Gearing Up For Love Your Body Day with Chenese Lewis

chenese lewis, Love your body dayLove Your Body Day: Interview with Chenese Lewis, Hollywood NOW event organizer

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman

I had the pleasure of interviewing the very beautiful and the very busy Chenese Lewis, actress, radio host, motivational speaker, plus size model– and if that isn’t enough– the creator of the National Organization for Women’s Love Your Body Day event for her Hollywood Chapter! The confidence of the women around her increases manyfold whenever Chenese is around. She radiates body esteem and gives a boost to women’s body image.  Find out why she thinks everyone should love their body on October 24, 2009 and every other day of the year.

Maybe God put an extra dose of confidence in me so I have enough to share with others.   –Chenese Lewis

Dr. Robyn: What great things are you doing to honor Love Your Body Day and when and where is it all happening?

Chenese Lewis: Since 1998 the National Organization for Women (NOW) has celebrated Love Your Body Day. In honor of the day, I created an event for my local chapter, Hollywood NOW, and this marks my 4th year putting on the event. Hollywood NOW’s Love Your Body Day celebration consists of vendors, entertainment, and a “real women” fashion show. It’s a festive day with a positive message. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, 2009 from 12-4pm in the West Hollywood Park Auditorium and the admission is free.

Dr. Robyn: The concept of Love Your Body Day is straight forward– we should all love our bodies no matter what the shape or size! But what does LYBD mean to you and why celebrate it in such a big way?

Chenese Lewis: I think everyday should be Love Your Body Day for everyone, but unfortunately many women hate themselves instead and feel they don’t have anything to celebrate, which is exactly why I think this event is so important. I have had people come to me and tell me before attending Love Your Body Day and learning about the positive body image message I promote, they felt as if there was something wrong with them and they were “less than” the rest of society. I’ve had people who have confessed to me that they have had eating disorders they never told anyone about. I’ve had women who have told me that they gained weight after child birth and their self esteem was so low they though about ending their life.

Through this event I have had the opportunity to change lives. I had no idea it would affect people to this magnitude because the way the event is set up its just a fun and entertaining day. But just being in a uplifting and accepting atmosphere, with positive influences and seeing other women who look like you that are confident and happy, is so empowering, even to me!

The event has grown each year. It’s real grassroots and we don’t have a big budget. It’s fueled by my passion and is a labor of love. Why not celebrate in a big way, we’re worth it!

Dr. Robyn: Given that we live in a world that seems to celebrate thinness and denigrate women for deviating from that ‘thin ideal,” how have YOU come to love your body?

This is a question I get often, and I wish I had I great story to tell but I don’t. I never had a problem with confidence or self esteem in my life. I contribute it to the cultural and regional environment I grew up in (African American in the South) as well as unconditional love and support form my parents. Being plus size just wasn’t that big of a deal, I had a happy childhood, did great in school, very social, so I didn’t have to learn to love my body, it was just second nature. I feel that everything happens for a reason, and my life experiences have lead me to what I am today, maybe God put an extra dose of confidence in me so I have enough to share with others.

Dr. Robyn: For those girls and women out there who are yo yo dieting, starving themselves, or constantly criticize their own bodies (or someone else’s) for not fitting in with society’s thin ideal, what advice do you have for them in honor of this special day?

My advice would be to stop trying to achieve this “perfect ideal” that doesn’t exist. No one is perfect, everyone has flaws, and those flaws make us unique and beautiful. If you are constantly unsatisfied with yourself and always trying to look a certain way you’re not meant to be, you will go crazy. Its such a freeing and peaceful feeling when you accept yourself as you are and start living your life instead of bashing yourself. Your weight is just a number not your worth.

Your weight is just a number not your worth. –Chenese Lewis

Dr. Robyn: For those people who won’t be able to make it to the celebration, how do you suggest that they get in on the festivities and the spirit of the day?

Chenese Lewis: I would suggest that you do something that boosts your confidence to celebrate you. For me it would be pampering myself by getting a manicure and pedicure,and a new outfit! Plan a fun day with the girls where no one is allowed to say anything negative about themselves and everyone showers each other with compliments! Do something fun that celebrates you as you are right this moment!

For more information about Hollywood NOW’s Love Your Body Day visit www.loveyourbodyday.com and for more about Chenese visit www.cheneselewis.com

Hollywood NOW “Love Your Body Day,” is a community celebration to promote healthy body image for women of all ages and to combat the negative portrayals of women and girls in mainstream entertainment, fashion, cosmetics, media and advertising.

Is anyone going to take responsibility for bullying in our schools? Anyone? Anyone?

