For decades, there’s been a growing body of evidence that magazines have helped create unrealistic expectations for many Americans when it comes to their body image (and even their armpits!), which has often resulted in a lack of self-esteem and even unhealthy behaviors.
This year, the selection of Torontonians included Heidi Hawkins, a mother and voice-over actor; Jasbina Justice, an activist and feminist porn performer; and Prince Amponsah, an actor and social worker.
Hawkins, a new mother, has been angered by media pronouncements that women should cover up when breastfeeding in public or refrain from it completely because it might make people uncomfortable. She also has felt the pressure of many other new mothers to immediately lose the weight she gained during her pregnancy. In the magazine, she says:
“I want women, mothers especially, to accept themselves and to know that our bodies are amazing. I want women to not worry what other people think. All that matters is we're healthy enough to take care of ourselves and our children. What women have to go through in order to bring a child into this world is the hugest thing. We are strong and we can deal with a lot of pain and discomfort, and our strength is so important.”
Justice used the the shoot as a chance to explore the relationship with one's own body, especially in light of past sexual trauma.
“As a survivor of trauma, learning how to be okay being sexual on my own terms and how to have boundaries has been a big part of my work. There's a demand for respectability if you're a survivor of sex assault – you can't say you're doing porn or sex work or be a very sexual person. But when I went into some sex-positive spaces, it was hard to say, "I'm coming with a lot of trauma, so this is scary for me.”
In 2012, Amponsah was caught in a terrible fire that left him without arms and with severe burns across his entire body. It was enough to make him think his career as an actor was over. He describes the process of fighting through the devastation:
“I couldn’t even comprehend what to do during the time I was recovering. I couldn’t see myself going back to acting because I didn’t feel I had a place there. You don’t see a lot of people who look like me on the stage or on the screen, and sometimes you need those kinds of role models – to see yourself, to feel like you can be a part of it. And it can be very superficial as well, right?”
Showing diversity in magazines is an important component of body positivity as it's not only a more accurate reflection of the population, it helps people accept and love their own bodies and stop their impulse toward harmful behaviors meant to make them reach unrealistic standards of beauty.