Name: Mina Minou
City: New York City
Occupation: Jill-of-all-Artistic-Trades, Activist, Teacher
Link to my shop: www.etsy.com/MoonHoneyCreations
Please describe how YOU see your body in general, when you look in the mirror.
When I look at myself I see an alien creature, I see a body that my soul inhabits. Sometimes I think I look strange and beautiful, like a wild creature you’d find in an overgrown garden. Sometimes I think I look flabby and uncomfortable and too large, like I don’t have complete control of how I present myself.
Over all when I look at my physical shell I see it as an opportunity to create sustainable change. Even at my most uncomfortable, I try to remember that my conscious body is a blessing to be taken advantage of while I can. My body is a tool to make change and love and growth both in myself and in the world around me.
What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?
Beauty is touch; beauty is mystery; and beauty is transformation. It’s an abstract concept that rests in a permanent dichotomy. Beauty is both natural and human made, both foreign and relatable, temporary and infinite. I think so many things are beautiful and that is a big part of body positivity for me.
Finding beauty in yourself can be hard, but when you can find peace enjoying the touch, smell and color of a flower; you can learn to find peace and enjoyment in the touch, smell and color of yourself, and that’s beautiful.
Being beautiful is being wild and unabashed and free, it’s recognizing that imperfections make you unique and are things to cherish and revere, to gain confidence from. Inside and out, beauty is respecting and accepting your differences as you would respect and accept the differences in the natural world around you.
What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?
A healthy body image, is an accepting body image. It doesn’t rely on shape, size and weight alone. It relies on what you can do with your body and how you feel doing it. The only goal I have for my body, is to be in good enough physical shape to take care of myself independently as I age. My motivation comes from wanting to be a good performer, wanting to live a wild life with no bodily constraints for my physical whims, and mostly it comes from my desire to be able to climb mountains and continuously feel no shame presenting myself naked on stage until the day I die.
Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings?
I feel body confident when I’m on top, with the lights on and my shirt off, always. When I’m alone though, I feel body confident when I’m stretching out, when I’m wearing something flattering, when I’m swinging my hips, when I’m bathing in flowers, when I’m creating art in any form. I feel body confident when I’m feeling emotionally stable and in control of my surroundings and my actions. The thing that people don’t always understand though, is that that confidence can look like a lot of things. It can look like me being on stage, it can look like me fucking, and it can also look like me being totally lazy laying on my bed with my gut out eating pizza and watching something stupid on tv. Body confidence is about acceptance of where you are and an appreciation for the journey it took you to get there.
I have struggled with body confidence my whole life, I grew up chubby, emotional, quiet, and mixed, in a school of mostly fit kids of European descent. I was made fun of for my size, my nose, my hair, my freckles and moles, and then when puberty came and I developed I was still made to feel “less than” but also as a sexual object. Boys would grab at me and then call me racist names or body shame me in the same interaction.
It left me fighting a long battle of learning what real acceptance, kindness and appreciation looked like. It took a long time to get where I am and I still struggle when people tell me they think I’m beautiful or they love my body because there’s a part of me that thinks it’s a sick joke and they’re going to turn around and laugh at me. My past has undoubtedly shaped my present and will continue to shape my future, but I accept it as a part of me and in that acceptance I find healing, love, forgiveness, and confidence.
Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image?
Absolutely! Clothes suck when you don’t fit the status quo of whatever the fashion industry says you should fit into. It can really really suck.
To overcome it, I did more research about fashion through the ages when different body types were more or less accepted and in doing that I totally opened up my mind to other opportunities. This has been great for me as a general person and also as an artist because I tend to dress kind of eccentrically on the day-to-day and vintage silhouettes are a great base for that.
I also took a lot of steps to stop looking so much at size and just focus on how a garment shapes my body and makes me feel. Mostly by crying in a lot of dressing rooms while I tried all sorts of different things until I found clothes that worked. Lots of fights with my mom and dad about what looked “appropriate” for me at various ages, and then lots of will power to accept that sometimes they were right and sometimes they were totally wrong.
Does your body image affect how you eat?
Yes and no. I tend to put my emotional well-being over my physical well-being. So if I am craving that whole pizza, I will eat that whole pizza.
That being said I also take stock of what makes my body feel good. If I’m feeling really sluggish or physically negative for more than a day, then I’ll cut out a lot of sugar, dairy, and carbs, and double up on the yoga until I’m feeling balanced again.
