Leading up to the Love Your Body Summit, I am introducing you to our presenters through a series of interviews. I am so excited to share these interviews with you. Each one of these women is doing incredible work in the world.
Today we are meeting Charlotte Dean and Chloe Allred of the Body Joy Project. Charlotte and Chloe will be speaking and leading an art workshop at the summit.
Radical Self Love Warriors: Charlotte Dean and Chloe Allred
1. Tell us a bit about your body positive work.
Charlotte: I am the co-founder of the Body Joy Project - a body positive artist collective. Right now, I’m doing body-painting sessions centered around the idea of what it means to be with another person, to see them and respond to them. These sessions have become incredible experiences in intimacy, consent and accountability. I cannot touch the person without leaving a mark. Each stroke is one they said yes to, so the painting is only possible through constant consent.
Chloe: I am the co-founder of the Body Joy Project - a body positive artist collective. I am a painter with a passion for body positive activism. I've done two major projects that deal with body image issues. The first was called "To Be Brave: Ending Body Shame". For this project, I interviewed and painted women with histories of eating disorders, sexual assault, and body shame. They demonstrated to me what it means to be truly brave: to be open, to be vulnerable, to speak what has happened to you. They are women with different personalities and idiosyncrasies all their own, but with similar stories of violation and survival. I knew from my experience how incredibly isolating body shame is. What I discovered by working with theseincredible women was that I wasn’t alone, that I could create a community and start to change things for the better. After “To Be Brave” I created The Body Joy Project, a feminist and body positive artist collective, with my two best friends Charlotte Dean and Gabriela Ayala-Cañizares. In the Body Joy Project I have focused on both experiences of body shame, but also how we can move past body shame. For this, I’ve done paintings and interviews with friends, and explored how when we come together to share our stories there is great potential for healing.
2. What inspired you to become a body positive activist?
Charlotte: I remember flipping through magazines as a teenager trying to figure out which kind of fruit my body resembled most and what type of girl I was. Was I an apple or a pear? Was I preppy, grunge or punk rock? I longed for a tidy little box to fit in. But nothing felt right. I was just a person. As if that weren’t enough. As if there was something more I was supposed to be. I was too complicated, too messy, too different. Always overflowing. Seeing how much we doubt ourselves and how normal it is to put ourselves down, I am motivated to create work that illustrates the beauty of being a person. Just as we are, we are each more than enough.
Chloe: When I was eleven years old, I became anorexic/bulimic. In my past work I have examined my own body as terrain to consider body shame: my own body shame, the body shame of women in my family, and the body shame of women in this culture. Art is my place to reconsider the beauty ideals I have been given and to create new ones. Through painting, I could safely address my own past with anorexia, bulimia, and rape. I found that when I told my story, other women began to share with me the things that had happened to them. I began painting those women and mounting large scale art shows/events. Art has allowed me to create something beautiful out of devastating events. It has also helped me to start a much need conversation about how we relate to our bodies. I’m always looking to forward and deepen this conversation.
3. What have you learned about body love that has made the biggest difference in your life?
Charlotte: Feeling good about myself takes practice. There are days where nothing fits me and I don’t fit in. I have to remind myself to take a break when I need one. To buy the clothes that actually fit, not the ones I think should fit. Things like that.
Chloe: I think when it comes to loving my body, patience is key. The truth is that I still have really hard days where I feel ashamed of my body. That path from body shame to body love isn’t linear or straightforward. I have come a long way, but the trauma from eating disorders and sexual assault is complicated. Life without that kind of trauma is complicated when your culture perpetuates negative body image. So, I try to be patient with myself, and everyday I try to choose loving my body over hating it.
4. What is one change that you would love to see in the world to encourage more body love?
Charlotte: I think that starting the body love conversation with our children would make a huge difference in the world. Teaching them young to love their bodies and to respect the bodies of others is an incredible gift. I don’t feel that these are conversations that should start once someone is already in the midst of an eating disorder or surviving/perpetrating a traumatic assault.
Chloe: More respect! It is so simple it almost sounds silly, but respect is huge. Respect for our own bodies and all that they do for us. Respect for others and for what they want to do with their bodies. If we truly cultivated respect for ourselves and for others, body love would be more common than body shame.
5. Name another body positive activist that inspires you, and tell us about him/her.
Charlotte: I’m so inspired by poet and activist Staceyann Chin. I’ve been a fan of her writing for years. Most recently, she’s been doing a series of “Living Room Protests” with her young daughter, Zuri. They cover all sorts of topics, ranging from women’s rights to police brutality. She talks so openly to her daughter and encourages her to speak up, especially when it comes to her own body. At 3, Zuri is very clear about not liking when people pick her up without asking her permission first. She is developing a strong sense of what she does and does not like. Staceyann is adamant about empowering Zuri and constantly reaffirming to her that her voice matters.
Chloe: I feel incredibly inspired by the artist Aleah Chapin. Her work is breathtakingly beautiful. She creates these complex portraits and paintings of the women in her life, mainly of older women. She treats her models with such reverence and really illuminates their beauty. Rather than overlooking these women, she celebrates their beauty, wisdom, and age.
Body Joy Project is a feminist artist collective creating work that critiques and challenges the way our culture thinks about the body. We make art, teach, provide workshops and write to reclaim our bodies as sources of joy. Project Founders: Chloe Allred, Charlotte Dean, Gabriela Ayala-Cañizares.