Blame

Dr. Robyn Silverman

For me, it didn’t have to do with weight or body image.  But for so many, it does.Whatever the reason, we’ve got to do something. Anything. Watching people point fingers and put temporary band-aids in place that aren’t being followed in the first place isn’t helping anyone.  Not the teachers.  Not the bullies.  And certainly not the victims.  When is the time?

When I was in 5th grade, I was bullied.

As a woman in my 30s, I can still say this: It was one of the worst years of my life—perhaps THE worst—because going to school was so horrible and yet I had to do it 5 days a week. I still remember the knots in the pit of my stomach—waiting on line to go into the school—waiting for the laundry list of female relational aggression to start. Everyday was the same. Target…ostracized. Rumors…sent. Eyes…rolled.

The teachers never knew what to do. I’m not sure if they were cut off at the knees, they didn’t have a plan, or the school didn’t have their back.  All I know is that I was labeled “sensitive.” It was my problem—the teachers did feel bad about it but… “kids will be kids.”

So I stood there on the black top during recess, completely alone, clearly unhappy, clearly apart from the crowd, and yet…nothing. The one time something was done, I was sent to the library as the rest of the class sat in the classroom with the teacher and talked about…me. Then one of my “friends” who bullied in me in school came to get me, gave me a stare down before entering the class, told me not to “lie” and left me in her dust. Then the teacher talked to the class with me present. It was humiliating. It didn’t help. At. All.

So when I read yesterday in the Washington Post that the laws that were enacted to cope with the bullying problem, especially since the shootings in the 90s, offer practically no protection—mostly because, well, they aren’t really being enforced, I got that familiar knot in my stomach again. If you’ve never been bullied, it is the most sickening, exhausting, heart-wrenching feeling. You don’t feel comfortable walking around in your skin. You want to be anywhere but there. You want to be anyone but you.

It’s actually one of the reasons I do what I do.  From creating Powerful Words to the work I’ve done with girls to the presentations I do for teachers, coaches and instructors. I want to help kids like me—I want to help kids like those who bullied me—I want to help them early so that maybe…I don’t know…maybe an infiltration of character education, and understanding of how words and actions shape lives, encouragement that adults need to get involved and take responsibility– would help a few people avoid what I went through…or worse.

But what about the anti-bullying laws? And as it is, the laws wouldn’t have even been helpful for someone like me. I was only in 5th grade. The laws only apply 6th-12th. So what about those kids who aren’t yet 12 years old and in the 6th grade? Some will never reach it. Just take a look at these sad cases:

An 11-year-old had complained of teasing and was found hanged in his Springfield, Mass in mid-April.

A 10-year-old boy hanged himself in a restroom stall in a suburban Chicago school,

An 11-year-old boy was found dead in Chatham, south of Springfield,

An 11-year-old daughter hanged in a closet of their Chicago home.

All complaining of bullying before the tragedies.

One of the big problems here is that people are quick to point the finger at who should be in charge of teaching children not to bully and inflicting consequences if there are incidents. Parents point to teachers and school officials to take responsibility, teachers and school officials point back at parents.

“A lot of this has to be handled in the home,” said Peter Daboul, chair of the board of trustees at New Leadership, the Massachusetts school where her son was a 6th grader.

But what happens when the fingers get pointed? Nothing gets done. Result? Kids suffering.

I also find it very frustrating that relational aggression is clearly given “a pass.” Even those states that are doing something about bullying (like threatening that schools will lose their funding if they don’t keep good records and transfer bullies after 3 offenses, such as in Georgia), these departments are only tracking broad offenses like fighting and threats. So much for spreading rumors, being ostracized, and intense teasing. Those wouldn’t qualify or be recorded.

There is still great confusion about how to define bullying, what’s offensive, what’s child’s play, what can lead to tragedy. What counts? Blows to the head? Cyberbullying? Taunts and teasing? “One of the questions is how do you quantify bullying? It could even be as simple as a rolling of the eyes,” said Dale Davis, a spokesman for schools in DeKalb County, Ga., where Herrera committed suicide.

Maybe we should ask the kids…who are being bullied.

“In 2007, nearly a third of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied during the school year, according to data on more than 55 million students compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics.”

So where are in this? Just spinning our wheels until something more tragic happens that leads us to wonder if what we are doing already is the right thing to do? I can tell you now—it’s not. I mean, 55 million kids sounds like a lot to me. does it to you?

I don’t know…maybe I’m just being sensitive.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

The Ick Factor Getting the Best of the Breast Feeding Baby Doll?

The Ick Factor Getting the Best of the Breast Feeding Baby Doll?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

I’ve got to be honest. I’m grappling with something here. This breast-feeding doll for little girls. I haven’t written about it because truthfully I really wasn’t sure what I was feeling about it.

