Natasha Jones: Stay True To Yourself

Natasha Jones, also known as “@oliviaeyes” on Instagram, is best known for her fashion content on social media. She’s a freelance curve model, brand ambassador, influencer, and content creator. When looking through her Instagram feed, you can see her confidence and infectious smile radiating through her photographs! However, this San Diego native had no plans of becoming an influencer. Natasha had no idea that her love for content creating would have her modeling for well-known brands, partnering with others, and inspiring others around the world.

Natasha was born and raised in San Diego, California. She graduated from the University of San Diego, the first in her family to graduate college, with a bachelors degree in Media Communications. She originally wanted to be a pediatrician and studied human biology for four years. However, Natasha made the drastic change to study communications when she realized how intrigued she was with social media and the interconnectivity of the world. After making the switch to communications, Natasha’s plan was to work behind the scenes in advertising or marketing. Her goal was to highlight minorities to better represent people from different backgrounds and bring inclusivity to mainstream media. She never imagined that she would be doing just that, but with her being in front of the camera.

“I never envisioned myself being an influencer – or model for that matter – I was too shy and didn’t think I could ever be in front of the camera,” Natasha admitted. “If anything, I hoped to work behind the camera and bring representation to minorities whose stories are often never told and rarely seen in mainstream media. It was super important to me to highlight young female voices.”

Ironically, the pandemic helped get Natasha out of her shell, and got companies sliding into her DM’s. Because of the shutdown, Natasha and her sister were insanely bored in the house. Like many others, they had nothing to do while the world waited patiently for COVID-19 to pass. Natasha bought a ton of new clothes before the shutdown and had nowhere to wear them to. For fun and to just pass time, Natasha asked her sister to take pictures of her in her outfits so she could post them on Instagram. The sisters explored all of San Diego for different scenic opportunities, making sure to social distance from others who were also trying to get out of the house for fresh air.

When posting the photos on Instagram, Natasha would make a point to tag where she purchased each item incase people wanted to know where to purchase it. Her main objective was to take cute photos to show off her new outfits since no one she knew in real life would be able to see them. Her love for fashion brings her so much joy because it allows her to feel good in her skin. After a few outfit posts, Forever 21 reached out to her and asked to send her clothes in exchange for content. Natasha couldn’t believe it. She fell into the modeling / influencer world completely by accident! Natasha never planned to go down the influencer route, but believes that the pandemic definitely helped push her in that direction.

Natasha had a previous Instagram account where she would post her occasional selfies. At the time, she was self conscious about her body and was only comfortable with posting her face on social media. Natasha didn’t join Instagram until she was in college because her mom believed it can make you vulnerable to people with ill intentions. So when she started posting her outfits online during the pandemic, she thought nothing of it. She had no intentions on going viral or gaining such a big following. She genuinely didn’t believe that anyone would care to follow her or keep up with her personal life. But after a couple of months of keeping up with her content and posting with Forever 21, Natasha saw a big spike in her following.

“Before becoming a full time content creator/model, I had a small amount of followers just from posting selfies,” Natasha said. “I thought it was cool, but I gave no real thought into this turning into a career. I had gone to school and graduated with a degree that I assumed would help me land a career behind the scenes.”

But Natasha rolled with it anyways. She believed that at the time, she was too naïve to even be skeptical about pursuing modeling and content creating as a career. She was in a place in her life where she just wanted to experiment and test out the waters with what she wanted to do with her life. These opportunities were something new and exciting, something completely out of her comfort zone. Natasha was way too excited and eager to try new things and dive in head first, that she didn’t even have a chance to psyche herself out of it. On top of that, she had a very supportive inner circle. Her friends and family were very supportive and encouraged her to pursue a social media career. Natasha and her sister have bonded over taking photos together. Her sister is the reason why she has so many great shots to choose from.

It was pretty early on when Natasha realized that doors were opening up for her. After posting content for Forever 21, opportunities started coming from left and right. She noticed that her Instagram photos were being used on Forever 21’s website and ads. Brands started reaching out to her because Forever 21 is such a well-known company. “This is just the beginning,” she thought to herself. And she was right. She decided to go for what she wanted – literally. Natasha didn’t wait for certain brands to reach out to her – if she really wanted to work with them, she would reach out to them first. The very first brand she reached out to was Parade because they stood for everything she believed in – inclusivity and diversity.

“I wasn’t nervous at all because I felt I had nothing to lose,” She said. “Even now – you can’t lose something you don’t have. I am a huge believer in shooting your shot because the worse thing that could happen is they say no, but there are always going to be other doors for you. Also, those same people who told you no will come back in the future asking to work with you!”

But Natasha did have that voice in the back of her head telling her that she wasn’t model material. She never thought that she would get into modeling or content creating, so it was hard to see herself in that new light. In the past, she had friends who were already models and content creators, and they pushed her to post more consistently on social media. But she never thought that she could be “that girl.” She didn’t think she had the confidence or “look” to be a model. Natasha was intimidated because she rarely saw girls who looked like her creating content and modeling for well-known brands, so at the time it seemed like a distant fantasy.

However, the pandemic opened up Natasha’s eyes to so many worlds and experiences. She was exposed to so many body positive and curve influencers during lockdown. Seeing people built like her, with similar body types, and not the traditional “model look,” inspired Natasha to change her views of what models can look like. Seeing others be so comfortable in their skin made her embrace her curves and reflect on her internalized fat phobia. This is why Natasha is so passionate about representation. She believes seeing diversity in mainstream media has the power to change one’s mind, opinions, and world view.

