New Year, Nude You: Learning To Embrace Your Body In 2017

Love the skin you’re in

New year, new you. It's the age-old cliché we're met with each and every January as if the first month of the year signals a shedding of the skin and becoming a new version of yourself. Why seek new, though, when you, as you are now, still has room to grow? 

The sense of possibility at the beginning of a new year is, indeed, contagious. At the heart of "new you" is really the drive to better yourself and understand the way you work, think, and exist. It's not so much about becoming someone new, but becoming the person you're meant to become. That includes learning to love your body, the vessel that houses your mind, heart, and soul. It's no easy endeavor, but it's a liberating one. We chatted with nine individuals—from a variety of creative backgrounds and gender identities, and all of whom we look up to—about how they learned (or are learning) to embrace their skin and bones. It's a new year, sure, but you are still you, worthy of the space you occupy in this world. Discover yourself a little more ahead.

Photo by Anthony Urrea

Bailey Stiles is an artist, hair stylist (#StyledbyStiles), muse, and all-around goddess of sex and desire in New York City.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

Around age six or seven, I learned that people are just people—even our own parents can mess up. Just being myself made me feel the best, so I have always stuck to being just Bailey and following my heart as much as possible without letting my mind and soul help it out. Through time and every year, I learn to take what I have done and make it a part of who I am and not just what I am doing.

Stiles' advice for loving yourself:

Practice self-love and spend time alone and loving that time you have to yourself—even it's just a bath or touching yourself, brushing your hair, or being alone with your thoughts. These are all things I do to keep myself happy and that have helped me become the strong transgender woman I am today.

Photo courtesy of Kat Blaue

Kat Blaque is a YouTuber, writer, and illustrator. You can find her here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

I think what helped me become more comfortable with myself was, honestly, taking a lot of selfies. It sounds vain and shallow, but there's something about being able to hold a camera and depict yourself how you choose to depict yourself that I absolutely love. I'll never forget taking a set of photos for this brand I was promoting on my channel and falling in love with how much I looked just like the fancy ladies from 1940s magazines that I've always loved. As an influencer who embodies multiple intersections, I love taking selfies and representing so many of the things I never see in magazines. I didn't look just like those ladies in those magazines exactly, because they were the polar opposite of me in terms of race, body type and hair texture. However, now I can grab a camera and create my own narrative.

Blaque's advice for loving yourself:

If I could give anyone advice on learning to love your body, it would be accepting that your body is a blank canvas and you can make it whatever you like. Your skin is beautiful in whatever color and whatever texture because it's your skin and you're beautiful. Some things about our bodies we can change and some things we can't. The human body is amazingly resilient, and if you want to change it, then go ahead and try; but don't do it for anyone other than yourself. When you try to change your body for other people, you're bound to get trapped in a negative feedback loop where everything you do isn't good enough for the person you're trying to impress. Then, you'll never fully be at peace with those changes because you didn't do it to better yourself, you did it to impress them. Remember that how you feel about yourself is far more important than how other people feel about you.

Signe Pierce is a multidimensional artist based between New York and Los Angeles. You can find her here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

When I was in college, I had just moved to NYC and I was going through a super awkward phase. I was having a hard time "finding myself" in a city that had such a strong identity and backbone, and I didn't know how to act around all the people who seemed so much cooler/prettier/funnier/smarter/more talented than me.

At some point, I realized that I was wasting my life worrying about how other people were perceiving me because it was getting me absolutely nowhere. I needed to stop dedicating energy toward people who might be judging me, and instead, channel that energy into bettering myself. By shutting down these insecurities, I was able to gain a better sense of self, which little by little helped to build my confidence. Even if they were judging me, I wouldn't allow it to destroy me, because I knew myself and my self-worth was bigger than someone else's opinion.

Pierce's advice for loving yourself:

Don't be afraid of being alone! Being alone does not equate to being lonely. It's a hugely important part of gaining a sense of self and building confidence. Take yourself out on dates, go for a walk or to a museum or to a movie by yourself, and dedicate that time toward introspection and reflection. Don't just sit on your phone thinking about what other people are doing. This is your time, and you need to make your self-esteem a priority.

It might feel a little strange at first but think about your inner-self as your own best friend. Ask yourself questions, talk to yourself about things that are on your mind, allow yourself to daydream, and think about what it is that you really love and what it is that you want out of this life. These times spent developing a sense of self will lead to confidence in knowing who you are. A strong sense of self will make it harder for other people's opinions to break you down and will help you better understand how to get what you want out of life.

I think it's important to remind yourself that everybody questions themselves and is their own worst critic. EVERYBODY. No one is thinking about you as much as you, yourself, are; everyone is thinking about themselves, and what other people are thinking about them. I try to remind myself not to lead with judgment when thinking about others. We're all on this bumpy, confusing ride of figuring out who we are, and judging someone else doesn't get you any closer to your own personal throne. You will find peace in the freedom of not allowing other people's opinions to have too much power on you, and to not be overly immersed in what other people are doing. Just do you, boo.

Frances Cannon is a multidisciplinary artist who focuses on illustration. You can find her here, here, and here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

It's really a day-to-day process of telling myself that everything is okay, I am beautiful, and I am worthy of happiness and fulfillment. Some days are better than others; some days, I have terrible self-confidence, but I have to realize that that is part of the human journey. It's important to know that it's okay to slip up and have days of low confidence, and then you can wake up the next morning and start over. Self-love is a process.

