Rediscovering The Goddess

23rd March, 2015

Traveling is one of the most important things we can do in life; it’s the most sure-fire way to open the eye and expand the mind, and it does so in ways we almost never see coming. Last fall, at the flea market in Paris, I stumbled upon a vintage postcard featuring the photograph of a voluptuous nude woman, curled up Indian-style atop a square-shaped pillar, like a fertility statue on display at the Met.

Thinking it was the most arresting nude photo I’d ever seen, I pocketed it for about 2 euros, later discovering that it was a quite famous picture made by the photographer Cees van Gelderen. I’ve had the little print on display in my home ever since; at first it hit me like a bolt of lightning, and it’s continuously seeped deeper into my psyche. Maja, the woman who modeled for it, is so moving to me. Her body is unbelievably beautiful, and the longer I’ve lived with her, the more I’ve admired it. Images have so much power, and this one really got me thinking about what a massive lie women today have been sold, about how destructive it is to have only one standard of beauty. Dealing in images of women is my job; I look at them all day long, so why is seeing this shape in a celebratory light such an anomaly?

Mainstream aesthetics insist that only skinny is sexy (at best, curvy girls are relegated to the fetish domain), and it’s not only arbitrary and untrue, it’s also incredibly dangerous. Studies consistently show that the majority of women are dissatisfied with their bodies ~ dissatisfaction is so prevalent in fact, that in the U.S. being worried about your body and your weight is considered an intrinsic part of being female. How is that okay?! Why have we agreed to conform to a narrow set of standards that allows for no alternative?

Personally, it took me a long time to feel comfortable in my body; to be honest, that’s still a work in progress. As a young girl, I only understood nudity as something sexual, and while I didn’t understand what that  meant, I knew it must be bad. I was too shy to even be seen in a bra by my own mother, and to this day I haven’t fully shed that deep-rooted discomfort. I have always been a naturally thin person ~ but I’d love to lose 5 or 10 pounds.  Gazing into the mirror, I see my flaws long before my beauty: my arms aren’t thin enough, my bum is a little too dimply. If I could shrink my ankles by half, I totally would. Our culture of unattainable perfection hasn’t taught us to celebrate ourselves; instead, we are constantly reminded that something needs fixing. Women are told to make themselves small (in more ways than one), made to feel apologetic about how much space we take up, apologetic for our very nature.

Only in classic art do we see women at their Rubenesque best. The great Renaissance painters consistently revisited the image of a zaftig Venus, the goddess who embodied beauty, sex, fertility and desire. Her curves were her power!

We have conditioned ourselves to see the world as a series of dualities: black and white, good and evil, life and death, love and hate, true and false, right and wrong, yours and mine, pretty and ugly, fat and thin. Perpetuating these duplicities does not make them true. In ancient cultures, the entire universe was seen as a circle, not a set of opposing angles. In such traditions, the woman-as-goddess was revered, the curves of her body representing the entire circle of life, the whole heavenly sphere. A woman gives birth just as the earth gives birth; she gives nourishment as the plants do. The roundness of her being is emblematic of her magic.

Like most creatives, I work through what’s happening in my mind and heart by exercising it in my work. Deep in my soul, I needed to interpret (and thus digest) that postcard from Paris. I needed to take ownership over my way of seeing, to not blindly seek out what my eyes have been instructed to find. And the shoot that resulted from that impulse, the images you see on this page, genuinely shifted something within me. I’ve never in my life seen a woman as natural, as desirable, as beautiful as I did on set that day. My aim is not to exoticize or condemn any body type, only to remind us all that there are a million different ways to be womanly, and we should demand to see every one of them. This essay and these pictures only scratch the surface of a much larger story. The more we see, the more we know; the more we know, the less we fear. The less we fear, the greater capacity we have for love.

We are the stories we tell ourselves: please give your body a little extra praise today.

  • “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

    – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Alex

    such an inspiring post! I have to agree on this ‘I’ve never in my life seen a woman as natural, as desirable, as beautiful as I did on set that day’. that girl seems to be so happy and comfortable and confident in her body, it’s amazing to see that!

  • Isabela Gomide

    Love this post! Beautiful!

  • SR

    “Women are told to make themselves small (in more ways than one), made to feel apologetic about how much space we take up, apologetic for our very nature.”

    That is quite profound. I’m tall and I grew up slouching and cowering, trying to shrink myself down to “feminine” proportions. Then I grew up, had daughters, and realized that being a woman and mother is powerful and satisfying and I let myself grow into my full height, and trained myself into my full strength with physical activity. It doesn’t really matter where you draw your power from, as long as you embrace it.

    Another great post! She is stunning.

