As women, we often focus on the things we wish we could change. For me it’s always been my light skin and freckles – two things that made me unique. All our lives we are taught to be ourselves and that we are unique, but no one ever tells you that being so unique often brings hardships.
I am constantly teased for my light skin but the joke isn’t that funny anymore because it often leaves the question: is that all that people actually see? And it hurts. Not because opinions matter but others find it okay to point out your flaws that you too are trying to cope with too!
Growing up, I suffered from severe eczema to the point where my skin would be raw, making me extremely self-conscious of who could see it. This has been a huge factor for me until last year when I decided to take full control of it. I started sharing my journey online with my followers with a series called #BeRealYo (which has now evolved beyond just my skin but things many are too afraid to share online). I shared about my skincare issues, and not wanting to be seen in public, not being able to wear make-up because my eczema had spread so far. Other women started stepping up and sharing their stories, providing advice and being of support.
There are days when I’m still so self-aware of it, it can be crippling. But being real with those around me has given me the confidence I need. We often look at other women, especially online, and think they have no issues – perfect hair, flawless skin, even tan, toned tummy. Photoshop is real friends! Being a petite girl all my life, gaining weight has always been a mission for me, which may sound ideal but until recently it meant being forced to shop the children’s section because a size 13-14 fit me ten times better than a size 6 in the women’s department. That’s not fun! Imagine working in finance and struggling to find appropriate office attire. But the real icing on the cake is being told, at a fashion show, in front of other people, that I don’t wear enough make-up and look far too young for this industry. I’m 23. I look 16 on most days. I don’t wear much more than a BB cream and mascara if you’re lucky. But that’s what makes me happy and what’s good for my skin. For the longest time after I was told I look too young, I tried to change things and not look so “cute”. “Cute” was offensive. I now officially own it and say thank you. I’d rather be cute than look much older than what I really am anyway. That’s the thing, we hold onto what others say so heavily that we forget why we do what we do, wear what we wear or live a certain way. It’s because we’re happy and have accepted who we are. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.
Now, as someone with a little bit of influence, my vision is to empower women to be real with themselves, by me being real with them. Society has norms, and standards. But who created them? Surely we can change them! All of this has indeed made me stronger and is exactly why I stepped out of my comfort zone and started the clothing brand, Juan. To salute the brave women, to say it’s okay to not wear that dress but a t-shirt instead. To salute those brave enough to be themselves, who dream bigger and do what makes them happy. Never forget who you really are just for a pretty picture. I too have cellulite. I have scars. My hair doesn’t always do what I need it to do and I still don’t have a tan. But, that’s okay because it’s authentically me!
Empowering clothing brand (Juan.): www.facebook.com/stylejuanleo