Natasha is grateful that she can be that light for others to embrace their bodies and beauty in an industry that is still stingy with representation. She feels so blessed that she has built a platform that people can connect with. It warms her heart to know that she is that person that some women look up to, since she has been in the same position in the past. She still feels like plus-sized women are still very under represented. There have been many times where she feels like the token plus-sized girl in the fashion industry, being used to lure in business from plus-sized people.

“I think that many companies use me and girls who are similar to my body type to be like, ‘Look! We have a plus size girl who is wearing our clothes!!’ ” She said honestly. “Most of the time, these companies only go up to my size and claim that they’re inclusive. If you only go up to a size 14, you are not inclusive and need to reevaluate your entire brand.”

Natasha received many offers from brands to do campaigns. But it wasn’t until she got vaccinated that she did her first campaign with Rue21. It was towards the end of lockdown, a year after she started posting consistent fashion content on her Instagram page. She waited to do in person campaigns because her family wasn’t comfortable with her traveling to LA for work during COVID’s peak. Natasha is still in awe when she sees herself on clothing companies’ websites and social media pages. It’s crazy for her to realize that just 2 years ago, she was buying clothes from these brands and now, she’s one of the faces of their company. She gets emotional because she knows the younger version of herself would be so proud of how far she has come.

Some may find it hard to believe, but Natasha had no prior experience with modeling before she got into the industry. She enjoyed taking pictures with her friends, but the shots were all in lighthearted fun and not considered professional modeling. Like with anything, practice makes perfect. Natasha is still learning to be comfortable in front of the camera and working with other photographers. Some of the tools she uses to better her posing is to have others take photos of her until she feels more relaxed and comfortable, watch YouTube and trendy videos that give tips on how to pose, studying other influencers and models’ photos for inspiration and tips, and always practicing those poses and techniques when she can. It’s not as simple as smiling for a photo, a lot of time, effort, and practice goes into perfecting different shots.

Natasha quickly saw her following on Instagram grow. She was completely shocked, and quite honestly, scared. Suddenly it seemed like all eyes were on her. Natasha jokes that if people really knew how “uncool” she was in real life, they would unfollow her immediately. She’s a very humble individual, and doesn’t think her life is any more or less exciting than the next person, so for a split second, she felt the need to pretend to be cool in front of the camera. She started to second guess how she looked in some photos and the image she wanted people to see online.

There were times where Natasha struggled with finding her own rhythm in posting and caught herself trying to be like other content creators. She felt as though her content had to be a certain way and had to follow the status quo of other influencers. In doing so, she was becoming unhappy with overthinking her posts. She wanted to remain true to herself, but at the same time, she was conflicted with getting too personal with her followers. She considers herself a very private person, so finding the middle ground of sharing just enough so your personality shines through, but at the same time not over sharing was something she had to get used to. The last thing Natasha wanted was for her followers to think that she was an imposter. She found herself going through the motions of imposter syndrome.

She realized that she was becoming consumed with overthinking her online presence. She decided that the best thing to do was simply be herself. She didn’t want to lose track of who she was for the sake of content. Not being herself was mentally exhausting and took away from the fun of creating content. Now, Natasha posts whatever content she wants on her page. She doesn’t like to overanalyze a photo, look at analytics, or overly edit any photos.

Now I just post or share whatever I want. If you like me, that’s cool, but if you don’t – feel free to unfollow. I’m not meant for everyone – no one is, and life’s too short to pretend to be anyone else other than you. I am so grateful for creating the little IG family I have and hope to bring some sort of positivity to the platform by just being myself … When I feel I am being too critical of myself I take a step back from socials. I try to prioritize my mental health above work. If that means deadlines are missed then I will simply notify whoever I am partnering with to let them know. You have to do what makes you happy so figure out what you want and do that. If you need a break, take it! If your hobby turned into a job then make it into something you can enjoy again. Do what you want, whatever that may be.

Natasha Jones

But, influencers are human too, which means there will be times where they’re not in the mood to create and times when they’re experiencing insecurities. Just like any of us, Natasha is juggling a full-time job, social life, home life, relationships, and so on. She is not always in the best spirits when she is on a strict deadline, but she understands that there are deadlines that need to be met. What gets her through these tough moments of finding the motivation to create is knowing that she genuinely enjoys what she does. Natasha sees content creating and modeling as an outlet where she is free to express herself. She describes it as feeling as though she has her own private world where she is in control of the narrative of what others see and know about her.

The fact of the matter is, the public will never know more than the content shared. Natasha still has her moments of feeling insecure, which people would have never gathered from her pictures. Natasha remembers a specific shoot where she didn’t feel confident in herself:

When I first started posing in more revealing outfits, I was not confident. The first lingerie collab I did, I was wearing a two-piece set out in public on the beach. I thought it would be no biggie because I looked up to so many plus size influencers who always wear two pieces out and about. But when I was about to take my photos, I felt so self-conscious. I had never worn a two piece lingerie set nor a two piece bikini in my entire life, yet alone with people around me, and I started crying. But my sister comforted me and talked me through it. I also wanted to go through with it because I had a moment where I was like, ‘Wait… why are you crying? Do it for yourself. Do it for those people you say are beautiful just the way they are.’ On those days I feel low, I always keep in mind I’m doing it for the ones who look up to me. My IG fam means so much to me. I always want to make them feel seen, loved, and confident in who they are.

Natasha Jones

Social media is usually portrayed in a negative way, but Natasha always remembers to embrace all the positive that comes with being a public figure. She is so grateful for her Instagram family and friends. She uses the people that look up to her as motivation to embrace her curves and accept her body for what it is. Natasha celebrates all the women who look like her thriving in all aspects of their lives. She’s constantly amazed with how many kind people she has met who genuinely want to uplift others instead of bringing them down. Instagram has remained a fun outlet for Natasha to express herself, be creative, and have fun!

