by Weslee Kate
What makes us vibrant, unique, and alive? Is it the way someone flips their hair, or a certain look that they get in their eyes? Why do the things that set us apart often become the things that others choose to pick at and put down? We are taught that being unique is a good thing, but only if you are the right kind of unique.
But beauty comes shining from the odd, the different, and the strange. The 7 wonders of the world aren’t judged on their perfection but rather praised for their differences, because nothing else in the world compares to them! The same can be said for all the wonders of human beings in this world. The differences on your face, in your eyes, your body, and your mind! Those, those right there are what make YOU undeniably, truly, undoubtedly, YOU!
Welcome to the new age of models! We find perfection in our imperfections and are strong enough to deal with those who have not walked with us into a much more loving world. We put health above waistlines, because nothing is worth hating the body that carries your soul. We lift each other up instead of smacking each other down. We are all uniquely us and that is what makes us proud. Here are our stories, here are our flaws, and what you do with them is UNIQUELY up to you. #UNIQUELYUS #MYPERFECTIONIS
MY PERFECTION IS THE CHANGE
WESLEE KATE HEILEMAN
Photography: Nicollette Mollet
“My perfection is my hair, my crazy, curly, wild, life of its own hair. When I was little I refused to let ANYONE touch it, let alone brush it. I was so tender headed that brushing my hair was like fire running all over my scalp. My mom used to say that there must have been tigers fighting in my hair, no clue where she came up with that one! Because of this for most of my childhood I had a short curly fro (super cute I know). As I learned to care for the beast that is my hair I was allowed to start growing it out. By the time I was 13 I had hair down to my belt loops and LOVED IT! I felt like an elfin princess or a mermaid at all times. It wasn’t until I started modeling that it really became an issue, with words thrown about like “what do we do with this” “there’s too much of it to deal with” “This is going to hurt” “You need to cut this ish” and so on. It was teased, ripped out, burnt off, and even dare I say it BRUSHED! This treatment of it toughened me up real quick. Before long my hair became my “trade mark” the issue with this is that I then learned to hide behind it. I loved it, like a little kid loves their blanket. So needless to say it had too go. Shoulder length hair was the next frontier! A huge amount of people where genuinely mad at me for cutting it, which I found shocking after all the hate a heard about it's lengthover the years. I have at long last learned hair is hair, it will grow, and I will always have mine. I now love it but also don’t let it own me, because at the end of the day it is just hair!”
MY PERFECTION IS MY STRENGTH AND COURAGE
Photography: Tony Ellis
“On Thanksgiving of 2002, six-year-old me was running up the stairs to fetch drawing paper. I tripped and my right temple flew straight into the corner of a desk. I felt no pain, just shock, up until I took my hand off my forehead and noticed it was wet with blood. I was rushed to the emergency room, because a very small part of my skull was exposed and needed stitches. At first, I was excited by the experience and the fact I got to choose the color of my stitches. But after it healed, there was a bright white scar above my eyebrow, and some hair missing from it as well.
I didn't really have any issues with it until someone pointed it out to me. It was very noticeable in its early stages. I remember being at a shoot as a teenager and the MUA apologizing to me for the fact that it made it harder to be a model. What? Or photographers would ask me to turn my head in no-makeup shoots, or it would be photo shopped out.
I didn't realize how much that scar was a part of me until it started fading. I missed it immediately. It was a really great and ironically funny story, and now I realize that the scar wasn't a hindrance, but a reminder of the different things I've been through in my life. I love that scar and my weird eyebrow.”
Photography: Franey Miller
“I've been an agency-repped model since I was 17 and gone on to be represented all over the US from LA to New York. In these three years, I've had a lot of success. However, people don't really see the times I've been turned away and criticized because truthfully: I'm an in-between model. My measurements aren't small enough to be a fully traditional size 0/2 model, but OBVIOUSLY not anywhere near being plus-size. I've had many national and international agencies fall in love with my look and personality and reject me on measurements alone. For YEARS I did crazy things to try to get my numbers down (insane calorie restriction, constant exercise, wraps, etc) which were not only dangerous to my body but my psyche. Being in-between girl always left me the feeling with being "so close, yet so far" and that I "wasn't trying hard enough". Not only did my body respond negatively, the extreme regimen left me moody and angry and changed my social life too. There was one summer in New York where I had managed to drastically reduce my measurements, but I was still not happy because it was never enough. I thought I was completely alone until @charlihoward shared her story about being in the exact same position as me. This lead me to a totally different world where being a HEALTHY model meant more than being a tiny one. This is how I pay all of my bills. I'm so grateful for the strong women who don't take no for an answer in this industry. I feel like it's my responsibility to project a lifestyle that is safe and healthy too. There is still work to be done; even I have my own privileges in the industry. But my body is now something that I love, because at the end of the day it supports the life I love to live.”
