I’m binge watching Season 24 of America’s Next Top Model (don’t laugh). In fact, I’ve watched every season (not every episode though) because I’m a wannabe model. Funnily, I take really bad photos, but counteract this by making goofy faces, and accepting the fact that I’m not photogenic.
But what has struck me, as I watched the girls in the house interact with one another, is how many of them carry pain inside them. At first, I thought it was ironic as heck that some of these stunning young women grew up being told they were ugly or funny-looking (this is a repeat theme throughout the seasons), but there’s more to this than just this.
There’s a young woman who was molested when she was eleven, another who’s dealing with the guilt of leaving her partner after he was diagnosed with cancer, a bisexual who desperately wants the approval of her mother, another had a tumor removed from her head (her scar is ghastly), and another suffers from hair loss (she’s bald), and the list continues.
I paused the show and decided to write this for a couple of reasons. First: I’ve been contemplating a “birthday post” because I’m going to be forty-five soon, y’all! And two: as I get older, our obsession with beauty, youth, and appearances has been on my mind lately.
One model was particularly difficult to get along with, and then she opened up, and shared a little piece of her. She reminded me of the walls we sometimes put up. The invisible barriers we think keep people away from our suffering, but what inevitably happens is we do more damage to ourselves. She also reminded me of how people who seem the most standoffish are the ones who seem the most vulnerable.
I have such a deep appreciation for Tyra Banks (listen to a great interview with her and her mom here), and her ability to bring all these girls together. I mean, I know it’s a reality TV show supposedly devoid of authenticity, especially a show about models, but it’s also a window into young women’s worlds and the struggles they share.
Suddenly, turning forty-five feels like a beautiful celebration. I remember battling with my own childhood demons: abuse, depression, death, and being different. But I’ve learned to forgive, forgive, and forgive myself. I moved on from so many things that could have held me back. I’ve learned how to be vulnerable, and okay with falling pancake-flat on my face, and getting back up again.
I want to remember:
// Grow slowly. It’s not a race.
// Be vulnerable.
// We all have a hard time asking for help.
// Be kind. (I’m contemplating writing this on the whiteboard in my classrooms.)
// Drink more water, and get more exercise.
// Pride is a hellva drug.
// Life is short, and toxic people make your life feel shorter.
// Breathe, damn it – and have fun!
How do you stay beautiful?