Uriel | Male, Latino, He/Him

What does “body positivity” mean to you? How has your body image changed over time? How does your body image play a role in your identity or even in your daily life?

Body positivity for me is being in touch with every part of who you are. You don’t have to like every part of yourself so long as you appreciate that it’s a part of you. Bodies are as unique as our personalities, and once you start to accept both the inside and outside parts of you, to me it makes you feel a lot more whole. In my life, my body image has been greatly impacted by the standards put out in the gay community. We put labels on ourselves and lay out body preferences which really do get in our heads and drive our behaviors. Being close to someone who suffered from an eating disorder, I learned to transform the desire to fit someone else’s preferences to a desire to improve my overall health. For this reason I love to work out at the gym and go on runs to take care of what I was born with. Most of the time I get in the “twink” label to describe my body type, and the stereotypes that come attached with that distract from the whole parts of me that someone can only see when putting the labels aside.

How has body image affected your mental and emotional health? What’s something that helps you feel comfortable in your own skin?

Most if not all of my thoughts on my body come from external sources. Compliments or comments of my body from others warp my perception of who I am. Growing up I’ve always been teased to be needing to eat more and gain weight. As much as I’ve tried, I figured the best way to overcome these comments were to shift this external energy and work on my body based on my internal energy. After months of working on my physical health I’ve reached my weight goals. I couldn’t do this without doing the entire process for myself and not for someone else, however. It’s easy to look in the mirror and have other people’s thoughts around, but it’s much more worth it to transform this energy into gratitude. It takes time to appreciate what you have and what you want to improve on without turning it into self-criticism.

How can we talk about our body image with our loved ones in a way that is supportive and helpful? How has the media influenced your body image?

I think the best way is to avoid any comparisons. Especially with social media, it’s so easy to throw out wanting to look like a celebrity or model. When you turn these comparison conversations into internalized desires and feelings, you better personalize your body and keep the topic within you and your loved ones instead of comparing.

Is there a specific message that you’d like to convey by participating in this project?

Body positivity in no way has to be made sexual. I can already see the judgment in people when I tell them I’m participating in this. Our bodies are the most natural thing we have in a society that raves about natural beauty and the standards that come with it. To me there doesn’t need to be anything sexual about embracing who you are under the clothing. I tell people about a nude photoshoot and they assume I’m overtly sexual, but the reality is I feel the most free without clothing because it’s the realest me I see. I just wish to remove any predispositions that come with having nude photos of yourself because, just as you love your face, you should love your body.