How Theater Is Opening New Doors For Inclusion

By: Jenna Kijauskas

When surfing various social media platforms, there tends to be a trend in the type of look that rises to the top. You all know what I am talking about- thin, flawless, and primarily white. However, while this is the flooding look that we get engulfed with in our feeds, most people do not fit into that “picture perfect mold”. From one screen to an entire stage, people are craving change in the so called role models that they look up to in terms of body image and diversity.

At the end of November, Pittsburgh’s Public Theater took matters into their own hands and off social media with their adaptation of the movie Mean Girls, called School Girls. The traditional movie features four white teens who deal with multitudes of drama and deception and of course were also pictured as the “hottest girls in school”. School Girls combats these stereotypes of race and body image in a school setting where many of us face our insecurities to the fullest and are the most insecure about who we are. The play is based off of Aburi Girls Boarding School and takes those factors of self-doubt and preaches acceptance. The cast is all female and follows Nana as she struggles with her weight and eating, as well as racism in a clique full of girls. The play was shown until December 8th, but it’s impact in society spans much farther.

Success for representation continues out of Pittsburgh and into New York City where the New York City Ballet made history in casting the first black “Marie” in the play The Nutcracker. 11-year-old Charlotte Nebres is the first ever black representation of Marie since the first showing in 1954. The young ballerina gives hope to other young kids that they too can erase stigmas and represent their own cultures in any avenue that they so please. For young children or for anyone who feels they cannot fulfill their dreams based on appearance, this is one huge step for inclusion and acceptance of all. The play will continue until January 8th and will also proceed being an example for other platforms of media and theater.

From the two states and then on, diversity and inclusion must be implemented in every avenue whether that be on social media, in the theater, and then on. We must fight for body image acceptance and diversity to keep making wondrous feats such as these shining examples.

This map shows just how far these two theaters span, yet inclusion remains the same
( 316 miles )

If you have any questions about what diversity, body image, or inclusion is- click this link and then click the three dots in the bottom right to start asking away!

Jameela Jamil and Sara Sampaio’s Body Beef on Twitter

While conversations on body image mostly consist of uplifting messages and a “zero negativity zone” , Jameela Jamil ( body image activist ) and Sara Sampaio ( model/ advocate for body image ) got into it over one of Jamil’s tweets. Jamil responded to a video of models of all sizes dancing on the runway saying “Oh my god, this looks like the most fun, not a long starved teenager in sight. Beautiful” , which brought on quite the commotion with the somewhat shaming comment and casting most models as unhealthy images. While her sentiment does have some truth behind it, Sampaio rose up and spoke up for her modeling community.

Sara Sampaio lashing back at Jamil on Twitter

This argument carried on with Jamil responding that she was not trying to attack models in her tweet, rather point out that there are young girls starving themselves to meet smaller sizes. She then went on to say that some people use drugs and other harmful dietary measures to meet those standards and if Sampaio did not see that, she was “living in a bubble.”

Sampaio went on to say that Jamil was attacking some to celebrate others and to say that drug use is not a problem only for models- but society as a whole. Jamil quickly lashed back at the Victoria Secret model and the company itself, followed by another reply by Sampaio.

The argument certainly started to get hot and heavy, both women proud of what they do and very passionate about their communities. The escalating fight was ended with one more reply from Sampaio and then again Jamil.

While this is not the usual way that Jamil carries herself, she is very passionate about body image and inclusion. Many people called Jamil a bully for this and shamed her for stereotyping a whole sector of people, those people being models. While this is not the most constructive way of handling body image conversations, there are many people all across the world carrying out their conversations in a little less of a hostile manner.

Many women from across the world like Carolina Contreras, Virgie Tovar, Rosie Molinary, Dania Peguero and Gloria Lucas speak out for body image by embracing who they are and encouraging other women to do the same. These women span all over the country and then some, yet making this world a better place together by their encouraging sentiments and fight for body positivism for all. For a better idea how far this battle spans, see below for a map showing all seven of these body image stars including Jamil and Sampaio.

So What’s Next For Mental Health?

Now that Mental Health Awareness week wrapped up and so is it’s dissection- what’s next? The next time a week of our year will be dedicated for mental health will be May 13th through May 19th in 2020. In this week there will be focus on education, awareness in family, and awareness for health. The theme and other focuses are yet unannounced, but will be unleashed soon. There are also other avenues sooner than that of mental health awareness for each month next year starting in February.

