Being naked is not just about removing your clothes. It's about stripping down the walls you have been building up your entire life. It's about finding the beauty in vulnerability. Katie captured my attention by emailing me with the subject "The TERRIFYING Naked and not afraid shoot." I read her story probably 10 times over and was captured by her vulnerability, and even more so impressed by her strength. This year she turns 30 and what better way to turn 30 then to celebrate who you are!

As you may already know, the goal of my Naked but NOT AFRAID series is to show the world that beauty isn't a definition, it is a way of truly being free. Beauty is vulnerable and authentic, and more importantly, messy. Beauty is being who you are, the good and the bad. EVERY woman deserves to feel beautiful despite the constant pressure from society to be 'perfect'.

I narrowed it down to 5 women. 5 women with unique stories that gave me the feels, women with stories of how they put their middle finger up to the man and said THIS IS WHO I AM AND I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK. This is their journey to finding confidence again, despite setbacks. These are 5 of the strongest women I have had the pleasure of getting to know. These Women are NAKED but not afraid.

THIS IS KATIE'S STORY

All of my life I was the skinny girl.  Too skinny. My friends were hitting puberty and getting cute little figures and I stayed the same.  I was called anorexic even though I ate whatever I wanted.  I was told on multiple occasions to “go eat a cheeseburger” or “you need to gain some weight” or “nobody likes to snuggle with skin and bones. You need some meat on you.” I had heard it all and couldn’t wait to break out of my small town.  If these other girls had curves and could feel beautiful then why couldn’t I feel beautiful being small?

I had just turned 20 years old, going to the college of my choice and living my life like any other free spirited college girl.   I had everything in order and was exactly where I wanted to be.  Went to all of my classes, hung out with friends, had good grades, partied …… I was the girl that had all of her stuff together. Invincible.

 Suddenly, I found myself in the darkest part of my life.  Pregnant and feeling very, very alone.  In survival mode. I felt like I had let down everyone that had ever known me.  How would I break the news to my parents and the rest of my family? How would I financially be able to support a kid at this stage in my life?  My life was over. I was so consumed with what everyone else thought about this “little girl” who didn’t have a ring on her finger, didn’t have a steady income, and who still looked like she was 14.  Doctor’s appointments were a nightmare. I would get stared at and talked about as if I wasn’t even in the room by all of the other moms waiting. I dreaded going every. Single. Time.  When I could turn off all of the noise in my head though, for the first time in my life, I felt like a real woman.  I had boobs, I had hips, I had real woman curves! I felt beautiful. Every single inch of me felt beautiful.

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Flash forward to the day my baby boy was born. August 26, 2008 changed that life.  I went from worried about what the entire world thought of me to staring into the eyes of my son and knowing that every aspect of my life had just changed.  He was my reason, he was my light. He was what made me feel beautiful.  Nothing could break me now, right?  My son’s father and I had stayed together and I felt like everything was turning around. I was working full time to support my son, our new townhouse, we were doing well.  His father and I got married one year after he was born.  Life was perfect.  Then two months after our wedding I found out that he had been unfaithful multiple times.  We tried church, counseling, asking for support from family. Nothing seemed to be working.  The day that he decided to get violent, I took my son and walked out for good. 

Here I was, now 21 and single, with a one year old baby boy. Back to survival mode. I went from feeling unstoppable and gorgeous to undesirable and like another statistic.  I did everything possible to make sure that nobody else would see a single bit of my struggle.   Being vulnerable in this stage of life was not an option……or so I thought.  Who would want to be with a 21 year old, single mom, who was now living back at home with her parents?  I did my own thing for a few years, getting back up on my feet and pushing forward because I refused to let someone else control my emotions anymore.  I was my own person, I had to be strong for my son. I couldn’t be afraid anymore. There was no other choice but to pick myself up, dust the crap off, and save me.  The night I consciously made that decision, life started to change again.

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Now we are in 2011.  One of my best friends of 5 years at that point was a single father of a beautiful little girl whom I adored.  We decided to go out for dinner one night and my whole world got rocked.  For the first time ever, when I saw him that night, he looked totally different to me.  This was the beginning of my new life.  He had a way of showing me that I was worth it. 

We have been happily married for 5 years now.  We agreed early on that we both wanted more children. We were both at a stage in our lives where everything was perfect to bring more kids into the loving household we had created together.  We have now been trying for three years with no luck.  It is exhausting. I want to give my husband another opportunity to be a father, I want to give our kids a sibling, and I selfishly want to give myself the feeling of redemption.  I want to feel beautiful again.

Lying in bed one night I was telling my husband how exhausted I was, how emotionally drained I have been, how I was really losing hope, and how much of a failure I felt like.  He looked at me and said he was feeling all the same things.  What were we doing to ourselves? We aren’t the only ones struggling with fertility issues. We aren’t alone in this chaotic roller coaster of a ride.  I decided that it was time to change my thinking.

And in comes Alexandria Kenyon.

The day of my shoot was invigorating! Freeing. Incredible.  For the first time in a long time, I am able to recognize that my journey had molded me into exactly who I am today and that’s exactly what I need to be.  I cannot live my life in survival mode anymore. I am missing out on so much life.  We haven’t lost time in our journey to be parents again.  It has taken each and every situation that we have encountered to bring to me where I am now and now is right on time! It’s ok and necessary to know that with or without another baby, my life is complete, I am whole, I am perfectly imperfect, I am beautiful, and most importantly….I matter.

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Please leave this brave woman some love! She is incredibly difficult to step out of you comfort zone and share you story with the world! Can you relate? Share!

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