Natasha gained such a loyal following by reciprocating the love. Her motto is, “give love, receive love.” She always makes a point to answer DM’s and comments on her posts because she appreciates anyone who would take time out of their day to show her some love. She feels a sense of community with her followers and feels as though they are her friends. Natasha does admit that she typically doesn’t respond to men’s DM’s because it makes her uncomfortable. She tried to respond politely to men’s DM’s in the past, but has always ended up regretting it. So, in her comments she’ll usually respond with a “thank you,” and keep it at that. Natasha wants her platform to be a safe space for all women. She loves to see the endless amount of love and support she gets from women all over the world, so she tries her best to maintain a positive space where she feels comfortable interacting with others.

Because she is so dedicated to her followers, Natasha has made it a top priority to only endorse companies that align with her beliefs. She knows that there are a lot of people who look up to her, so she is very careful with what she promotes. Natasha has no problem turning away deals with well-known brands. She has gotten paid offers from companies who sell diet supplements, waist trainers, personal trainers, Botox, and the list goes on. Natasha admits that the money being offered is nice, but not tempting enough for her to support brands that promote fat phobia, capitalize on people’s insecurities, and tell people that they are not good enough by just being themselves. She remains true to herself and her beliefs, and refuses to work with brands who go against everything she supports and believes in.

What many people may not know is the fact that Natasha was a full-time content creator and model during the pandemic, but also juggling a job as a Social Media and Influencer Marketing Coordinator for a San Diego based company as of last year. Natasha’s mom pushed her to get a job to utilize her degree she worked so hard for. Her mother is very supportive of her influencer career, but is also very skeptical. Like any parent, Natasha’s mom just wants to make sure that her daughter is thinking ahead for the future, as content creating can be a very unstable profession. Even though her mom is skeptical, she is very supportive of Natasha becoming a full-time freelancer once she starts seeing consistent big results. Either way, Natasha understands that her mother’s worries come from a place of love.

Since Natasha has a full-time job as Social Media and Influencer Marketing Coordinator, she is constantly juggling both jobs. Throughout the week, she works her 9-5 job that utilizes her college degree, and the weekends are for content creating with her sister. She edits photos throughout the week and preps them for posting usually the day before she posts them. She has not quite found her balance yet, but it has pushed her to learn how to prioritize her time. Natasha is using this time to figure out what career path she would like to test the waters in – as she has both experience behind the scenes and also being in front of the camera.

As she goes on this new journey of balancing out her job behind the scenes and simultaneously pursuing a freelance career, she hopes that she can manifest her dream future. She knows that life is a crazy ride, and you’ll never know where life can take you, but she hopes to work towards her goal of becoming a full-time content creator with no other jobs on the side. She is so grateful for her current job because it allows her to see behind the scenes. It has opened her eyes to the social media industry, which allowed her to learn so many new strategies from a brand perspective that she can apply to her own following. And it has made the obvious more apparent – that her true passion is in content creating.

“I thrive in fast paced environments so I truly feel I have found my passion,” she shared. “I trust  life will take me where I need to go so until then, I’ll just keeping taking everything that comes my way day by day. I strongly believe everything happens how it’s supposed to, so being able to work on both ends of the social media Industry has been a blessing!”

At the start of the pandemic, Natasha had no idea that posting her cute outfits would lead her down this path and open so many doors and opportunities. Her following on social media continues to grow, but she still remains humble. People are starting to recognize her in real life, but Natasha still tends to lay low and doesn’t like to make a big deal of her online fame. The most important lesson that this journey has taught her is to love, accept, and value herself. Growing up, Natasha always strived for perfection. She wanted to fit in and feel accepted. Now, she is content with knowing that it’s perfectly fine to be a work in progress and be yourself. She believes that whatever is meant for you will always find you.

Natasha’s advice to her followers is to always stand up for themselves. She believes it’s important to prioritize your values and beliefs, making sure that the choices you make align with what you truly believe in. She’s a firm believer in following your dreams – even if it means taking a leap of faith! After all, that is how Natasha became a content creator and freelance model. She is so grateful for the community that she has built online. Her goal has always been to celebrate and support women, and her online presence is doing exactly that.

“I want to create a safe place for people to feel like they can be themselves and that they will always be more than enough,” Natasha said. “If people take anything away from my platform, I hope that they know how beautiful they are, just by being who they are. All I want is to be a source of positivity, representation, and maybe some comfort when they’re feeling low. We all have the power to be a light in this world – I just want everyone to recognize that in themselves.”

Marinelle: The Journey Continues

Story 10 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is MY story, written in my own words:

This collaboration / series is one that I hold dear to my heart because I have been a body positive advocate for a couple of years, and have made it one of my missions as a writer. This is a topic I am very passionate about – having individuals feel comfortable in their body regardless of societal body standards. I would like to add that being body positive does not mean that you are confident and reassured in your body at all times. That belief is discouraging and just all around false. Being body positive is definitely a lifelong journey. And I ask that in your responses / blog post, that you be as transparent as possible. I pride myself in sharing real, authentic, and unfabricated stories – being truthful is key.

Marinelle Cabillo

“Quoted above is a paragraph taken from the original email I sent to all of the candidates who were interested in being a part of this Body Positive Series. I was ecstatic when I finally had all 9 slots taken for this project. It has always been a goal of mine as a writer to focus more on the body positive community and document people’s self-love journeys. Collabing on this series with like-minded, brutally honest individuals re-sparked my interest and passion on this community and reminded me why I write – to reach others and share the stories of your every day person. Reading and hearing other people’s struggles and downfalls made me realize that a lot of us share the same feelings and experiences in different ways. One thing that we all can agree on – our self-love journey is never linear.

