Odessa Cozzolino, Founder of My Body Gallery

OK, so it’s no secret that we LOVE the idea behind MyBodyGallery.com. But, you know who else is pretty awesome, herself? Odessa Cozzolino, founder and owner of My Body Gallery is! After we wrote our article about the site, we got a chance to actually sit and talk with this AMAZING and groundbreaking bold woman.

Cozzolino is all about real women, just like we are!
“When women can see other women’s real bodies and understand what 130, 150, or 180 pounds really looks like, they can start to gain a realistic appreciation for the diversity of women’s sizes and shapes, and the beauty that is totally unrelated to a number on the scale. It’s often easier to see this in others first, but my hope is that it will translate to women’s self-image as well.”
And, it’s not just about body image for Cozzolino. She feels that women are much more than what they see in the mirror. “It’s probably impossible and definitely implausible, but that’s my dream: that one day each woman will discover something that they would rather think about than how they look. Imagine.”
Bold Magazine: OK, first thing’s first. This is an incredible idea. How did you think of it?
Odessa Cozzolino: I am a photographer and after taking a lot of photographs of women who were uncomfortable with how they looked I thought “I wish women could see themselves the way others see them and not the way they think they look.” And so I decided to create the site.
BM: What is your goal for My Body Gallery? 
OC: I wanted there to be a place that would have honest representations of what real women’s bodies look like. We tend to bring a lot of baggage to the mirror (whether we think we should look like a fashion model, or want to return to how we looked before we had children, or never measured up to what our mothers told us was beautiful, or that we’re too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, etc.). We are also bombarded with images and ideas about the “ideal” woman — her size, her shape, the “magic number” of her weight. All of this leaves us in a position to have no real idea of what look like to others — and feel bad about ourselves to boot, for not looking the way we think we’re supposed to.
BM: What were your biggest challenges?
OC: The biggest challenge is definitely the technical end of it. Trying to find a website designer / builder who understood what I wanted and getting it to function properly is an ongoing challenge.
BM: How long has the site been running?
OC: The site launched in early 2010.
BM:  How much has the site grown so far?
OC: Since it’s launch the site has steadily grown, but over the last few weeks it’s kind of gone “viral” with over 4million hits in the past 7 days. Yay!
BM: Wow! What has the feedback and user involvement been like?
OC: The vast majority of the feedback has been amazing! And obviously user involvement is critical since all the photos are user uploaded.
BM: Where do you see the site going in a year? 5 years?
OC: I hope that the site will continue to grow its database so that it can be more representative and useful to more women. And then, the thing that I wonder about the most is: Imagine what we, as a gender, could accomplish if we thought about something, anything else besides how we look? Imagine. Would music be written, diseases cured, planets discovered, books written? What are we, as humans, missing out on because half of our population is constantly thinking about how they look?
BM: Tell us about yourself. Were there any other empowering ideas you had before this? What do you enjoy besides building confidence in young women?
OC: I am a photographer and I love being able to take photographs of people and show their beauty. It’s an honor.
BM: So, we know you run the site yourself. What does your day consist of? Any plans to bring on some help?
OC: I am also a mother and photographer, so my days are varied and busy. In regards to the site, I spend a lot of time answering emails and reading MyBodyStory submissions and deciding which ones to publish.
BM: Tell us a great story about your work with My Body Gallery. What is the best thing you’ve heard or seen since beginning the site?
OC: The thankful emails are the best part! Like this one:
A Facebook friend posted a link to this website with a little description of what it was about. That was yesterday. It hasn’t even been a full 24 hours and already this site has created an amazing sense of peace for me. One doesn’t realize the effect until after hitting the “Random” button over and over again, watching as body after body passes by. The beautiful truth that everyone knows but finds so hard, if not impossible, to face: Each person really is 100% unique. No two bodies are the same. Not a single one is better or worse than any other. I want to thank the creators of this project/site for helping me really realize and finally accept this truth. I’m 30 years old and have finally accomplished this seemingly impossible task for most women: Just loving the body that I’m in. I feel like I’ve had a moment of enlightenment and I’m truly grateful. I fully support what you are doing! Thanks again!”
BM: Do you have any plans to expand this beyond a website? Events? Publications? Etc?
OC: I would love to someday do a project that combines my photography with the mission of the site. What that will look like I’m still working on.
BM: We’re all about our “Bold” here at Bold Magazine. Can you show us yours?
OC: I believe that anything is possible. Anything. If you want something, or dream of something, just do it! There is power in action, in the moving forward toward your goal or dream or idea. It’s how I try to live. And how I hope to encourage those around me to live.

Bold Resources: