The Perfect Body is a photographic project created to show diversity of female bodies and to say: your body is good enough. Rosie (@rosieelowery) started the project at the age of 22 after realising the effect media had on her own self esteem.
Alex: Why have your started The Perfect Body?
Rosie: The Perfect Body Project was a natural and instinctive reaction to my realisation at the age of 22 what affect the fashion industry and the media as a whole had impacted on my idea of myself. Growing up, from the age of 12, I plastered my bedroom walls with the pages of fashion magazines until my bedroom grew into something of a shrine to unrealistically thin fashion models. Of course, that’s not something that every girl does.
“Most girls are severely affected by the influences around us that teach us how girls are, whether subconscious or obvious. We learn from our mothers, our sisters, our aunties, our teachers, our best friends – that women diet, women weigh themselves, women count calories, women moan about gaining weight, women look at certain foods as ‘treats’. We learn from the women on television, in advertisements, in movies, in shop windows – that we should be a certain size, a certain shape, a certain weight, a certain colour.”
Because it is so customary to our thinking, that this is just the way that women are, it doesn’t seem severe that as women we are almost forced into dealing with our image in a way that is completely destructive and negative and hateful towards our natural selves. Focus is prominently placed upon how we look rather than who we are. My mum never taught me that the pictures that covered my bedroom walls from floor to ceiling weren’t real. That these women had proportions that my body would never be able to physically reach, that these women had impossibly thin bodies that are then tweaked further through digital manipulation. But my mum most likely had no idea either – because throughout my entire life my mum has dieted, watched what she ate, cared about her weight – she has been influenced in exactly the same way as we all have, but has just never sought to change that – with it being considered ordinary and habitual to her life as a woman.
Alex: What is the mission for the project?
Rosie: The aim of The Perfect Body project is to allow all women to feel that their bodies are good enough. It’s so important for women to feel that they are represented somewhere within the broad perspective of the media. Every woman deserves to feel that they are beautiful – no matter what size, shape, ethnicity, age or ability. It is also incredibly important for women (and men) to realise that the female body is not a sexual object – so I wanted to prove this by representing all women in the project in a non-sexual manner, despite being photographed in their underwear. On the one hand women are led to believe throughout the broad spectrum of the media that their bodies are wrong because they are not the right shape, size, weight, height or colour. But in another sense, women are also led to believe that their bodies are wrong through the way that a naked body is only either sexual and a fantasy, or it is sinful and should be covered. Often, knowing what is right and wrong for a woman is one huge contradiction. Don’t be too promiscuous and slutty, but don’t be a frigid prude. Don’t care too much about how you look, but don’t let yourself go. Be soft and feminine, but still be independent and strong. I wanted to combat all of these issues through photographing women in a way that was all inclusive, void of sexualisation, focusing on the beauty of how each woman wanted to be perceived. If they wanted to be portrayed with a full face of make-up because that is how they are most comfortable, that’s perfect. If they want to be photographed in their comfiest, biggest pants because that’s how they feel most comfortable, that’s perfect. We need to focus our power into letting women believe that they have to be comfortable and happy with what works for them, regardless of the outside influence we are bombarded with for as long as we can subconsciously decode messages. Each woman photographed was also interviewed, focusing on topics from her experiences regarding body image to what it means to them to be a woman. Moving forward with the entire fashion industry, I think the most important thing is showing a huge spectrum of beauty, and that is what I intend to do as I continue this project. I want to photograph and interview as many women as possible, from all walks of life, all ages, cultures, ethnicities, sizes, shapes, abilities, with the aim being that I can change women’s perceptions of what is beautiful – and so we can all see that there is no one thing that allows a woman to be beautiful.
Alex: What has been the biggest lesson from the project?
Rosie: I have already learned so many things about women so far in the short time that I have been doing the project. Every woman that I spoke to acknowledged that they had in some way affected by either a subconscious or reflected idea of what a woman should be, and most had moved forward in some way from how this initially affected them growing up. Most women said they were on their way to a more positive body image, but admitted they were still working on it, with only one woman stating that she had a distinctively negative body image. Despite this outlook on body image, the majority of the women recognised that the most beautiful quality another woman can have is a kind, supportive nature, a positive, strong, confident outlook on life and an unapologetic, strong personal identity. No one that I interviewed acknowledged aesthetic qualities as the most beautiful aspects of women. Consequently, I learned that as women, we are all in this together, and on the whole we all go through the same exclusive worries and anxieties about who we should be, what we should look like, what we should be doing. With that said, I want to continue to work on this project to educate and inspire both men and women about the diversity of beauty, but also bring women together to become more powerful and unified as a whole.