The belief that people who identify as body positive are self-assured and satisfied with what they see in the mirror all the time is inaccurate. I try to emphasize that a lot in my writing since I am known for being a body positive advocate. Nobody’s journey is linear. You just don’t wake up one day and realize you want to change your mindset, your beliefs, and everything you believed to be acceptable and unacceptable, and just start off with a clean slate. It takes a lot of highs and lows, learning and unlearning, 2 steps forward and 3 steps back, and so forth. You will eventually get to a better place, but the journey is never lateral. You will have your off days, and that’s okay.

I tried to write this post in advance because it’s the big blog post #100. I was about 10 paragraphs deep, and the writer’s block was ridiculous. I wasn’t in love with what I was writing, and I didn’t like the direction I was going in. I originally was going to start off with how I was in 2016, and what steps I took to accept and love my body. But the more I added to it, the more I hated it. Though it wasn’t my intent, I felt like it was giving off the “I didn’t like this, so I changed this, and now I’m enlightened!” vibe. And that wasn’t true. Yes, I changed my mindset and had to put in a lot of work to get to this point, but I didn’t want it to seem like I had a problem, I overcame it, and now I’m coastin. Nope. That wasn’t the message I wanted to emphasize, because the journey continues… for life. So I scrapped it all and started over.

When I say that it took a lot of learning and unlearning to get to where I am today, I mean it. Deciding to love and accept my body for what it was and simultaneously declaring Women Gender Studies as my minor in 2016, really got the ball rolling on changing my mindset and views. I really had to reevaluate what I grew up to believe was acceptable and unacceptable, and how those views and feelings contributed to my inner turmoil. I had to reflect on parts of myself that I did not want to question or explore, but in order to heal and plant new seeds of thinking, I had to pull at the ugly roots that had planted in me so long ago. The Women Gender Studies classes I was taking at the time really opened my eyes to see that these ways of thinking in terms of beauty and beauty standards, are engrained specifically into the female mind at a very young age. And because of the unrealistic standards media and society places on women, companies profit off of all our insecurities.

I refused to be the foolish consumer that only cared about my outward appearance. I had to remind myself that I was so much more. So much more than my outer beauty, than my body, than whatever version of myself I want the public and social media to see. I refused to have companies make a profit off of my insecurities, and stay in this cycle of self-hate and fake confidence disguised by likes on social media. I refused to fall into this habit of following famous people online who alter their images, and give a false sense of reality. I no longer wanted to support companies and brands that publicly excludes, alienates, and makes people feel bad about themselves for being plus-sized.

I had to be true to myself and admit that at times I could be a hater towards others based on my own insecurities. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’ve accepted that that’s the reality. I had to stop comparing myself to others. And that was something really hard to do. In the past, I would be jealous of people who had outward appearances and features that I believed to be desirable. It was really difficult for me to accept that someone else’s beauty does not overshadow my own. I had to be confident in myself and my own attributes, and separate that from my feelings of feeling worthy based on what I looked like physically. I had to engrain in my own head that I was enough, that I am worthy of self-love at any weight, and each time I fall victim to the negative self-talk, or compare myself to others, or care too much about outward appearances, I repeat the same cycles that I no longer want to continue. This world profits off of our self-hate, and I wanted no part of it.

And as time went on, I learned to literally not give a shit. I wanted to workout, not to lose weight, but because I wanted to be healthier. I no longer cared about the numbers I saw on the scale because as long as I felt good within my own skin, my actual weight didn’t matter. In fact, I wanted to gain muscle, which would realistically have me gain weight. I felt so liberated to do as I pleased without feeling guilty. Restricting myself from foods, places, and clothing was a thing of the past. I wanted to feel comfortable, happy, and at ease with myself. Doing a social media cleanse really helped me push for this change. Once I eliminated accounts and people that made me question my own self-worth, it was the first step of Game Over. What I do not see can not affect me. What I do not see can not influence me. What I choose to see and internalize is completely up to me. With time, college courses, and increasing confidence in myself by positive affirmations, I learned to dissect social media posts. I can appreciate other people’s beauty, even if it is altered, but still know that it is not reality. When I feel myself getting insecure when I hit that explore page, I’ll try to shut it down real quick. It has brought me peace to know that social media in the literal sense, does not matter. It is not something I need, and therefore, I shouldn’t try so hard to uphold a certain appearance. Basically, I shouldn’t care.

I think the pandemic was the cherry on top of the “I literally don’t give a fuck about my outward appearance” sundae. For a lot of people, the pandemic forced us to be alone with our thoughts – probably more than we wanted. Getting used to the shutdown and restrictions really had me focus on the health of me, my family, and friends, above all. I got used to not getting ready for work, not going out, not putting on makeup, not putting on clothes other than my pajamas and the occasional “walk around the neighborhood outfits.” Everything was more relaxed, even though anxieties of the outside world heightened. The uncertainty and the safety of society really had all of us on edge – from COVID, to social unrest, to targeted violence. On top of that, there were no outlets to relieve that stress, everything was shutdown. It felt like I was watching a train wreck and couldn’t turn away. I was constantly reminded of the realities of 2020.

So for me, food became my solace during the pandemic. Looking forward to a good meal that was usually through UberEats or other delivery apps was the highlight of my day / week. It made me feel good to know that I was helping keep some businesses alive during the unpredicted shutdowns. It brought me comfort to eat foods that I used to eat pre-COVID because it brought back a sense of normalcy. My relationship with food has always been a strong one. I love food. I was never a picky eater, and my parents didn’t have to worry about me not eating enough or not finishing my plate. Their concern was to get me to stop eating. And now as an adult, I’m the type of person that would rather meet up at a restaurant or grab something to eat than hangout at the club. I’d say 100% of my social life revolves around eating good food with good company. When I’m traveling and going to new places, my main focus is what I’m going to be eating. I want to try all the foods that each place is known for, and I will literally plan around what food I want to get. And with the pandemic, eating bomb food went from being a social, bonding, unwinding and having a good time, to suddenly being my comfort and sense of normalcy.