  • annesophie

    Great post! Beauty has no age nor definition, it’s all about grace…Rubens’s muses were of generous proportions, and Hollywood legends such as Marylin Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor were curvy leading ladies

  • Linh

    This post is so inspiring that I have to comment to tell you that. I always understand everything you you mentioned, but sometimes it takes powerful images to make it to my brain. I recently had a baby and my body is no longer the size and shape it used to be. But I love this new change and embracing it most days. So a nice reminder is always lovely. Thank you Kelly!

  • chelsea5k

    Kelly, what an absolutely breathtaking post. It is a daily struggle for me to be kind to myself and to accept and love my body, and your words, combined with these inexpressibly gorgeous shots, nearly brought me to tears. I am going to bookmark this page and visit often to remind myself that no matter what I weigh, I am powerful and beautiful and deserving of love, as are we all.

  • Annie Ford

    Kelly, these photos are as affecting to me as that original photo of Maja was to you. Thank you!
    Is it possible to purchase a print from this photo shoot (either through you or through Jamie) so that we might have the pleasure of living with such inspiration the way you’ve gotten to live with Maja?

    Please respond back. And keep up the good work! Your execution and your writing has never been better.
    Tons of femme love to you and your collaborators, Annie

    • Daisy

      I agree with Annie as I’m wondering the same thing. Hope there’s a way for us to get prints of these inspiring shots

  • Jannely

    This is one of my favorite articles I’ve read so far. Very inspiring and thanks for sharing with the blogging community!

  • Daisy

    Your writing is beautiful here; there’s really heart & soul in the words. I was struck by the phrase of how you were even too shy to let your Mom see you in a bra; how true this often is for a lot of us!

    The photos with the different graceful bordering on contortionist poses also fit the words very well; the choice of b&w without any adornment (jewelry, clothing, shoes) also adds a timelessness to the subject of the shot. Like saying the truth we see in the shots will still be truth long after we are gone and only the shots remain. Thank you for making me think while enjoying this post!

  • J

    I’ve read your blog for years, but this is my first post. Thank you for this, Kelly.

  • Arline Jernigan

    it always warms my heart, when someone touches this issue. It is vital fir each of us to see the beauty that we, each uniquely possess. We have been trained to compare with others, and feel less than, when we don’t fit into a specific mold. It took me years to begin to like let alone love my body. Years of eating disordered behavior and mentality took me by the neck and had its way with me, until finally recovery became my aim. I see so I don’t blame anyone or anything for the path that I went down. Though I will say, we are trained to see things a certain way, and the beauty industry has a very narrow view of what is truly beautiful, and that is very unfortunate.

    Yes, all aspects of beauty should and must be represented.

    Thank you for a beautiful editorial.

  • Yvonne Matthews

    It seems like it takes a lot to capture the attention span on anyone reading articles online. And I will be honest, I love your blog, but I rarely read past one or two sentences at best, usually just scrolling through to look at the beautiful imagery. Today, you have managed not only to compel me to read the ENTIRE post, but to also comment on it, another thing I very rarely do. So inspiring! Thank you so much. We are and have always been way too hard on ourselves as a gender. Never satisfied. Thank you for putting this out there and chipping away at the thick walls of self-hatred for our bodies that we have some-how managed to put out there. This is wonderful! Keep up all the amazing work.

  • annemahler

    How beautiful this post is. As for your body, in my point of view, you
    are the incarnation of real simple pure feminine beauty. May you see it
    as well. The ex-chief editor of the Elle Quebec magazine, Louise Dugas,
    had the same reflection as you did. She tried to diversify the image of
    women in the magazine… but resistance was very big. Women are
    beautiful in all tones of skins, shapes and ages. At 48, in excellent
    shape, thin and muscular, I often feel that fashion magazines are not
    for me. Your blog, is another story. Seeing you, your sister or Jamie
    Beck seems more grounded on reality. Yasmina Rossi with her grey hair is
    also very inspiring. All image makers in the fashion, music or cinema
    industry have the social responsibility to be vehicles of a healthy life
    style. Thank you for doing so.

  • Audrey

    Beautfitul! such an inspiration <3

  • E

    These images are absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous! Thank you for your words and your encouragement of self-love.

  • Idn Joyment

    what a touching post!!

  • Charm El Sheikh

    I’m really overwhelmed by this post! Beauty derives from confidence and only confidence. It’s something you can feel, beauty is recognised in our brains, not solely through our eyes. And i’m writing that to realise it myself, because I so many times feel intimidated by models and actresses, although I don’t have any weight issues.. Go figure! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Denise Haber

    I have always wanted to try out the bohemian fashion, but for some reason they always had a lot many elements in them. This minimalistic approach is just what I needed.

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TheGlamourai is a webzine produced by Kelly Framel, a multi-media creative director based in downtown New York (but constantly bouncing around the world). Part fashion blog, part glossy mag, part fantasy travel portal, it's your ultimate online destination for stylish daydreams. Tune in for inspirational editorials, beauty tutorials, outfit ideas, DIYs, jet-set travel tips and more!
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