MY PERFECTION IS MY TRADEMARK
Photography: Joy Wong
“My imperfection perfection is my mole on the lip. Some photographers would edit it out and some beauty clients and Asian agencies would reject me or even ask me to surgically remove it. But I love it because it makes me look unique. At shoots I can be very ambiguous with all different kinds of makeup and hairstyle and you can always know it's me when you see that beauty mark on the lower left side of the lip”
MY PERFECTIONS IS MY REMINDER
Photography: Maxine Helfman
“As a young child I used to hate when other kids would point it out so rudely, they would literally point at me and say "WHAT’S THAT ON YOUR FACE?!" And it made me feel uncomfortable but my mother would console me when I got back from school and she would say that God loved my face so much he squeezed a little too hard. Then I had troubles with new teachers pulling me aside asking if anyone was hurting me at home. I was always so confused but then it made sense and I was glad they cared enough to ask me. When I started my career I thought it would hinder me with modeling but it's never been an issue because of Photoshop. The only thing that bothers me is some times I think people think it's a side burn and I struggle with my feminism as it is so I can feel a little self conscious. Mostly though I forget about it has been apart of me for so long. Someone asked me for the first time this year if I've ever thought about getting it removed or people always ask if I try to cover it up. I can honestly say no I never have, I couldn't image myself without it because it makes me who I am. It would feel like I was missing an arm or a leg if I didn't have it. I've never met anyone else with a permanent blue spot on their face in my 24 years of life and that just tells you how special it is!”
MY PERFECTION IS MY HISTORY AND SUPERPOWER
Photography: John Michael Fulton
"My flaw perfection happened when I had already been modeling for about 2 years when one night I got out of bed to go to the rest room in a drunken stooper. I slipped on a T-shirt on the floor and bashed my head against the dresser. I received 11 stiches and two beautiful black eyes. Now I have an inch long scar in between my eyebrows that is very noticeable. It took me quite some time to try not to be ashamed or embarrassed by this scar, but now I have learned that it is just a part of who I am now. Some times I hate it, but I have learned to love it by seeing it captured in a photo."
Photography: Bil Brown
"My second flaw perfection is the one I was born with, my Dumbo ears. I grew up being picked on and made fun of. (In full honesty I am still called Dumbo by family and friends.) I always wanted to hide them, but now I have realized that it just makes me, me. I kind of love the fact that they stick out and that I look like I could take flight at any minute. It is a part of who I am and there is nothing I can do about it. There is a beauty in the things we can't change about ourselves because it challenges our mind to accept what we don't want too."
MY PERFECTION IS MY RESILIENCE
Photography: Kalan Briggs
"All my life I have been a petite girl. Though I've never been overweight, I do know what it's like to be judged for my size. I remember being told I would never make my dreams happen, all because of my height and my size. Every single modeling agency I went to all told me I wasn’t tall enough. I constantly felt like I was being looked down on when people would come up to me to ask me how much I weighed or comment that I needed to go eat a hamburger. It was the worst feeling knowing I couldn’t wear specific clothing brand labels because even their Extra-smalls would still be huge on me. I wish sometimes I had a bigger butt or breasts, because being approached by guys saying I looked like a stick and that real men liked curves made me feel real insecure about my stick like figure. I used to look at other girls and ask myself "What's so special about me?" This question often made me believe that I am nothing special, that I don't have what it takes to fulfill my dreams. It has taken me some time but I have learned to love myself and my body while holding a middle finger up to anyone who puts me down. Falling in love with yourself doesn't make you vain or selfish, it makes you indestructible."
So what do you say? Are you ready to stand up for the things that make you UNIQUE! #UNIQUELYUS #MYPERFECTIONIS