We all know that the pandemic is still going strong today – almost a year and a half later. Relying on food to give me comfort and make me feel “safe” while the world fell apart, mixed with everything being shutdown, meant that there wasn’t a lot of exercising happening on my end. Everyone joked about people coming out of quarantine putting on a lot of weight, and for me personally… where’s the lie? I’m for sure – hands down – the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m not ashamed to admit that either. When the jokes of weight gain started circling early in the pandemic, I knew that I was informed enough to see the humor in some of the memes, but I also knew that there were some people out there that would really be struggling with this topic. When people around me would comment on not wanting to gain weight during the pandemic, I would get defensive and quickly add in that it’s OKAY and normal to gain weight during something as serious as a global pandemic, and it should be the last of our concerns.

It made me sad to know that during a time of crisis, people were already dreading the aftermath of the pandemic’s tole – gaining weight. When I hear people putting themselves down for not working out as much, gaining weight, or not having any motivation, I try to chime in and let them know that it’s okay to be feeling those emotions. Especially with my sisters, I find myself being overly aggressive with my messages of being content with gaining weight, but I realize that not everybody has the same outlook. For me, gaining weight during the pandemic was expected. However, I really didn’t expect COVID to be a problem to this day, I didn’t expect it to last this long. I tried my best to remind myself that my body will be changing along with the state of the world, and it’s okay. I was so used to not wearing makeup, not putting on my regular clothes, and not being in the public eye. Dare I say the homebody in me got comfortable to this new normal? Because I definitely got comfortable being comfortable and not thinking twice about how I looked!

I started working in person again in June 2020, to date, that’s over a year working in person. But during this time, up until recently, my mind is still in lockdown mode – not caring to be seen by anyone, social distancing, not having a social life outside of work, and basically living in workout leggings all the time to feel comfortable throughout the work week. My eating patterns remained the same even though I was back at work because the dreadful news of the world would still stress me out. For me, things were “back to normal” for the last year, given that I’ve been going to work Monday through Friday in person, but I would constantly be reminded of the state of the world every time I looked at my phone, turned on the news, or went out in public. For me, the masks are a constant reminder of the world we are living in. Living day to day for the last year and a half not knowing if you could be the carrier, have the sickness yourself, or infect someone you love is such a stressful way of living. I constantly had to weigh out the pros and the cons of hanging out with people outside of my family. It was a gamble every time, and I hate that to this day, every choice I make to expose myself to public places can result in a horrible ending. On top of that, restaurants remained closed, there were still many restrictions, and it felt like we were far from seeing a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

When vaccines started rolling out, and things started to slowly open back up, I definitely felt the results of my anxiety filled binge eating patterns that were heightened throughout the pandemic. My friends and I were vaccinated, and started to see each other more regularly again. With time and more people getting vaccinated, restrictions started to ease up little by little. I was very slowly getting my social life back, and that meant wearing clothes other than my comfy workout leggings that I live in every day at work. I mean shit, pandemic or not, ya girl always lived in leggings Monday through Friday, because working with kids, you need to be as comfortable as possible. But it was a huge eye opener when I started to wear clothes outside of my work outfits. I felt like the Pikachu meme where he’s all surprised with his mouth open, even though I knew this was going to happen. My clothes didn’t fit the way they used to.

At first, I didn’t even really care that I was gaining weight. I was like… whatever it is what it is, we’ve been in this pandemic for a long time. It’s what I expected, and I had mentally prepared myself to slowly transition out of the lockdown. I anticipated that my body was probably not going to look or feel the same prior to the pandemic. I had to remember to be kind to myself. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t alone, a lot of people are going through the same transitions as I am. We are all just trying to adjust back to normal given everything 2020 has put us through. I have come to a point in my life where I know that my outward appearance is the least of my problems, that I am worthy and enough at any size, and that negative self-talk will get me nowhere. I know all of this. I’m completely aware. I try to practice this and feel confident and reassured with whatever reflection I see in the mirror. However, I am human, and I still have my feelings of insecurity. I’m not confident and self-assured all the time, and that’s okay.

In the past, I would’ve been deep in my self loathing ways by now – hating my body, restricting myself and then binging at the end of it all, and talking negatively to myself. But I know where that path would lead me – down a deeper hole. I’ve learned time and time again that making myself feel like shit will accomplish nothing. It will just have me feeling bad about myself and I won’t have the motivation to do better because I’m too busy sulking in my misery. There is literally nothing to gain from negative self-talk, but it’s such a common habit. Especially when you are feeling down, insecure, and frustrated with yourself, it’s hard to stop that voice in your head that is tearing you to shreds and dragging you through the mud. But I knew from experience that if I went down the self-loathing route, it would result in me being really hard on myself, which would push me back into the same cycle I tried so hard to unlearn.

Now, my off days / episodes look a little different. I’m not ashamed that I gained weight, I don’t totally hate what I see in the mirror, and I don’t let people’s commentary or opinions affect me. However, my views on gaining weight has changed over time now that I’m getting older. It’s no longer about how I look, I’m more so concerned about my overall health, given that my late 20’s are just over the horizon, and it’s something I should be keeping an eye on. I was aware of how I was using food to cope, but feeling not the best in my old clothes, and not feeling confident with what I saw in the mirror, brought to light my relationship with food. I was starting to see that during the pandemic, I would eat until I was stuffed to “treat myself,” but really, I’m just binge eating for pleasure and because I’m stressed.

