Take The Body-Image Challenge

Photo: Courtesy of ALDA.
There may be only one universal truth when it comes to our bodies: We cannot see them objectively. Body image, by definition, is "a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance" — and more often than not, we don't subjectively think we look absolutely gorgeous. That's why we've paired up with ALDA, a revolutionary collective of professional models that aims to revamp the idea of "gorgeous" and show us all the beauty we've been overlooking in ourselves.

In celebration of our 10th anniversary, Refinery29 is launching 29Rooms, a massive party / art project / interactive experience that celebrates all the vital elements that make us us. Body positivity has long been one of our core values, and as such, we've created an entire room devoted to challenging all the old ideas of what we see as a "beautiful" body.

Working with the five founding members of ALDA, we've created the Beauty Beyond Size Room, composed of four mirrored booths, each of which distorts your reflection to reveal a different version of you: you at a larger size, you at a smaller size, your traditional reflection, and your true reflection — which reverses the image so you can see yourself as others do.

The women of ALDA provide voice-over guidance in each booth, urging you to question and observe your own body in a new way, ultimately asking you to confront the voices in your head — the good, bad, and ugly. We, in turn, asked each model the same four questions about her own body image, and the answers we got were both unique to the individual woman and relatable to all. Of course, it's no surprise that we all see ourselves through a distorted, often negative lens. The question, now, is: When will we decide to see something else?
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Photographed by Jonathan Grassi.
Julie Henderson

What makes you feel the most confident in your body?
"I feel most confident in my body when I have been taking care of it. When I eat food my body loves and find a way to have a good sweat several times a week, it doesn't matter what size I am; I feel amazing."

What makes you feel insecure?
"When I haven't taken the time to care for myself, I can feel the difference in the way I carry myself. When I don't put my self-care first, I notice that I'm not as confident."

How do you want to be seen in the world?
"I want to be seen as a woman who loves herself and who loves others. Someone who leaves a trail of happiness everywhere she goes."

How do you want to see others?
"I want to see the best in others. I hope to see people for who they really are. No masks, no facades."

Inga Eiriksdottir

What makes you feel the most confident in your body?
"Being around the people I love, and when I've been taking good care of myself, getting enough rest, healthy eating, and exercise. It also helps to wear something I'm very comfortable in, that I find flattering on my body."

What makes you feel insecure?
"I don't remember the last time I felt insecure in my body — thankfully, it's been a long time. Situations that triggered it in the past were teenage years when I was still growing into my body. When I went on [the] first few dates with my boyfriend. When I put myself outside my comfort zone, for example, [with] public speaking. I can feel insecure about what I'm about to say, but hardly ever in my body."

How do you want to be seen in the world?
"I want to be seen as someone caring...thoughtful, present, and someone who contributes to society."

How do you want to see others?
"I want to see others for who they really are. [I] hope to see people learn to be comfortable in their bodies and learn to really love themselves."
Danielle Redman

What makes you feel the most confident in your body?
"I feel the most confident after a hot yoga class, pilates, or something that has made me sweat or laugh. Working out normally makes me laugh. I love when I have no makeup on [and] my hair is however it was when I woke up, and [I'm] in my baggy clothes."

What makes you feel insecure?
"I haven't felt insecure about my body in years, but [I] get irritated if my clothes are too small, or if I ate something that doesn't agree with my body. I get insecure if I'm in a situation that I should've prepared more for."

How do you want to be seen in the world?
"I want to be known as a woman who is true to herself [and] lives in the moment — open, healthy, vibrant, sexy, luscious, and a little wild."

How do you want to see others?
"I want to see others as their true, happy, loving selves. Living their lives the way that they want. Enjoying whatever situation that they are in and seeing the best in it."

Marquita Pring

What makes you feel the most confident in your body?
"I feel most confident when I'm challenging myself, and by staying healthy and active. My skin glows, my mind is clear, and I feel invincible!"

What makes you feel insecure?
"I feel insecure when I get too busy and stop living for myself. It's important for me to stay connected to my mind, body, and spirit. Surrounding myself with a strong support system, like my Alda Women!"

How do you want to be seen in the world?
"I want to be seen as the happy, healthy, intelligent, compassionate woman that I am. It's important to me that people see me for my personality and not just good looks."

How do you want to see others?
"I want to see others for their true colors. Often, people get wrapped up in their insecurities, masking who they really are. I like to ask questions that require honest answers. I think that gives a good insight into who someone really is."
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