Thank you Awarnessdays for all your hard work!

In February there is Time to Talk Day encouraging others to speak up about what is bothering them and about any mental health concerns they may have. In March, there is self injury awareness day, university of mental health day, and world bipolar day. In April the calendar continues with several days of awareness like stress awareness month, healthy workplaces for all ages, and UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week takes the conversation worldwide.

Thank you NAMI for the informational video!

Continuing in May, there is Mental Health Awareness Week and in June, Volunteer’s Week and International Father’s Mental Health Day. As the video above mentions, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, so September dedicates itself to World Suicide Prevention Day to try and educate people that there are other options and other avenues of help. We must work hard to fine tune our hearts and brain together as a linked system and get our bodies as healthy and happy as possible.

thank you @global_mental_health_support for the powerful image!

October casts an overview on World Mental Health Day as well as it’s regularly scheduled week for mental health awareness in the second week of the month. Then rounding the year up in November- National Stress Awareness Day, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, and Anti-Bullying Week.

Be sure to look for more updates on next year’s schedule for mental health awareness activities and events and if you missed it this month- gear up for a year full of love and support to ourselves and others!

How Queer Eye Cast Gives Male Body Image a Voice

When we think of body dysmorphia or issues with body image, we tend to think of women young and old who have dealt with shaming of their figures on the inside and out. However, in doing this, we are leaving out an important sector of this issue. Men have been left out of this conversation for quite some time, but Queer Eye stars Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness are breaking barriers for men with body image issues.

Porowski sat down with GlamourUK in an interview and opened up about how he felt much more comfortable with his body when dating women rather than men. He went into saying that when with men, there was a sense of comparison, like many of us do when we are around others. There is an extra added pressure and anxiety while being in the limelight with body image- but also while in a relationship- there is added pressure to be “perfect and sexy” for your partner that has extra added pressure when your partner has physique like your own. In the show Queer Eye, Porowski helps others to feel good about themselves and what they put in their bodies by offering food suggestions and showing them healthier, more versatile cooking styles. In doing this, he says that he can feel much better about himself and grow towards self-acceptance , something we all hate to admit, but all desire in our lives.

Anthoni Porowski on body image issues

Jonathan Van Ness , hair guru on Queer Eye, also shared his wide array of body image issues and body positivism for men this past week. Van Ness has been nothing but transparent with the media- coming out with the fact that he is HIV positive as of late as well as speaking upon his relationship with his body. Much like Porowski, Van Ness works on the show to improve people’s sense of self-worth and build up their confidence. For someone whose job is to lift people up and with his electric personality, you’d think he has it all together and enough confidence for all of us. But he has opened up to say this is simply not true and that a conversation for male body image is in high demand and low stock.

Van Ness speaks about how body image issues is something that he has dealt with his whole life and that it should not be limited to gender. In being honest in saying that the “socially acceptable male beauty standards are not wide enough for his looks” , he transpires a new view that has not been expanded upon enough, one that has led him to have an unhealthy relationship with food in order to fit said standard. He even wrote a book “Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love” which talks about how he came to be the vivacious man he is today. He begins the book with an inspirational dedication which is something we all need to remember.

From Van Ness’s book “Over the Top”

All of us need to remember that our issues are not only our own. We have a whole community who understand and feel exactly what we are going through regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.- we are all going through this together. While most of what we read on body image issues consists of women and their experiences, we must remember just because we do not see the male experience plastered all over the media- does not mean it is does not exist– which is a large chunk of the problem. Most people with body dysmorphia, ( male, female, and all in between ) feel the need to fit a certain mold or role to fit societies standards, but it is about time we shake things up and give society a shape up in terms of body image.

That’s What He Said- talking about men with body image issues

These men from “That’s What He Said” talk about body image issues in men and their experiences, let’s challenge ourselves, whether that being talking with a family member, friend, or group of friends about any possible body image issues we may have an open up the channels of conversations for ourselves and others.

Talking, Being, and Doing All That Is Mental Health

Since Mental Health Awareness Week has a whole seven days or so dedicated to it- why not spend a few days unpacking it, right? There is so much that goes into this week from it’s growth, the stories that are unmasked during it, the different sectors of awareness, the list could go on and on. But now that we’ve talked about the expansion and what exactly it was focusing on- how about what do they actually DO?

Thanks for the banner & all you do for mental health!