Cannon's advice for loving yourself:

Selfies are a great way for me and some other people. Also, getting dressed in something you like and pampering yourself. (There's nothing wrong with pampering yourself.) I think getting out of the house also helps if you're stuck in a rut; walking and being in nature or just under a tree in a park helps to reconfigure your negative mindset. Everyone needs to learn that self-love is a slow process and it's not going to happen all at once. It takes time and care each day.

Photo by Azha Luckman and Kristin Powell

Rewina Beshue is a creative who does a bit of everything based in San Francisco. Get to know more here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

Learning to be comfortable in my own skin definitely took a lot of time. I realized that being comfortable in your own skin means being an individual and not allowing your fears or insecurities to overshadow who you really are. Self-love is a really important concept because I feel like in this generation, social media exposes a lot of people to superficial or artificial lifestyles, appearances, etc. It’s important to know who you are and love how you are because no amount of money can change that. I believe that I am beautiful because of who I am, what I love, who I love, and who loves me. Surrounding myself with a lot of strong people who I can relate to has helped a lot with me being comfortable in my own skin. I know that I couldn’t be anyone else but me.

Beshue's advice for loving yourself:

To not give a fuck about whatever anyone says about you. Be the best individual you can be. Why conform to the 99 percent when you can be that amazing 1 percent because there is only one of you on the earth and you shouldn’t waste it on trying to be someone else? Everyone is created differently, and we are all equally beautiful and inspiring. Even if you feel like no one gets you, it’s okay to be alone, it’s okay to not fit into social norms or trends because there are defiantly people out there that will understand and appreciate your existence and individuality. Selfies are honestly so empowering in my eyes. I feel like a lot of women I know feel shy or embarrassed about posting selfies on the internet because it casts this shadow of public judgment on us. If you feel like you look damn fine, then take a photo of yourself, no shame! Self-love is extremely important because no one can love you better than yourself.

Photo by Skye Parrot

Jennie Runk is a model represented by JAG Models in New York and a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, soon to be starring in the Straight/Curve documentary. Get to know more here.

Runk's advice for loving yourself:

Feeling comfortable in your own skin can be a long process that isn’t always easy. Take some time to reflect and really get to know yourself. Ask yourself if you're the kind of person you'd want to be friends with or fall in love with and strive every day to become that best version of yourself.

Photo by Lauren Perlstein

Devan Díaz is a writer based in New York City. You can find her here and here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

As a transgender adult who was once a transgender child, I was born at odds with the world. I knew myself to be something and someone different from what the world had decided for me. So the first thing I knew to be true was that the opinion I had of myself was the one I had to follow. The only one that was true. That has carried into adulthood, and I what I decide to be true for me takes precedent over anything else. I decide every day that I'm going to love myself, and I go looking for it. I may not love all of myself, but I can always find something to love. The way I handle a breakup, the way I am able to speak up during a meeting at work—that's where comfort comes; it comes from a commitment to the self. Also, dancing and having really good sex.

Díaz's advice for loving yourself:

To anyone who is having trouble loving themselves, I would say to thank your body. Even when we want to stop, it keeps going. It keeps us going. The existence of my body is a such a miracle to me. A thousand years ago, transgender and gender non-conforming didn't have the resources we have now to medically transition. I adore my breasts and the span of my hips because they exist against such great odds. This isn't only true for trans people. People of color, women, and disabled people do not live in a world that is designed for them. But somehow they're here! And that is such a miracle.

Rae Tutera is the cocreator of Bindle & Keep, a bespoke suit company specializing in suits for all bodies. You can find Rae here and here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

I learned to love my mind before I learned to even consider liking my body; it's where I found joy, it's where I liked to spend time. When I was 25, I had a conversation with a friend who was in a similar relationship with herself where we agreed we would both love to just exist in our minds and discard our bodies; after all, we only related to ourselves above our shoulders. That was a wake-up call conversation where I realized I couldn't spend the rest of my life, living inside my body, feeling that way about my body. I'm almost 32 now, and I've spent the last five-plus years learning to find joy in my body, too, and learning to spend time in it. It's all trial-and-error (CrossFit being an error; I'm more of a Pilates person) and finding what works, and then not judging myself for what works. The surest things for me have been having a partner and a group of friends who are also being deliberate about learning to be comfortable in their skin. For me, that energy is contagious and comforting; practicing radical honesty with those friends, myself, and my therapist; and getting tattoos (Trudie Kaiser) and skin fades (Alana Lucia).

Tutera's advice for loving yourself:

I'm still learning to be comfortable in my skin, and I think that's an important thing to remember: it's a process. Every tender move you make toward yourself counts. I always tell people to do what feels good, and I realize that doing what feels good may feel unnatural and it may even feel unpleasant or uncomfortable. I think, beneath the layers of self-doubt we may experience and the narratives we absorb about ourselves, we really know ourselves. Trust yourself. When I first starting going into the men's sections of stores and felt like I was trespassing, I kept reminding myself I had the right to be handsome. We all have the right to be ourselves, to be situated in ourselves; it's our birthright. Remember that when you take selfies or experimenting with your hair, or when you decide to finally sign up for that dance class at the Y. For me, wearing clothes that aligned with my identity gave me deeper access to myself, to my joy, and to other's folks and their joy. Seek out what you sense will do that for you.

Photo by Raphael Clemente

Philomena Kwao is a model represented by JAG Models with a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's in global health management. You can find her here.

How did you learn to love the skin you're in?

Feeling comfortable in my own skin has been a journey that I’m still on. Each day, I find a new appreciation for another part of my body, and I’m constantly marveling at what it is capable of. I lean on the positive energies in my life and practice positive affirmations. It’s really all about keeping that mindset.