Local Bonnyviller Cheryl Hunter is working on a book to promote body positivity for moms and has enlisted the help of photographer Caitlyn Blake to help bring it into reality.
“It started as a self healing project for myself,” says Hunter. “I’ve struggled with an auto immune disease for the past eleven years. Learning a lot about different things, maybe it’s connected a little bit to your emotions. Sometimes when your body attacks itself, maybe you should look at the other things your attacking yourself about, and [for me] that was self image.
“That was kind of a big realization when I became a mom, that women in general are pretty hard on themselves and don’t love their body. I have a little girl now and I look at her and would never in a million years want her to look in the mirror and think anything other than she’s perfection and she’s beautiful. Most women, when we look in the mirror we don’t think that. We find our flaws and talk bad about ourselves. I just had this idea since becoming a mom to maybe throw that out there and to embrace our bodies post baby weight and empower women to love their bodies as it is.”
Once she got the idea, Hunter says Blake immediately came to mind as a collaborator.
“I saw Caitlyn maybe a year ago put her baby belly on Facebook. She was nine months pregnant I think and she was showing off her stretch marks and I was inspired by that. I was like ‘Wow we normally try to hide that because that’s a flaw in society.’ But she was totally brave enough to post that on Facebook. When I had this idea to do this for myself I thought of her instantly. I met up with her and she was totally on board. She had an opening that night so she took a picture of me with my belly and everything I hide under my clothes, then we posted it to Facebook. We were so touched and overwhelmed by the support and obviously the need for women to express that they need to love their bodies as is and not have to change it or hide it.”
Caitlyn Blake got her husband to take some pictures of her (pictured above) and has gotten thirty six other mothers in the Lakeland to sign up for a similar photo shoot that will be used for the book.
“We got a lot of interest right off the bat which was something Cheryl and I were worried about,” says Blake. “We were worried about not being able to find people because it’s a really vulnerable thing to take your clothes off and get photographed by anybody. We thought it would be a lot harder to convince people to do that. I posted the photos of Cheryl and within ten minutes I had six different messages in my inbox. By yesterday morning we had thirty six people signed up and a waiting list of ten other people. The response has been incredible.”
Both women felt that if they were going to ask several dozen other women to bare so much for the book, they should have to walk the walk themselves.
“That’s one of the things we felt was really important about the project, that we were willing to do that; willing to put our own bodies on display if we were asking other people.” adds Blake. “Especially to get published and to have it out there for potentially lots of people to see.
“When people were messaging me we received so many amazing stories from people who have overcome trauma and struggled with body dysmorphia, assault, abuse or overcome depression and mental illness like I have. It’s been really touching to see putting out these photos of ourselves has brought on such an emotional reaction in people and has started a dialogue. It’s been amazing. Everybody has been really positive and has been really free to open up. So far the reaction has just been incredible.”
The book is still in the very early stages and the final shape it will take on is still to be decided.
“My vision is very broad right now,” says Hunter. “It’s a healing project for me to love myself. I think that’s going to branch out into being for women, for moms, the perfectionism of motherhood in general. I have a lot of ideas, I don’t have a release date or anything like that. I just wanted to start and get some support of other women and get an impact going on with other women in the area to draw together and support one another and be there for one another and appreciate for the perfect beings we are in an imperfect way.”