Organizations like the MHA ( Mental Health Awareness ) and NAMI ( National Alliance on Mental Illness ) donate their time and resources promoting mental illness all across the entire year, but even more so on the first week of October, or the mental health awareness week. These brilliant and inspiring organizations not only hold important conversations pertaining the topic, but events to get more and more people participating in this important conversation.

Thank you New Orleans Public Library!

The MHA includes events like Wellness Day Expo that includes massage therapy, wellness products, workshops, healing modalities and more! They also hold an event that engages children in the arts to help them express themselves in a happy and healthy way. They also dedicated each day of the week for a different sector of mental health : Monday- Anxiety, Tuesday- Bipolar Disorder, Wednesday- Psychosis, Thursday- Eating Disorders, Friday-Depression, Saturday- PTSD, and Sunday- Addiction/ Substance Abuse Disorder. They also provide more information on just what each of these illnesses entails on their website.

NAMI continues this interactive mental health awareness experience with messaging guides about how to navigate conversations of mental health, places to share your own personal story safely and in a community with compassion, walks for mental health and so much more.

Video from NAMI trying to tackle mental health stigma

Now if you cannot attend or participate in any of these events- do not fret! In weeks and months dedicated to mental health awareness, something as simple as wearing the color green shows support for those suffering of mental illness and helps to rid the stigma that devours our society.

The Growth of Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health taboos are starting to become a thing of the past with the support of celebrities, public figures, and even just everyday conversations pertaining to the matter. But just how much has this conversation grown?

In a typical year, one week in May and one week in October is sectioned off to promote awareness of mental health and usually, one aspect in particular ( This October’s being body image ). From this last October to now, the growth in searches and attraction to the subject matter is quite substantial.

10/14/18′ through 10/14/19′

In the graph above, we can see the rapid incline when it comes to mental health awareness searches at the start of awareness week ( October 6th ). By having the attraction of this serious illness rise, the more we are led to believe that there is more conversations about this year then last. It can’t help but make you think about this years topic of body image and the fall months just starting to crisp up and the possible correlation between the two- the same line of thinking with the darker months, body image, and mental health.

Past 90 days searches for mental health awareness

Once again, taking a closer look at the week of mental health awareness week, in the span of the last three months, searches and traction to the topic are undoubtedly in a rise during the week of conversation- leading us to believe that the stigmas of mental health and body image issues are diminishing from last year to now and we can only hope the wise words of hope continue!

One of the promotional videos shared by Tallulah Self for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Stay tuned for an in-depth look tomorrow of just what this year’s mental health awareness week pertained in terms of activities and promotional support.

A Look Into Mental Health Awareness Week

This past week was dedicated to mental health awareness, but with a unique twist of body image issues being the main focus. Those suffering with body image issues or body dysmorphic disorder ( BDD ) are extremely private about it most of the time because they already feel ridiculed by themselves and do not want to cast more attention to themselves or open up the flood gates of disapproval/ shame. With a whole week being dedicated to ending the stigmas of mental health and body image issues- there is potential for massive leaps and bounds of progress to be made and an opportunity for more expansive conversation.

Many people think of body dysmorphia or body image issues as an issue of perspective, which does hold some truth behind it. However, it is actually characterized as a mental health issue, with the mind altering the way one perceives their own appearance and even some OCD in the obsession someone takes in a singular body part or their body as a whole.

Having body image issues along with mental health also stems into other mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and most of them are stemmed with an eating disorder as well. With mental health and BDD, these culminations of issues wrap themselves together so most of the time the proper help and assistance for each problem is hard to diagnose and treat.

During this week, I will be taking a look at the mental health sector alongside body image issues on how they were advocated throughout awareness week, as well as some inside information on BDD and mental health issues combined.

Thank you NAMI ( National Association of Mental Illness ) for the image!

Growing Up Under Spotlight and Blight of B.D.D.

With 2019 Fashion Week coming to a close, we are left with the aftermath including conversations on B.D.D. ( body dysmorphic disorder ) and body image. Every year these conversations spark up with the choice of models, social media posts on the fashion, and celebrities attending the events and opening up the floor of advocacy for body image. However this year, Maisie Williams stole the spotlight this week with her interview with Vogue speaking up about body image issues that many celebrities develop when growing up in the Hollywood spotlight.