Sometimes I get super paranoid and I’ll be really down on myself when I’m eating too much cheese or sugar or something. But I try to keep myself in check. I don’t hate being a person who fluctuates regularly between chubby and curvy. Sure sometimes it’s been a real bummer; I’ve had people say really mean things to me about my weight and romantic partners who haven’t totally appreciated all that I have/am. But as it goes, those people people were mostly dumb and had/have no power over my life- so I might wallow for a day or two but then I get right back on the “fuck it I’m flab-bulous” boat and buy myself a burrito.
Because I am made of stardust and my ancestor’s dreams and as long as I can have control of my body and can find enjoyment in myself, I have nothing to complain about.
When do you feel Your best?
Sex; dancing; masturbating; photoshoots; meditating; bubble baths; making art; skinny dipping; painting my face; writing; when my feet are curled up in moss; when I smell like the earth; when I take my braids out and bra off and flowers fall from my hair and breasts in the spring and summer; when I’m getting pushed around by the wind in winter; when I’m taking care of someone I love.
How has your body image changed over time?
My body image has gotten more forgiving over the years. The more I get to know myself the more I ask of my body but with less pressure to do well or to look a certain way while doing it.
Burlesque has really helped with my acceptance and appreciation of my body, and recently I started learning/training for roller derby which has me pushing a LOT of limits both physically and mentally. But as I get older and have a better understanding for how much life I have ahead of me, and how temporary our physical forms are anyway, the less pressure I put on myself to do things right the first time.
I also do a self-portrait at least once or twice a year to check in on how I’m feeling and see how those feelings have changed over the years. This helps me see my joys and sorrows in a different light, physically and emotionally and helps me confront the things I need to confront.
Who do you feel influences your body image most?
My mom’s side of the family struggles a lot with weight and it’s something I’ve seen as a big issue as they age. My desire to age as smoothly as possible is a big influence on my body image and care.
The biggest influence though is the image of myself as an elementary/middle schooler who hated herself. She is very vivid in my mind and more than anything else in the world I want to make her proud. I want to show her that all the times she was teased for being weird looking and thinking would end up being good motivational tools for the powerhouse of a woman I want to be.
What pressure around body image do you feel?
Occasionally when I have low points I will feel pressure to lose weight. But then I look at all the beautiful bodies around me and in shaming myself I realize I am shaming others, and that’s a toxic trend I stop as soon as I notice.
Again, as long as my body can perform the way I want it to, I am fine.
What are your thoughts on media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image?
I think the media needs more transparency and more representation across the board. Seeing images we can relate to is extremely important and makes a big difference for people of all ages.
As an artist I do my best to represent a wide array of human types to help make this change, but it’s a long and slow battle.
How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop?
I think people should do what makes them feel good as long as they aren’t imposing it on other people and as long as they make their changes with a sober and conscious mind.
I do think that when Photoshop is used heavily it should be made clear so that people are aware. Transparency is absolutely key with body image and emotional well being.
Do you have any advice, tips, or suggestions for other women who would like to improve their body image?
The road to self love is long and hard but you are not alone and you do not have to answer to anybody but yourself. You are a soul with a body, not a body with a soul.
Here is a spoken word piece I wrote about this that I would like to share:
Treat your body like a temple, is a common phrase we are taught as a way of learning respect for our bodies and ourselves.
However, as lovely as it is - My body is not a temple.
Temples are clean, pristine, well thought out, and quiet. A pure sanctuary.
My body is none of those things.
Sure, sometimes it's clean and quiet and pristine, but not as frequently as it should be nor as thoroughly as a temple might be.
And I don't believe that any body at all is as well thought out as we try to imagine it to be.
But it is my sanctuary, though not at all pure in any mundane, social sense of the word.
My body is not a temple, but it is a garden..
It has flowers and trees and weeds and creatures that grow within it and so I treat it as such.
It is the purest of sanctuaries in the sense that it is as true as it can be. As honest as anyone could dare.
I worship myself as I worship the mud that slips between my toes in summer and the wind that slashes my cheeks in winter.
I make sure it has enough sun and water, enough space to grow, enough air to breathe..
If an intrusive thought comes in, I prune it back and prevent it from taking over. But otherwise, I let what comes come and what wants to leave leave.
In treating my body like a garden I can more readily accept that it changes with the seasons.
and that just like a flower can't be blamed for losing petals in a storm;
other people can hurt it with no fault to myself.
Above all else, I learn to let it grow and grow and grow and never be ashamed of how it changes and when it changes or where it takes me.
So instead of a temple, with all its rules and expectations, treat your body like you would a garden. Let it grow, let it change, let it be fully and completely alive and in doing so, let it radiate with the divine.
Blessed are you, blessed am I, blessed may we always be.