Ankara Bell Bottoms

That 70s Pose
                          That 70s Pose

 

Both the crop top and bell bottoms were handmade in Nigeria (Ile Ife to be exact…) It’s such a pleasant experience having pants that are a little too long as a 6’3″ woman. I relish these moments.

 

This outfit makes me so happy in such a simple way
This outfit makes me so happy in such a simple way

 

Bad Sandy

badsandy

**All photos by Victor Medina of Dream Out Loud Photography.**

It took me until 8th grade to realize that Grease is kind of a terrible movie.

When my middle school teachers didn’t feel like teaching hormonally unbalanced kids, they’d pop one of the oldies but goodies (Grease, Ferris Buellar’s Day Off, Remember the Titans) into the VCR wheeled from classroom to classroom on wheels that were never straight enough.

And almost every lip sync featured a Grease song choreographed by the student body association. Summer Lovin’ was always my problematic favorite.

badsandy2

This dress up day is all about the Bad Sandy look. When she tried to impress cute-as-fuck John Travolta with her criminal good looks and waspish waist.

I know: but Danny Zucco tried to change too!

Yeah, but the movie did NOT end with him still wearing that dorky varsity sweater.

Le sigh.

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I love Bad Sandy’s look (this was what Donna the makeup artist for Dream Out Loud Photography called my look). And this will not be the last incarnation of it for my dress up days.

 

Onward,

Hannah

 

Dress Up Days: Hot Fun in the Summer Time

hswim

Sometimes I really forget that I don’t live in some world where chubby girls are called gorgeous and LGBTQ poet-activists issue horoscopes to thousands of people.

Social media has a bright side and that bright side is its ability to create alternative realties where negative socially ingrained ideas are challenged and discarded.

I looked through so many “every body IS a bikini body” posts and hash-tags that I forget that there are still millions of women who are sold the lie that their bodies are not “bikini bodies”. Insert eye-rolling emoji here.

Photos by Miss Missy Photography
Photos by Miss Missy Photography

It’s only when I am standing in line buying my almond milk water and I lose the battle not to look at the covers of the magazines. And then I remember:

I live in a world where women are esteemed for how fuckable they are.

I live in a world where a celebrity eating a hot dog in public is news.

I am a cog in a capitalistic regime, mindlessly buying my almond beverage.

Kinda kidding on that last one, but you get the deal: sometimes the messages out there really, really suck.

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I think it’s important to remember that the world is not all la-di-da.

We got a lotta work to do.

I used to wear boy shorts and huge white shirts over my swimsuits from 14-22.

I almost always bought the plain, long-torso one-piece.

We’ve come a long way baby.

Photos by Miss Missy Photography
Photos by Miss Missy Photography

And though my bikini clad body won’t commence The Revolution, it is evidence of an internal one. I can’t wait to rock my high-cut neon thong cut next year.

Wear that damn bikini or whatever it is for you that you told yourself you “just can’t” wear.

Onward,

Hannah

Dress Up Days: The Chakras

Chakras are a word that every new-age hippie utters at some point. As in, “Oh, lower back pain you say? Must be a first chakra issue…how’s your relationship with your mom going ?” Sometimes I wonder if I even know what it means anymore. Just to be sure, I looked it up via Dr. Google:

Chakra: (in Indian thought) each of the centers of spiritual power in the human body, usually considered to be seven in number.

Chakras are visualized as spinning vortexes of energy (the word “chakra” is Sanskrit for wheel or disk) from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. The speed and openness of these vortexes is thought to contribute to a number of earthly spiritual truths and illnesses.

You can find a primer of the chakra system here.

The first chakra example from above illustrates this very well: called Muladhara, it is located at the base of the tailbone and also called the “root” chakra. As it’s name suggests, it is associated with all things pertaining to roots: family ties, being grounded, feeling certain, etc. etc. In this facet, lower back pain could be your body saying, hold up I feel disconnected and like I have no real family.

Continue reading Dress Up Days: The Chakras

My Turn as a Chocolate Cheesecake

cover of black pin up book with brown skinned curvy woman with fuchsia bathing suit on and matching flower in her hair
Buy this Pin-Up Book

A month ago I took part in my first pin-up photo shoot.

I was deathly tired after the hours of back-arching poses and costume changes, and had a case of severe seasonal allergies to boot.

I consider it one of the most life-giving experiences I’ve had this year.

Life-giving kinda sounds like a word that one should use in secondary school classrooms, but still.

Sepia toned picture of dark skinned woman in sparkly bustier laying on feathers and looking away from camera in open way
I do a good look-away.                        Shameless Photography

I’ve mentioned before how much I wanted to be a model when I was just a kid.  I think a lot of it came from my obsession with The Great Muppet Caper, with Miss Piggy and Darla, Marla, Carla flouncing around flowy pastel creations.

One of my uncles who was constantly playing around with artistic pursuits to include photography told me I would one day be “just like Naomi Campbell”.

I was tall and roller-skate skinny (in the words of Holden Caulfield). I dreamed of entering worlds of glamour and electric intrigue, beguiling the masses with my one-dimpled smile from the covers of YM (I loved that magazine) and Seventeen.