Thanks Kat Jayne for the truthful image on how people with body image issues feel

Williams spoke out on how playing Arya Stark on GoT at 14-years-old while her body was changing throughout the 8 years that the show took place really messed with her off-screen image. She said how while growing up and maturing, she was ready to be a woman when her character still had to disguise herself as a boy on and off screen with having to contour her nose to look more masculine and even taping down her chest. Having a young, developing girl play a role where she defied the rules of femininity while inheriting her womanly features for the first time is bound to confuse anyone.

Thank you Loganathan Kutty for the Arya Stark image!

Body image issues are already natural while we grow up especially when going through puberty and trying to figure out exactly who we are. For celebrities, having to do this under the public eye, being subjected to ridicule, and not to mention having to literally put on a persona in your day to day job causes problems of body dysmorphic disorder all the more.

Thanks Claude Malaison for the Brooke Shields photo!

Williams is not alone in her struggle growing up in the limelight. Actress Brooke Shields also recently spoke out about what it was like growing up in the limelight with body image in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle. She spoke about the disconnect with her body and how she is astonished that she made it as far as she did in her several acting roles. For a young Williams- and young aspiring people everywhere- Shields can serve as a tale of inspiration for everyone including those growing up in Hollywood and beyond.

How Billie Eilish Is Making +Body Image Trendy

Over the past few months, there has been a rise in the amount of popularity, conversations, and searches of the topic of body dysmorphia. While this disease has always been one of importance, there is prospect for a win on body image issues coming our way soon.

One of my all time favorite singer song-writers and body image activist Billie Eilish performed on Saturday Night Live on September 29th defying gravity in one of her signature ensembles singing “Bad Guy”. Now you may be asking, what in the world does this have to do with body dysmorphia? Well, you may have not heard of Eilish before, but the singer’s searches were at an all time high this past weekend as well as her and the beloved topic of body dysmorphia.

Billie Eilish’s recent spike after the SNL performance on September 29th, 2019

With a rise in this star’s popularity, her style and preaching of her own struggle with body image is bound to rise alongside with it. Billie makes a clear and conscious effort to shield her body from the public eye because she does not want to fall into the whims of this society feeling it is necessary to pick apart her body as if it is theirs. With her ground breaking fashion and ideals, just about everything Billie is creating or putting out there is becoming news.

Eilish shown in one of her signature outfits displaying her lack of receptiveness for others comments on her body and image

Having someone who doesn’t feel the need to showcase, edit, or flaunt her body in the public eye but rather focus on her talents as a singer is something we have not seen in quite some time. Eilish is ground-breaking in the way that she is combatting social media and celebrity stereotypes by not only being open about her own personal struggles with body image, but focusing on who she is rather than what her body looks like.

Eilish giving fans a better depiction of her truth and who she is.

The fact that this 17-year-old singer feels the need to hide her body because of how society picks apart others is absolutely sickening. Add in some body image issues for a young and rising star and mental health is surely to become a concern. We must speak up and against this society that adds to already crippling body image issues and take matters into our own hands just like our rising star Eilish.

Body Image Bravery In Everyday Heroes

For most of this blog, we have recognized brave stars and celebrities who give us inspiration to believe in ourselves and love our bodies just how they were designed. I cannot help but shoutout Lili Reinhart speaking up about body image this week and motivating others to do the same- which is precisely what the Riverdale actress did.

Everyday, brave souls who do not have the fan support of these singers and actresses speak up about their body image issues. If you check on the Twitter discover page thousands of uplifting images, quotes, or even just real people’s stories on body dysmorphia flood the gates with positivity and meaning.

Real women like Rachel Peru, a 49 year old body confidence activist up and changed her career to be a body positive plus sized model to increase her self esteem and to “stop wasting energy hating her body.” She talks about how so many women over the age of 40 speak about losing their body confidence and with bravery and charisma. Peru takes her power back for herself and all those other women out there who struggle with their physical appearance and/or age with not only her modeling career, but her podcast on these issues as well.

But it doesn’t stop there. Jeff Rhodenizer , a Social Studies teacher at New Germany Rural High School teaches his students about how they feel about themselves on the inside opposed to the outside. Studies show that children younger and younger are facing body image issues and at a crazy rate due to the social media society they are being brought up in. So to see this teacher take these real life issues off Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter and bring them into the classroom is a breath of fresh air.

Among these body image activists, are my fellow bloggers on this issue spreading the word of body positivity and trying to put an end to body dysmorphia stigmas as we know it. Keep your eyes peeled for these courageous voices speaking up and calling out body images issues being engrained in our social media.