Hi APC! My name is Alia Jaffrey and I am a senior at Kent Place School. I have been looking in mirrors my whole life. And not just mirrors, but pretty much any reflective surface. It became an unconscious habit of mine, so it never occurred to me how much I cared about how I looked until I got to Middle School. Middle School is when I became aware of my new body type. Ironically, just as the girls around me started talking more about dieting and being “hot,” my body decided that this would be the perfect time for my stomach to start poking out. At 13, I didn’t really know what to make of it. I was convinced that I was just growing, and believed that in a few months, I would shoot up in height and my stomach would magically concave. However, that never happened. I continued to gain weight, and by the 8th grade, I felt that my body had become a problem.
Like all teenagers entering high school, I felt insecure when it came to my looks; my weight, skin, smile, and face were all sources of stress for me. I became uncomfortable wearing clothes that hugged my stomach and stopped changing in the locker rooms because I often felt judged, even if no one said anything. My daily visits to the bathroom mirror reflected my disappointment: I just didn’t like how I looked.
Then something changed. I was in an earthquake. It was one of the scariest things to ever happen to me, and I started to see myself differently. When I caught my reflection in a mirror for the first time after the quake, I froze. I didn’t see an overweight girl, or a crooked smile, or any of the things I used to see. I didn’t see a Miss Universe either. What I saw was a girl who felt lucky to be alive. My body gave me what I needed to survive; it was strong and powerful. It was the first time in years that I felt overwhelmed with love and gratefulness for my body, and I was damn proud.
I came back to school in my junior year with a new perspective. I wake up every day and the first thing I tell myself when I look in the mirror is that I am beautiful. I walk into school proud of my curves. I started eating healthier so that I could get even stronger and I wear clothes that make me feel happy and comfortable. I don’t hide my body as much as I used to.
Celebrating one’s unique beauty is important to me. Over the past two years, I’ve built my company, Alia Jaffrey LLC: (aliajaffrey.com) a social entrepreneurship venture dedicated to not only selling women’s accessories and raising funds for charities but to using its platform in the fashion industry to promote authentic beauty. As a fashion designer, I feel that one of the best parts of my work is empowering others to feel beautiful and part of my goal is to use a wide range of models: diverse in race, ethnicity, and in size. I want every girl who comes to my site seeing themselves represented and celebrating who they are.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about beauty, it’s this: there is no such thing as the most beautiful girl in the room. I used to think there was, but there isn’t. Everyone looks different, and because of that, there is not one ideal look we need to compare ourselves to. And as cheesy as it sounds, the fact is no one can pull off your look except for you. There is beauty in curves and abs, in toothy grins and pouty lips, in little sundresses, in combat boots, in short hair, in long hair, in dark skin, in light skin… Everyone has insecurities and sometimes feels unattractive; but if you wear your body with pride, the people around you will admire you for it. At the end of the day, it’s pride in your body that makes you undeniably beautiful.
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