Describe a period of growth or realization that helped to change your view of yourself or others.
For years, expectations forced unto me governed the way I thought about myself. Creating art has allowed me to create a new beauty standard. Through art, I have regained control of my self-image, without the influence of others.
I grew up in an ethnically mixed household. My father was born in Egypt and my mother in Poland. From a young age, my dad would encourage me to eat more than I could handle. He wanted me to be "kalbozah", the Arabic word for chubby. In Egypt, being chubby meant you were affluent and healthy. We would regularly make trips together to the health food store where he would buy me appetite pills. But every time bikini season was around the corner, like clockwork, my mom would display her dissatisfaction with her body. And every Spring, she would starve off the extra pounds gained from the holidays. She teases me, calling me "szczypiorek", the Polish word for green onion - implying I was tall and skinny, like the plant. My weight and body image is a continuous conversation between my family and I.
Throughout my childhood, I used fashion as a tool to help me cope with my insecurities. I wore baggy clothes I could hide behind or something vibrant to make myself seen. I struggled to pick out my 5th-grade graduation dress because there was always something wrong with it. Either my dad had a problem with its length, or it was too tight for my mom's standards. I was expected to uphold everyone's expectations within one dress. As a young adolescent, when my body image became increasingly dictated by social expectations of weight, fashion turned into a challenge instead of a coping mechanism. Rather than provide me with an outlet or a relief, fashion made me overly fixated on my body.
As a young child, I never had a problem with the way I looked. I was comfortable playing sports, hugging my friends, and making art. This state was interrupted by my adolescence, which is marred by insecurity, like many other teenage girls. Every insecurity I had was taught to me by someone in my life who criticized me. I realized my greatest flaw was becoming fixated on my insecurities. This negative cycle was something I didn't want to bring with me into adulthood.
Tasked with unlearning my insecurities, I turned to art. My art was a place I could feel comfortable, honest and vulnerable. At my art program in high school, I was surrounded by other young people for whom art provided a similar relief. Learning and creating alongside them gave me a deep appreciation for the inspiration that an inspired community provides. With my fashion design, I left behind the beauty standard I grew up learning and created a new one where I fit the criteria. Dropping those standards completely, and doing only what felt natural helped me to feel like me. My art is an extension of myself and an expression of myself. My work repairs my relationship with my body by emphasizing my insecurities in a beautiful way. By reinforcing individuality, I expand the boundaries in women's fashion. I found a liberating capacity for self-expression within fashion. I hope my artwork encourages others to do the same.
My relationship with my artwork has been incredibly influential in my self-confidence and body image. It has rewritten my approach to loving myself and others in their entirety. Every day, I will carry this newfound sense of confidence with me.