The Following Article is a Guest Editorial from Danielle Pavoney [Danielle is also a vendor at our Love Yourself Weekend!]
Let’s start off with a little bit about me. My name is Danielle; I’m a 36 year old teacher, I love movies, makeup, and country music. I have a full addiction to my iPhone and Amazon Prime, love all things Bravo, and my newest guilty pleasure is indulging in Lucky Charms marshmallows by the bag (thanks again Amazon Prime). I struggle with my weight and live in a constant back and forth between trying to lose weight, and trying to embrace the plus size thing because I enjoy food so damn much. Currently, I’m somewhere in the middle- uncomfortable with the way I look and feel, but still lacking the motivation to do much about it.
Oh yeah, something else about me, and this is kind of a major one- I’m single. I call this major because I’ve been single for so long that it has sort of become part of my identity. I have been single, but not alone. I put myself out there and date a lot. I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to online dating and the art of the dating game as whole; only because I have accumulated a great deal of experience over the years. Now I’m great at starting a conversation, intriguing men with my charming personality, and most of the time securing a first and at least a second date, but I will admit a major insecurity of mine: pictures. There was a time in my life when I considered myself photogenic. That was about 15 years and 50 pounds ago. At that time, in the days before iPhone cameras and social media, I rarely gave a second thought to posing for pictures with my friends. Now, asking me to take a picture is like asking me to… ok I actually cannot think of an appropriate analogy, but I don’t like it! And mostly, my friends know not to ask. When I do oblige either because it’s a special occasion or I’ve had a fair amount of vodka, one quick picture turns into a whole ordeal because I’m either blinking, making a weird face, or just generally unhappy with how I look. When I look at these pictures all I see is the extra weight, a too-round face, and a double chin. My usual response is either “delete that right now,” “do not post that,” or “if you’re gonna post that, don’t tag me!”
Ok getting back to online dating (I promise I’m going somewhere with this)…a major part of all dating apps is the pictures. I can’t escape that part. And not only that, but without full body shots, people think you’re trying to hide something (which basically I am) so it is expected that you post a variety of pictures so your prospective dates can get a real feel for what you look like. This is a struggle for me. I have a few decent pictures from my shoulder up that I use on all the apps, and some older pictures from once upon a time when I did lose weight that I still keep up to this day. I cringe when a guy I’m talking to asks if I have more pics, or asks which picture is my most current. A major insecurity of mine is the fear of meeting someone in real life for the first time after chatting online, and having them be disappointed that I don’t look like my pictures. I suppose I bring that upon myself, but if you ask most men about an online dating horror story, 90% of the time it has something to do with a girl being much bigger than what he had expected. I just feel that if I can hook them into that first date, then I can win them over with my personality. Am I misrepresenting myself? Maybe, but I want to put my best self out there, and to me, those pictures are the best I have. Now body positivity aside, because that’s just a whole other ball game and I’m not quite there yet, I just want to focus of the idea of how we present ourselves in pictures, and more specifically, pictures on social media (and/or dating apps in my case).
I’ve never been much of a selfie girl. I just feel like most of the time, the person posting them just comes across as vain, and there was always just something embarrassing about being that person. I mean, I won’t say I’ve never posted a selfie (as evident by my Instagram account) but I try not to over indulge. Recently, I started selling makeup- a perfect side gig for me as a makeup junkie myself. Since social media is such a big part of direct sales, I decided that it was time for me to embrace the selfie. How could I expect people to buy a lipstick or an eyeshadow, if they don’t see it on a real person? As I said before, I do love makeup so the thought of taking these pictures was slightly less excruciating because I could have fun putting it on and look at it as more of an art project than a chore. In the short time of the existence of my Facebook and Instagram business pages (Kandi Koated by Danielle), I’d say I’ve posted about 5 selfies. Although I had fun with the process of applying the makeup, what should have been a quick snap of a picture, turns in to a minimum of 10 each time before I’m satisfied enough with one that I feel comfortable posting. Now because it’s makeup and colors that I’m selling, I don’t filter these pictures in order to maintain the integrity of the product and show the true colors as they photograph. I should also note that while I have 544 friends on my personal Facebook page, my Kandi Koated Facebook page only has 44 followers, and Instagram even less, so I know that my audience is not as wide or public when posting on there.