I pored over magazines. Watched The Model Story on E! Went two “modeling scout” sessions which ended up being barely veiled scams to suck money out of lower middle class families who wanted their kids on the Disney Channel.

And despite these unfortunate setbacks, I still awaited the moment I’d be discovered by a representative of Elle or Ford in a shopping mall.

Alas, puberty.

afro'd dark skin women in gold dress laying down with legs in air in relaxed pin up pose, eyes closed and on scattered records
That 70s Pin Up       Shameless Photography

From the way family friends commented on my weight gain after age twelve, you would think I should’ve had a star role in The Klumps. My hips grew, my string bean legs filled out. My stomach rounded into its stubborn softness.

Shortly after, my uncle looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, “You can’t be a model anymore, but perhaps there’s hope for your sister.”

At my final scout event, a sour faced black dude with shoulder length chocolate colored locs said that I needed to work on trimming my physique and not slurring my words (it was an acting audition as well).

I was fourteen years old, about the same height I am now and a good sixty pounds less than what I am now.

His words rang through my head for years on end. Trim down. Trim down. Speak clearer. Speak less.

My model dreams were hard to kill off. Sometimes strangers conflate any tall woman with an ability to model and so, I constantly was told that I should model. I watched the ascent of plus size models and often perused magazines like Plus Model Magazine and volup2.

Looking through these magazines, I decided I again had the wrong look. Not hour glass enough and too tall. Lacking of racially ambiguous facial features and hair.

I had a story of “can’t” and I was sticking to it.

In my twenties, I would sometimes heed my stubborn modeling desire and have plain black and white pictures taken by a friend or venture to the Korean photo place around the corner.

Dark skinned black woman in afro wig in traditional wonder woman costume standing with hands on hips
You know I had to do it.
Shameless Photography

I’d stare at the pictures afterwards hating on every blemish, wishing for the long, limbed Twiggy physique, the glamazon stature of the 1990s, for video-girl coke-bottle curves. Anything but this ample thighed, athletic woman looking back at me. I located fault everywhere, deemed myself to be un-photogenic and definitely not model worthy.

Those wallet sized copies and 8x10s would quickly become buried under office supplies or stuffed into boxes labelled MISC.

One beautiful thing about the pin-up modeling/dress-up world is the apparent celebration of an assortment of bodies. I’m not saying there aren’t issues of beauty ideals in this vein of modeling, but the standards of being a modern day pin up way more open than straight-sized and most plus-size modeling avenues.

There are hour-glass pin-ups. Alternative, tattooed pin-ups. Lanky pin-ups and the short and stout.

I also love that this community has fun and is mostly female. Style need not be pretentious.

I had long admired the work of Shameless Photography a woman-run pin-up photography business based in the Bay Area and NYC. I was even a finalist for a letter-writing contest they held two years ago. They shoot a diversity of models and I had no fear that they wouldn’t know what to do with my hair or fuck up my foundation.

I was drawn to these images and sought to see myself pictured in this way. The idea of luxuriating in beauty, unashamed pulled and pulled. Women are taught so much centered in shame around their bodies. I am no exception. Obvs.

The Shameless team were so kind and professional, never short-changing on changing around a look or getting the pose just right.

I soon understood a major bonus of modeling: having people admire and encourage you in real time. Who doesn’t want to hear “Beautiful!” or “God, what a great shot!” after each flash of a camera?  After the shoot was finished, we exchanged tired grins of battle comrades.

They were even nice enough to say I should model. Like, IRL.

Now, the thing about life-giving and life changing experiences is that the fear and old stories aren’t just like, “Well, damn, I guess we better move on out.”

During the shoot, my inner voice criticized my lax diet of the last couple of weeks and often castigated myself when I’d flop out of a pose. God, you suck. My mind wanted to posit their model encouragement as Things-They-Tell-Every-Shameless-Pin-Up and just “being nice”. I worried about if the pictures would turn out to be good or not.

dark skinned woman assuming muscle baring rosie the riveter stance in wonder woman costume, side profile. red background. wearing large afro wig and wonder woman costume
Rosie the Wonder Woman
Shameless Photography

The difference between teenage wanna-be model Hannah and Hannah of 2016  is not invulnerability. I wish I could give some declaration of being totally over it, but changing stories often sometimes takes time.

The difference lies in that tiny gap between thinking these damaging thoughts and believing they are true. The difference is recognizing my fault finding and perfectionistic eye as nothing but impediments to being fully myself. And though the negative thoughts are pervasive, they were not the majority. I let myself have fun and make the “too!” face over and over.

dark skinned black woman in cat eye glasses in navy blue white polka dotted dress. holding glasses with one hand and hand on hip. wearing pearl bracelet.
Shameless TOO! Face

Today, I don’t have dreams of being a Supermodel or signing with whatever major modeling agency is out there now. I don’t need to make a living as an IG model or walk the catwalk for Rubin Singer.

I commit to heeding the call of my creative life, no matter how superfluous and superficial or weird these calls may be.

Modeling is part of taking my creative desires seriously and having fun enjoying my body, a body I slowly learned to critique and posit as unfeminine. It’s about letting go of that stale-ass story where I entrusted my self-regard to the male gaze and “popular” opinion.

And giving really good face.

Voguing onward,

Hannah