of my parents are Puerto Rican but divorced and married white partners. I lived in predominantly white neighbourhoods and went to almost entirely white schools. I looked nothing like any of the people I was surrounded by. For most of my life I hadn’t really known anyone who looked like me. Even if I turned on the television, all I’d see were white people most of the time. This didn’t necessarily bother me as a child. My friends were white. Half of my family is white. I was able to relate just as well. However, I did feel like I was different and that my differences needed to be changed in order to fit in.

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Hair is a good example. I have very big, curly hair and as soon as I entered high school, I started straightening it almost every week. My boyfriend at the time said he preferred my hair straight so in my mind it made me more attractive. Straight hair made me stand out less and spared me from comments such as 'your hair is so frizzy!'. Straight hair was what this particular community was used to and it was a standard of beauty that I felt compelled to meet. Small things like this caused me anxiety and made me hyper focus on the way I looked. It wasn’t until I went to college and met people from all different backgrounds that I began to come into my own. Up until this point, I had been stagnant. My interests and hobbies were limited. My mind was consumed by very superficial thoughts and desires to be like everyone else. I’ve always been creative but I was too insecure to really delve into anything. The sense of freedom that came with being on my own and away from what I had known allowed me to flourish creatively and try new things. I learned how to play guitar. I began to study theatre and eventually began making art. I discovered that my differences could be celebrated and that they are special. I found that being creative and making art made me feel most connected to others. Art brought me peace and made me feel confident and proud. Art allowed me to have a voice. It allowed me to accept my brown, curly-haired Puerto Rican self because I realised that I am so much more than my outward appearance.”

To view Zoe’s art head to her Instagram account.

To follow the series on Instagram follow @iamjessanders.