Today I went out to lunch with some girlfriends. I wore a lipstick color that I had not yet photographed for my pages. I decided to take some pictures before I left so I could post this great brown lip that I was rocking for the day. I took a few pictures from a few different angles, in different lighting, inside/outside, scarf/no scarf, glasses/no glasses/sunglasses, until I settled on 2 pictures. They were ok enough. My face didn’t look too big, my pimple was not super obvious, and most importantly, my lipstick looked good!
Tonight, I found myself bored and scrolling through my camera roll. I looked at one of the selfies that I had rejected earlier in the day due to my face looking too red (and whatever else I found unflattering in the moment). I began playing around with the edit settings on my phone- brilliance, exposure, highlights, contrast, etc. I made so many adjustments to this original picture, that I found myself looking at it and thinking I looked good! In fact, I thought that it was now good enough to post on my personal Instagram. I pushed the little plus sign on Instagram, stuck the Valencia filter on that picture, and I looked like a friggen supermodel. I felt some embarrassment in posting this picture, especially since at the time of posting, I had washed off all my makeup, my hair was wet and straggly from my recent shower, my pimple cream had been applied, and I was looking nothing like the girl in this picture. But I posted it anyway. I added this caption: “Can someone please invent something that lets us look in real life the way filters make us look on Instagram?”
[Editor’s Note: It’s Important to note that we did not edit these pictures at all, other than to scale them for our site. We rarely edit or filter photos…]
I posted the picture and almost immediately had this thought, a whole stream of thoughts actually. I’ll share them with you in the same crazy order that they popped into my head. This overly filtered picture is what I wish I looked like always. I was unwilling to post the original photograph without the filters because I didn’t think I looked pretty enough. Everyone, especially celebrities, posts the best versions of their best pictures. People look at these pictures and aspire to be like them, or look like them. My skin looks perfect in the picture I posted today, but underneath the makeup and the filters is red blotchy skin that has been breaking out like crazy lately. People need to realize that even celebrities, as naturally beautiful as they may be, only present the best versions of themselves on social media and we can’t solely compare ourselves to these “perfect” pictures. While we may appreciate the beauty in the picture, we need to realize that what we are also appreciating is makeup artistry and photography skills. What if everyone posted some real pictures- bad angles, no makeup, no filter? Then maybe we could begin to see the realness, and appreciate our beauty in all it’s states, in every version- not just the filtered one.
This rapid stream of thoughts led me to an idea. I was ready to start a movement. What if people posted their worst picture- no makeup, at the most unflattering angle (for me it’s camera below the chin shooting up) and then shoot that same picture from a better angle. The next picture would be with makeup, and then finally with makeup, from a good angle, and with a filter. That final picture is usually what people post as if it were the first- but why not embrace the process! Listen, I’m not saying that we should all give up the filters because sometimes, yeah, it’s nice to look at a picture of yourself and think you look pretty- much like I did today. And there’s no way in hell I’m giving up makeup simply because I enjoy it. But maybe if more women would be open and honest about what it takes to get that perfect picture, then it would be easier for the rest of us to accept ourselves at every stage of beauty. I plan on taking part in this photography/social experiment, whatever you want to call it ASAP and hope that with a clever hashtag, maybe it will catch on enough to empower other women to do the same. I don’t expect to suddenly develop this great confidence just because I can embrace and recognize the reality of Instagram filters, but maybe putting it out there will help others understand, and maybe one day I will get to the point where I won’t care what angle a photo is taken at, and I’ll willingly take pictures with my friends feeling confident and not worrying about bad skin or double chins. Maybe I’ll even post some recent pictures on those dating apps and find someone who also appreciates all versions of me!