I acknowledge my binging habits that have heightened during COVID, but I refuse to call them “bad habits.” Speaking only for myself, labeling them as “bad” just makes me feel guilty and ashamed about how I’ve handled a really tough year, and that’s not my intent. I want to remain kind to myself, but not be totally oblivious to what I want to change. In the past, to try to stay healthy and balance out my love of food, I would try to go to the gym and squat heavy. But gyms are closed, and with COVID going around with different variants surfacing, I found myself not going out as much. Basically my only form of exercise was walking to the grocery store and hiking once a week. I had to come to the realization that I would get winded doing simple tasks, and I have gotten too comfortable being lazy and not wanting to do anything. It wasn’t about how I looked on the outside, now it’s about how my current habits are making me feel on the inside. I feel sluggish, unmotivated, and unhealthy. Acknowledging what I want to improve, without bashing myself and putting myself down, has allowed me to make small but conscious changes to try to get in more exercise to make me feel better.

I know that for me right now, being healthier means being more active, getting more exercise in, and trying not to binge eat when I’m stressed out or trying to treat myself. A common misconception is that the body positive community promotes unhealthy habits, promotes obesity, and glorifies health complication that come with being overweight. This is not true. Just because you identify as “body positive” doesn’t mean you are glorifying obesity. Being body positive doesn’t mean that you are against working out, it doesn’t mean that you hate skinny people, or that you ignore your health. Being body positive sure as hell doesn’t mean that you are always feeling good about your body. For me, being body positive is being inclusive to all shapes and sizes, it’s being kind to yourself regardless of what your weight is, it’s knowing that you are worthy of love and respect at any size, it’s knowing that you are so much more than your outward appearance, it’s trying to love yourself and your body at all stages of life. Being body positive is not letting societal body standards dictate how you live your life, it’s choosing to live freely instead of constantly stressing over how you look, it’s not restricting yourself because you are hyper-aware of your body, it’s being self-assured and confident in being an individual in a world that wants you to conform and feel shitty about yourself so they can profit off of those insecurities. For me right now, being body positive is all that, and at the same time it’s being aware that I have to make healthier choices. And these choices should not be to punish or restrict myself. The goal is to always be loving and accepting of the body that I have right now. This is the body that has gotten me through the pandemic, and is continuing to get me through it.

And doing this Body Positive series has helped me appreciate and see what “body positivity” means to others. What my meaning of Body Positivity is is not exactly alike to anyone else’s definition. As highlighted in this series, being body positive is: not caring about what you see in the mirror, not letting what people say get to you, being your own number one fan, feeling confident without makeup, choosing a Vegan lifestyle, getting back into a hobby, making peace with your past, accepting your body changing to bring in another life, and so on. I appreciate how transparent every single person was during this Body Positive series, and for allowing me to share their very intimate self-reflections.

It’s okay to not feel body positive all the time. I hope this series has helped people see that people go through their self-love journey differently. No two stories are alike, but even then, we still manage to connect and resonate with other people’s experiences. We are all human, and nobody is perfect. We will have periods of progress, but also periods of regression. Don’t feel discouraged if you are not where you want to be yet when it comes to how you view yourself and your body. This is a lifelong process, so continue to learn and unlearn, and get used to the fact that sometimes you will teeter totter back and forth from what you’re trying to outgrow.

I hope that sharing my personal struggles with my forever changing body reaches someone who needs to hear that being body positive does not mean you are confident all the time. That myth discourages people because that is something that’s very unrealistic. Our bodies and our views are forever changing. If you attach happiness to correlate with your outward appearance, you will never be content with yourself. Your self-love and self-respect should never be conditional. ” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

Walang Hiya

“Walang hiya,” literally translates to “no shame”/ “shameless” in Tagalog.

My ears are no stranger to this saying. In fact, all my life I’ve heard the terms, “walang hiya,” / “walang ka hiya?!” (“Have you no shame?!”). This phrase was almost always said to my sisters and I by our parents. And it was most definitely said to check us and humble us with the quickness. When you hear someone say, “walang hiya,”(statement form) / “walang ka hiya?!” (Question form) to another person, they’re checking the other person’s character and actions. It is generally not a positive reaction, especially in its statement form, “walang hiya” is most likely followed with a head shake and look of disappointment.

“Have you no shame?” has been instilled in mind at a young age. Every Filipino kid has heard this term growing up. And to be honest, my parents still say this to us to this day! Everyone can relate to their parents telling them that they are shameless, to the point where it’s almost a joke. Well, for my cousins and I atleast. When someone is being out of pocket and takes a joke too far, we’ll laugh and throw in, “walang hiya!”

When I was thinking of what to write for this week’s blog post, I kept thinking of how I could summarize my 2019. I didn’t want to do the typical, “What has 2019 taught me…” / “My goals for 2020 are…” post. I thought back on how I changed from the beginning of 2019 to now, about to close out the decade. And all that came to my mind was, “Walang Hiya.”

Shameless. I was definitely shameless this year. “Walang hiya,” has always been seen as a negative thing, but for me, being shameless this year has brought me inner growth. It has been such a confusing year for me personally. I really had to dig deep and remember who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.

My 2019 new year’s resolution was to start posting consistently on this blog. January 2019 came and went, and my blog was mad crickety. I was freshly graduated, and wanted to start my passion projects. The only thing getting in the way of that was… myself. I was over thinking, being insecure, and shy about my work. It’s easy to say, “just start!” when you’re posting your work for the public to see and criticize.

May 2019 I walked the stage with my journalism class. And my graduation ceremony sparked something in me. At that point I was 5 months out of school, and being back in the school setting, even if it was just to walk the stage, ignited my fire again. I saw my professors, and it inspired me to get out of the slump I was in and do something – anything – writing wise. It took a little over a month, but July 2019 I started posting consistently.

In the past, when I was still in school and would post what I wrote every now and then, I would get insecure about what people would think, the engagement I would get on the post, the photo that went with it, etc etc etc. But now, I don’t care about the likes, the comments, if I look “nice” in the cover pic. The thing was, in the past, I did have “hiya.” I had shame, when I should’ve had pride in my work. I was always taught that there is a very thin line between being proud/humble and being cocky. Posting about my writing / occasional video projects made me feel weird. It made me feel like I was boasting about my work, showing off, and seaking attention. It took me a while to let go of that “hiya” and share my ideas/ posts.

Before I started posting consistently on my blog, therefore all my social media platforms to get more engagement, I was very particular about what I posted. I was one of those social media users that would post like, once a month, and was very choosy on what I chose to share. Like I said before, social media is what people want you to see of them. And for me, I didn’t really feel the need to share anything particularly personal. It was like “you can see my family, friends, boyfriend, and that’s about all I’m going to share.” I didn’t post things if it wasn’t “Instagram worthy,” or if I didn’t look cute in it. I didn’t want to post too frequent, and I didn’t want to have too many posts on my feed. Because more posts on my Instagram meant that I was giving the public more pieces to the puzzle of “me.”

When I started posting a blog post every Monday, all that went out the window. In the beginning I felt some type of way that I was over sharing my life, and posting way more than I ever did before. My blog is kind of like posting my diary entries for the world to see. It gets real real quick. But I knew that if I ever wanted to be known as a writer who writes about real shit, I have to share what I write. That was definitely a transition for me. I’m not one to share my personal life on a Facebook status, and you would never catch me having Twitter fingers if I had beef with anyone. I was always a “think what you want to think, I keep my circle small and the people that matter know the truth,” if I was ever in some drama. But now, here I am, sharing my deepest thoughts, my fears, my struggles, my triumph, for the public to see.

Some of the things I write about would certainly get a, “walang ka hiya?!” from my parents, which was part of the reason why I was hesitant on posting consistently. Surprisingly, my mom hasn’t hit me with the, “walang ka hiya?!” statement yet on anything I have written so far. I think it’s one of those situations where she thinks it in her head, but won’t say it out loud because she knows I’m an adult and that I want to reach a bigger audience. Her feedback to me once was that I curse too much on my blogs. “Its good, but just don’t use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ because its embarrassing, don’t you want people to read and like you? They may not like you if you curse so much.”

I responded by saying that I’m not writing for people to like me. I’m not changing my writing style to show face, because I’m not like that in person. If you know me, I type how I talk. People tell me all the time that they read my content and it’s like they hear me reading it. I have thought of what I post biting me in the ass. As a journalist, we were taught to be professional all across the board. But that’s why I don’t see myself in hard news, because I feel like I have too much personality. I went on to tell my mom that whoever has a problem with seeing cuss words in my writing, doesn’t have to read. I was taught that whatever content you choose to write about attracts a certain audience, and it’s okay if everyone isn’t into it.

Simultaneously while I’m posting consistently, I noticed 2019 was the year that I gave less and less a fuck about my outward appearance. I’m a preschool teacher, I’m always in leggings, no makeup, and a whatever top, because I’m constantly on the move. Might get shit on, might get boogers on me, might have to clean the whole unit, I literally never know. Even on weekends, I found myself not caring how I looked. And there was some freedom in that. But it sometimes made me sad. I wasn’t putting effort into my appearance because I genuinely didn’t care and was too lazy to put on makeup. But at the same time, it made me happy that I was secure in myself that I didn’t feel the need to look a certain way all the time. I also wake up at 5 am, there is literally no time to get cute anymore.

I took “I don’t care,” to a whole new level. Appearance wise, body wise, and all the above. But I mean this in a good way. I found no point in complaining about my appearance. I put less importance on my outter appearance and worked on the kind of person I was on the inside. I learned that I can only control myself, my actions, and my emotions. I can’t control how others react or how others interpret things. I realized my toxic traits and try to work on them. I’m quick with my words when I’m upset, and I’m still trying to learn the meaning of restraint. That’s one thing where I should have shame! But it’ll take time to break bad habits.

I made it a point this year to not support any business or brand that did not support me as a bigger bodied woman. That being said, I stopped buying undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, and started supporting Aerie for their body inclusivity. It was hard for me because I was a die hard Victoria’s Secret fan for years. I’ve spent a lot of money at Victoria’s Secret and they had my brand loyalty. But when they made that comment about plus size women and trans women, I couldn’t. I could no longer support a company that didn’t care about plus sized women like me. I had no shame in vocalizing my reasons. And now, Aerie loyalty it is.

2019 I really opened up myself to the public. I had “walang hiya” in a lot of things I did, and it worked in my favor. Growing up, I was taught that having “no shame” was a bad thing. Now, I want to share that having “walang hiya” doesn’t always have to be negative. Being shameless in my writing, life, and appearance has helped me grow into a more secure woman.

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 🥂

…& If It Doesn’t, It Doesn’t.

I didn’t think to make this the blog post for this week, but it so happened to fit in perfectly with what I just wrote about the week before. Its almost a continuation of last week’s post. This is the other side of the coin.

I had dinner with some of my old Journalism gals from SFSU, as our last supper with Roxy. She’s one of the first friends I met at SFSU, and after 5 years in the Bay, she’s moving back home to SoCal. 💔 So we brought her to San Tung’s. 5 years in San Francisco and she never tried it. Disgraceful. The dry fried chicken, kissed by the Gods one by one and sent down to Earth for mankind. But Rox is a pescatarian… so the dry fried shrimp would have to suffice. San Tung was on her bucket list, so we had to make it happen her last couple of days in SF.

