I am in love with this photo

When I opened an email from Julie at The Butterfly foundation with this image in it, it literally took my breath away. In a good way. I thought it was absolutely stunning in the same way I loved this image.

There’s just something so…..lush about it. So real. The tummy! It’s a little thing and most of us would be thrilled if our tummies only hung over that much when we sat down. But it’s just not something you ever see in the media, is it?

Nowhere do we see images like this reflected back to us. And it continues to baffle me as to why.

The photo originally appeared very small in an issue of Glamour magazine a couple of months ago. But it has received a new focus this week when the editor of US Glamour, wrote about the overwhelming reader reaction to it.

In her blog, Glamour editor Cindi Lieve writes…..

It’s a photo that measures all of three by three inches in our September issue but the letters about it started to flood my inbox literally the day Glamour hit newsstands. (As editor-in-chief, I pay attention to this stuff!) “I am gasping with delight…I love the woman on p 194!” said one…then another, and another, andanotherandanotherandanother. So…who is she? And what on earth is so special about her?

Here’s the deal: The picture wasn’t of a celebrity. It wasn’t of a supermodel. It was of a woman sitting in her underwear with a smile on her face and a belly that looks…wait for it…normal.

I’d loved this photo at first sight myself–we’d commissioned it for a story on feeling comfortable in your skin and wanted a model who looked like she was. But even so, the letters blew me away: “the most amazing photograph I’ve ever seen in any women’s magazine,” wrote one reader in Pavo, Georgia. From another in Somerset, Massachusetts: “This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops.”

The emails were filled with such joy–joy at seeing a woman’s body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature. (Raising a question: With all the six-packs out there, do you even know what a normal belly looks like anymore–other than the one you see in the mirror?)

So what’s the story behind the photo? “The woman on p. 194” is actually 20-year-old model Lizzi Miller, and this is her second appearance in Glamour, shot by fashion photographer Walter Chin. A size 12-14 and avid softball player/belly dancer (“I like exercising when it’s fun”), Lizzi moved to New York City from San Jose three years ago to become a model (a “plus-size” one by modeling industry standards, though hello, at size 12 she’s actually “normal size”…but I digress).

“When I was young I really struggled with my body and how it looked because I didn’t understand why my friends were so effortlessly skinny,” Lizzi told me. “As I got older I realized that everyone’s body is different and not everyone is skinny naturally–me included! I learned to love my body for how it is, every curve of it. I used to be so self-conscious in a bikini because my stomach wasn’t perfectly defined. But everyone has different body shapes! And it’s not all about the physical! If you walk on the beach in your bikini with confidence and you feel sexy, people will see you that way too.”

As for the letters, Lizzi’s loving them. “When I read them I got teary-eyed!” she says. “I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked. When J. Lo and Beyoncé came out and were making curves sexy, I started to accept myself more. It’s funny, but just seeing them look and feel sexy enabled me to do the same.” Lizzi, now you’re doing the same for all of us–massive congrats on that.”

When I posted the images of the supermodels without make-up earlier this week, there were many comments deriding them for being shot in black and white or possibly having had “bits of surgery” or being “professionally lit”. My attitude is this: baby steps. These are women who have earned their living from looking flawless. They’re MODELS. Their professional worth and income is indexed 100% to their appearance. So I figure it was pretty brave for them to be photographed without make-up and a decision that should be applauded or, at the very least, encouraged.

That’s my view anyway.

And then I found myself being critical when I read the Glamour Editor’s comments! Hypocrite? Moi? “Why was this stunning photo only ‘three by three inches’ (7.6cm squared) dammit!” I thought. “Why wasn’t it a glorious full page? Why?!”

But then I thought, at LEAST it was in the magazine and at LEAST readers were vocal in their support and appreciation of it. That’s a start. So at least Cindi Leive can listen to her readers’ delight in seeing a more realistic body in her magazine and maybe next time, she’ll think about using more photos and models just like that.

What’s your reaction to this photo? Do you believe a photo in a magazine can affect how you feel about your own body? Are you currently seeing bodies like your own reflected anywhere in the media? And I don’t just mean magazines…..

We’re always looking for inspiration for people you would like to see in our galleries. Let us know who they are.