Yesterday (Feb. 1, 2020) was such a humbling experience. Months ago, I attended the Bold Beauty Project exhibition at Nova Southeastern University not knowing what I was walking into. I sat in awe as I learned about the purpose of the project, along with the stories of the remarkable women who shared their experiences of living with a disability.
Following the event at NSU, I was offered the opportunity to become a model myself for the project. I met and was paired with an incredible photographer, Patty Nash, who spent the time to help me decide what kind of photo I’d like to do. After numerous discussions and internal debates about what direction to take, Patty asked me a simple question: “What makes you feel beautiful?”
After initially struggling with such a broad but powerful question, I realized my answer was simple. It was being me and living a life without limitations. We decided on a simple photoshoot in clothes that I felt comfortable in, at one of my favorite places in the world. Being on the beach, near water, when the sky is painted with the colors of the sunset.
During the shoot, I expressed to Patty how I often feel uncomfortable posing for pictures alone because I don’t know how to position myself. I always feel like I look awkward and it’s harder for me to be fluid in my stances. I get nervous that I’m going to fall so I like to lean on the closest wall, bridge, etc. But Patty was extremely helpful and gave me advice on how to look more natural and feel more confident. She talked me through the various poses and positions throughout the entire photoshoot and she was able to capture so many images of myself that I absolutely loved.
Over the weekend, my image and my story came to life at Art Palm Beach along with the incredible stories of so many individuals from across the world. The art exhibit in its entirety displayed pieces of art worth thousands of dollars and a picture of myself, accompanied by my words and story, was displayed alongside them. It was truly a very unique experience that allowed me to meet even more genuine people working towards the same mission: starting a conversation about inclusivity. My story is just one small part of the overall message of the Bold Beauty Project and I am extremely honored to be a part of it. I look forward to continuing with this organization and am excited to see how it continues to grow!
For those interested in learning more, below is a description of the project:
“Bold Beauty Project, Inc. (BBP) is a 5013c nonprofit organization dedicated to creating social change by utilizing art at the intersection of beauty and disability.
Bold Beauty Project is a powerful, visual arts exhibition that features women with varying disabilities. Through the photographer’s lens and the women’s personal stories, the project seeks to raise awareness of the women’s strength, sensuality and spirit, and in the process, change perceptions of beauty. Bold Beauty Project (BBP) began in 2006 as Uncensored Life: Raw Beauty, a photography show that benefited the Center for Independent Living. Conceived by Shelly Baer, a licensed clinical social worker, and Vanessa Silberman, active in PR, their goal was to create a story of women with disabilities that would shatter all preconceived beauty paradigms.
Today the project continues with a new team and a new name. Dr. Eva Ritvo, a psychiatrist and co-author of The Beauty Prescription and board member of United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida, is committed to helping all women embrace their inner and outer beauty. Sharing the same passion, Eva and Shelly launched Bold Beauty Project in 2015 at the Anacostia Gallery in Washington, D.C., as a fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy. The photos were also displayed at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)’s annual conference in D.C., in the internationally recognized Art Palm Beach and Art Boca Raton Fairs and Art Serve’s exhibit on “Art as Healing Therapy” in Fort Lauderdale.
As you can see, we have a lofty mission. We are developing global “communities” of “bold beauties” and using social media to connect them. They will become role models for women who feel isolated by conventional media’s narrow depiction of beauty. We are impacting photographers by exposing them to new subjects and asking them to work collaboratively to create an image that is transformative for the models as well as the viewers. We are designing replication models so cities can host their own BBP exhibits. The power of this project is in using local community resources, models and photographers.”
You can learn more at the following link and check out some of the models and their stories.