At the end of the meal we were so full, like can’t breathe, I should go lay down type of full. But you know, no meal or hangout is complete without boba 👀. So we ventured out into the cold San Francisco night. And when I mean cold, I mean Roxy is literally trying to use my body to shield her/warm her up. We GPS our next destination, boba. Of course, pick the closest one at this point. The short walk resulted in cold nipples jokes and talks of bloody feet if said cold nipples were to fall off – everyone piggy backing off everyone else’s joke 🤣

At the boba spot, Nicki dips for a quick second to find a bathroom to pee, and me, Bridget, and Roxy are left at the little windowsill inside the shop. We start talking about her move, and how her parents were driving up to come swoop her and all her belongings on the weekend. It was Thursday, and her parents were coming Saturday morning.

“Are you almost done packing?” I asked.

“Not even halfway. Maybe like 35%. I got too much shit.”

She went on to talk about how much stuff she accumulated throughout her 5 years here, and how she was lagging to pack it all away. Then she said something that almost every girl could relate to.

“And what makes me sad is I have clothes that don’t fit anymore, but I still won’t get rid of them so I’m packing it and it’s just taking up space.”

“Roxy, I’m writing about this for next week’s blog post.”

That. Right. There. I can’t count how many articles of clothing I’ve kept in my closet in hopes to “fit them again,” for “motivation,” or for the simple fact that it made me think of the times I was “smaller.” To look back and think, “I was once this size,” and reminisce, as I gently fold it and tuck it back in my closet to find again in the distant future to make myself feel like shit all over again 😊.

Why do we do that?! Why is getting rid of clothes that don’t fit anymore such a big deal? Or more specifically, why is getting rid of clothes that are too small* such a big deal? Because let’s be real, if someone lost weight and their clothes were too big, it would be almost an accomplishment to toss out those big ‘ol old clothes. But if they are clothes that are now too small, why is it that just the sight of them pull at the heart strings?

I mean, obviously I know the answer. Getting bigger is seen as a negative. You’re supposed to stay at your smallest, and never unlock a size higher. And if you do, you must forever be haunted by ghost of clothes past.

All jokes aside, this way of thinking is so detrimental to someone’s well-being. I’m all for someone using their old clothes as healthy motivation to be healthier, but it is rarely that. The “motivation” usually results in self-loathing and negative thoughts about one’s self. There’s a very thin line between healthy motivation and unhealthy obsessions.

I wish I could be that bitch that uses my small clothes as healthy motivation to get back in shape. However, I am not that bitch. I will seriously cry about it internally and let it bother me, giving me a false sense of motivation. In the past I would do crash diets and working out consistently, all for the sake of trying to wiggle this body into whatever the hell clearly didn’t fit me anymore. And since it would be sudden crash diets and forcing myself to workout or I’d beat myself up over it, it clearly didn’t last long. Is just give up. Still keeping the clothes that don’t fit anymore in my closest still, of course. And it’s all because this psuedo motivation is not done in the name of self-love, but self-hate. This is what I mean when I say there’s a very thin line between healthy motivation and unhealthy obsessions.

I once had a friend that was obsessed with diet culture. They weren’t trippin off the clothes that didn’t fit anymore, they were trippin off the clothes they bought for their goal body. Also known as, they bought clothes that were about 2-3 sizes too small – the size they wanted to be. They used the clothes as motivation to lose more weight, but the sadness and longing in their eyes everytime they pulled out the drawer full of “goal weight clothes” killed me. Like they believed their life would begin when they were smaller.

And that’s basically what we’re doing when we fixate ourselves over clothes that are too small. If it ain’t healthy motivation to get ya ass back in the gym because you want to change your lifestyle, than it ain’t helpin you at all. Stop thinking your life starts when you’re a smaller size, when you “get back to your college body” (whatever the fuck that means, can’t relate 🤷🏻‍♀️), or when you fit into those jeans you bought in a smaller size. Stop fuckin’ torturing yourself. What good does it do?

Last week’s post I told y’all fuck it, if it fits, it fits! Who cares what the size is on the tag! And this week I’m telling you : …. but if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. Literally who cares?

Don’t beat yourself up over clothes not fitting anymore. Don’t try to shop for your goal body. Don’t obsess over what size you see and wear.

I used to have this mentality (and sometimes still do) where I think, “I really want new clothes…. hold on, nevermind, I’ll just wait a while because if I start working out and I lose weight, I have to buy new clothes all over again.” STOP. THAT. SHIT. If you wait to wear the shit you want to wear, or buy the shit you want to buy all for the sake of body fluctuations, you’re literally not gonna have shit to wear at all.

Why not style the body you have right now the way you want to? Why must you wait until you’re “different.” If you’re waiting to lose weight to dress the way you want to, then you’re just playing yourself honestly. Feel good in what you wear now. Be you now.

So if it fits, it fits. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. A made it a point some time ago to get rid of all the clothes that I don’t wear and are too small. I gave them all to my little sister. Sometimes I see her in my old clothes and I think oh my God I used to fit that! Some time ago it made me sad. But now I’m genuinely in shock that I used to fit them, or tried to fit them. Like wow, I really forced myself in medium Adidas track pants. Literally who tf did I think I was 😭🤣

But I got rid of those clothes because not only was it taking room in my closet for absolutely no good reason, but it just made me feel awful about myself everytime I saw them. So why keep them? Why do that to myself when I know that’s how I’m going to react? I still have some articles of clothing that don’t really fit/don’t really make me feel nice when I wear them, but I still keep them in my closet just incase I need it for something. You never know when your opinion will change! But also my mentality changed, so my outlook on clothes also changed.

I’m no longer hoarding clothes that don’t fit anymore. Getting rid of them unapologetically and nonchalantly. If if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit 🤷🏻‍♀️.