Written by ARIANE LAEZZA
I know you think 30-year-olds are old as fuck. I know, because when I was your age, I did too (and being at the age where I say things like, “when I was your age,” I really do realize how annoying I sound, but stick with me here).
Allow me to formally introduce myself. I feel obliged to inform you here that I’m actually not a mom. Something tells me that that may give me a bit more clout in this particular conversation.
My name is Ariane. I have a degree in Communications. I speak French and English fluently. I’m an artist, a photographer, and a writer. I’ve also been modeling since I was 17. I’m 33 now. That’s 15 years in front of the camera – hanging out on your screens, in your magazines and on billboards.
Why does that matter? Because my entire career has been based on image; my own, and the image of the brands that pay me to represent them. I had to learn, with some help from a few wise industry professionals before me, that this can be a tricky reality to manage if you’re not careful.
The thing is that I had people there who helped me navigate the bizarre reality of having a public image. But now everybody has a goddamn public image and nobody is telling you how to deal and I don’t think that’s fair. So in the name of solidarity with you, my sisters, I’ll tell you everything I know about how to have a healthy relationship with your online persona…
Let’s take it back a few years first, shall we? When I was in my teens, my cousin and I would do our hair and makeup, style ourselves in short, tight dresses and high heels and do mini “fashion shoots”. We’d practice our poses and our walk and try to “act sexy”. We were acting then because we were too young to even know what sexy meant. But we explored that though, as we should have, because it’s natural and healthy to be curious about your sexuality and your new identity as a young woman.
Our film photos never went past the print shop, of course – this was a time before we even had to concern ourselves with social media. The photos were for us.
They helped us to form an outside view of ourselves… they were evidence of our newly acquired hair & makeup skills and our new, evolving bodies…and they helped us gain confidence.
These days nothing has really changed except where the photos end up. And who sees them. It may not seem like a big deal to post that bikini selfie, or pout your lips for the gram or post that sexy styled shoot you did with your girlfriends. After all, this is you, right? But it’s a bit more complicated than that.
We are all on screens – all the time. We are validated by likes. We use filters to smooth out blemishes and skin tone, apps to elongate our faces… We lose ourselves in concerning ourselves too much with what we look like rather than what we do or what we think.
The unfortunate reality, though, is that sex sells. You know that as well as I do. Selfies and T&A shots get more likes, and bikini models traveling the world, satisfying their #wanderlust have become the epitome of “making it” in the IG/Snapchat world.
But I’m here to tell you (as if you didn’t already know) that not all that glitters is gold. Social media is mostly smoke and mirrors. Everything appears more glamorous on screen. We are now all actors of our own lives. But please – don’t get caught up in the show.
Ladies, you are beautiful, sexy, powerful. WE know this. You know this. And they know this. But who is this “they” exactly? These shadows of friends on social media… future boyfriends…future girlfriends…future employers…perhaps even future employees (when you’re the boss running the show one day). They are all there, seeing everything you post.
You should freely and boldly express who you are; you are young and this is the time to craft your identity. But your future-you awaits you in the not-so-distant-future and she is asking you to think twice about what you share with others online, because people will remember and it may sneak up on you one day.
The image of ourselves we present to the world may reflect aspects of who we are, but it’s different from who we actually are. Our value as human beings cannot be tied to our image, our appearance, our body parts, our youth, our clothes, because if it is, we become subject to the approval of others; and that is one seriously dangerous game to play.
Those likes may feel good. They acknowledge that you’re beautiful, young, sexy, bold. But you already knew that. Or maybe you didn’t, and all the likes and attention are telling you that you are, in fact, a babe. No matter where you are on that learning curve (don’t worry, I can promise that you will get there), what I’m saying is don’t let others be the judge. Be your own damn judge.
Should you be proud of your body? YES, absolutely. As a young woman you are powerful and captivating. More than you know. But, as you will quickly learn, there are people out there that will try to come after that power. Take advantage of it. Diminish it. Or, quite frankly, get off on it.
There are some that will celebrate it, pay you compliments and the number of “likes” you receive will go up and up and up. Because, like I said, you are beautiful and powerful. But you are smarter than that. You know that your worth and your value are not tied to your appearance, so don’t allow them to be.
You know that you don’t need any “likes” to tell you that you’re badass. You know you’re a babe and that true babes let their light shine through, without having to overexpose themselves to the world.
Do you feel liberated? Empowered? Comfortable with your sexuality? Great! That is what we want more of. But be mindful of who you share your energy with, ladies – not everyone deserves it.
Trust me. You will thank me when you’re as old as I am.
xx Aunty Ariane