Women Destroy Their Labels In This Empowering Photoshoot

When faced with all of the negative labels society places on women, two photographers decided to destroy the harmful words in a powerful and artistic way.

They photographed seven women, each with labels and insults they have been called written all over their bodies, then covered those words with glitter and paint and took more photos. And really, what better way is there to eliminate a nasty insult than literally covering it in glitter?

Abigail Spencer and Meg Bishop, co-owners of Salt and Light Photography in Grants Pass, Oregon and the photographers behind the project, organized the "Don't Label Me" photoshoot as a response to unrealistic and hurtful standards placed on women. Each women photographed tells her own story in separate posts on the duo's Facebook page.

"Today, we want to say screw you to the contouring and spandex. To filters and tummy trimmers. To weight loss pills and pushup bras. To every horrible, uncomfortable, unrealistic standard of which we feel we have to live by. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends. We are women. We are strong. Unified. Bonded. We are unapologetically confident from here on out," Spencer and Bishop wrote in a Facebook post about the project. "Here’s to us being us, so 'DON’T LABEL ME.'"

The women in these photos are seriously inspiring, and represent many different body types and life experiences. Read on to see more of their photos and read some of their stories.

67% of U.S. women are plus-size. Join as Refinery29 gives these women their own megaphone, doubling down on our commitment as allies, and partnering with them to catapult their powerful conversations into a true historic movement. #WeAreThe67

Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
"We want to break society’s standards and the cookie cutter mold that we are expected to fit into. We have yet to have met a woman who is completely comfortable in her own skin and wouldn’t change a thing about herself. We’ve been called names, cat called, abused, sexualized, looked down upon and labeled because of our appearances. Kim Kardashian is beautiful but there is only one her. We ought not to be expected to be her and to manipulate our bodies to an image fitting to the standard of being 'like her.' These are our bodies, the only ones we will ever get. So, let’s live our lives," the photographers wrote.
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
“On our way driving home from a photo session, we were talking, how most best friends do, about how we struggle with our self-image and how things that people have said to us, or labeled us, are hurtful and we can remember vividly being called things clear back to grade school,” Spencer and Bishop told Scary Mommy.

“One thing led to another and as the conversation continued we came up with the image of ‘Don’t Label Me’ as a way to help EVERY woman feel beautiful and hopefully break the mold of the stereotypical skinny/curvy/contoured woman being the only ‘beautiful.'”
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
The women in the photoshoot made their labels disappear, quite literally, by covering them with paint and glitter for the final shots, showing that they're all so much more than the words they've been reduced to.
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
One of the participants, McKyla Crowder, described her struggles growing up with vitiligo, a condition that affects skin pigmentation. She first developed light patches around her eyes at age 4, and they spread around her body as she grew older.

“I tried everything I could to fit in. No matter what I did, it never seemed to be enough. I hated being unique and different. I would cringe when I was labeled as 'spots' 'cheetah' or 'leopard,'" Crowder said on Facebook. “Now I am happy to say that I love the skin I wear. And I wouldn't be McKyla with out it!”
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Participant Candace Constantin opened up about many struggles during the photoshoot, including being a survivor of multiple forms of abuse and also battling issues with her mental health. She also talked about the frustrating labels placed on plus-size women.

"I am fat. This is the first thing you will know when you look at me. I am not curvy or chubby, I am fat. What you won't know is that is just a label and not who I really am. I am intelligent, creative, loving, involved. I am a mother. I have been through a lot of things that have tore me down and left me damaged, made me feel like I was worth nothing and would be nothing. Here I am though, I have survived," Constantin said on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Anja Crawford opened up about the uniquely harmful labels that are placed on women of color, while also stressing the importance of representation. She looked up to women like Queen Latifah and Serena Williams as a teen because they were "thick, powerful, and strong," the photographers wrote.

“I built up my own confidence excelling in sports and academics. By the time I went to college I would let what people called me get to me, I would be upset and call my mom to vent and cry. There were a few people who would try to shake my confidence, by calling me a 'fat girl' or a 'fat bit*h' … but I would look at them and think 'That's all you got, really?'" Crawford said on Facebook.

She also shared her experience from the first time she was called the n-word, and how (rightfully) angry that made her. But she tries her best to ignore the words of others, the photographers wrote.

“But no matter what people say I will always love myself first," Crawford said.
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
“I'm involved in this movement to show that no matter how you grew up, or what you look like, or what you are labeled ... you can overcome those obstacles," said participant Melissa Bowers.

Bowers has overcome struggles with mental health, bullying, and eating disorders, all of which led her to participate in the "Don't Label Me" project.

"Melissa now is married to a wonderful man and has two beautiful boys, yet she still faces insecurities and depression from past experiences. Her goal is to rise above today’s ridiculous standards and bring attention to everyone’s uniqueness and beauty," the photographers wrote.
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
"One of our beautiful models from our Don’t Label Me photo session had us all in tears as we watched a breakthrough of courage, strength, and self confidence arise in her. Tears steamed down our faces as we snapshot photos of her in her most vulnerable and raw form and as we saw the words she has been labeled throughout the years," the photographers wrote about Cassie Giesbrecht's story.

The photoshoot fell only a week after the 11th anniversary of a car accident that left Giesbrecht unable to ever walk again. Even in the face of her struggles, Giesbrecht is optimistic.

"This doesn't mean that I haven’t struggled or experienced challenges in my life. I've spent multiple days crying and feeling bad for myself, but I seem to shake it off and somehow I make it through another day. I stay positive and I help others around me with disabilities and somehow I've found that this may be my calling!” she said.
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
A consistent message of hope after struggle and pain was present through all of the women's personal stories. Participant Aimee Griggs talked about the heart-wrenching events of losing her older brother as a child and then having to put her own father into jail.

“We all have rough roads ... some are just less traveled. My road was founded on every form of abuse," Griggs said on Facebook. "I lost myself, found myself, lost me again and just now am I deciding who I am, what I like, where I am going, why I believe, and how I am going to be better!”

Griggs closed with a sentiment that can sum up the entire project: "We are more. More of what any human can discern.We are each created with a purpose, a future, and a hope ... not for evil and not for labels.”
Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Photography
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