The doll, called “Baby Gloton,” is manufactured by a Spanish Company and is not yet available in the States. It will be though—next year. In the box comes a 20 inch doll (newborn size) ready for suckling. It also comes with a halter top with daisies placed strategically where working nipples would be—if the young girls had them. When the doll is lifted to the nipples, it makes suckling noises.

I know. Some of you are thinking, well, yuck. It does have a strong “ick” factor. And I wondered to myself, “why?” I mean, the feminists and breast-feeding advocates are right—breast-feeding is natural and normal. Having just adopted a baby myself, I’m around breast-feeding often and think it’s wonderful. Many babies are breast fed and we, in America, believe in breast-feeding just like the European countries do. Not all babies bottle feed, as other baby dolls would have us think. So, a breast-feeding baby doll makes sense…right?

I think the problem here is that we don’t like to think about “nipples” and “suckling” when it comes to our school-age daughters. Even if it’s all pretend.  Because, of course, it is!

But with all the talk about sexualization and pushing our girls to grow up so soon, the doll feels inappropriate. Or…is that just “our problem?” Are we making this very non-sexual thing into a sexual thing when it isn’t?  (And let us not forget—that girls simulate these kids of acts with baby dolls that aren’t programmed to suckle. Just as they pretend to feed, change, and comfort their dolls, they may pretend to breast feed—and they don’t need any special dolls to make that happen.) We’ve certainly seen that breast-feeding has made people feel uncomfortable before– remember Selma Hayek and the hungry dying baby she breast fed? People were even uncomfortable with that– so a breast-feeding doll stands little chance of acceptance!

Are Americans just oversexualized—or too uptight? Are we backwards thinking or just prudish? Are we all just being scammed and ripped off?  Or perhaps, we just like our children’s toys to be a little less realistic.

After all, look at Barbie. She’s as unrealistic as you can get and she’s been around for 50 years.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Glamour Magazine displays model with a fat roll! Save for posterity!

lizzie-miller_the_woman-on_page194_glamourGiven that positive body image and media don’t often click these days, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for this fabulous shot of a normal looking woman in Glamour Magazine…

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Look.  I’m happy to see some more versatility in the media these days when it comes to shape and size.  When I was interviewed on this topic several years ago regarding the DOVE campaign and how I felt about it being in the top women’s magazines I said “well, it’s a start.  But the fact that there is one add that shows women in other sizes besides 2s and 0s, and a hundred that show that extra small is the only size, we have a long way to go.”

Now, I’m in the same boat.  I’ve been getting questions recently about how I feel about the new show “More to Love.”   On the one hand, I’m happy to see that a show featuring women who aren’t stick thin on primetime, but on the other hand, why is it all so segregated?  These women are still being shown to the “back of the bus” by saying “here, have a show, but you can’t be on the show with the thin women—you need your own show.” Do they have to drink from their own water fountain too? I know I’m not alone here.

I had a similar reaction to Glamour’s model, known as the “woman on p. 194,” who actually had a little pooch that stuck out over her underwear in September’s issue. Her name is actually Lizzi Miller, a 20 year old model , size 12-14, who is also an avid softball player and belly dancer.

People have gotten really excited—and Cindi Leive, editor of the magazine, was apparently shocked by the response.  She even wrote a post on the magazine’s website which talked about the vast number of letters she has been receiving since the magazine hit newsstands. She wrote:

The letters blew me away: “the most amazing photograph I’ve ever seen in any women’s magazine,” wrote one reader in Pavo, Georgia. From another in Somerset, Massachusetts: “This beautiful woman has a real stomach and did I even see a few stretch marks? This is how my belly looks after giving birth to my two amazing kids! This photo made me want to shout from the rooftops.” The emails were filled with such joy—joy at seeing a woman’s body with all the curves and quirks and rolls found in nature.

I’m thrilled to see something—anything—different than the one dimensional, one sized, one-shaped girl in the pages of a fashion magazine. I am.  And I don’t want to sound ungrateful here…or jaded…but…isn’t it sad that we get all worked up by a single picture sized 3in. X 3in. of “normal” among so many of “oh so thin?” (And she IS pretty normal—in fact, her BMI is 25.1—the medical “normal” range is 18.5-24.9 so it’s not like she is so “outside of the box!” And yet…she is!)

And isn’t it bizarre that the editor is SO surprised that we actually WANT to see different shapes and sizes when we open up a fashion magazine that is supposed to make us want to feel beautiful and…GLAMOURous?

Yes, people.  We actually DO like to see that women don’t need to be stick thin in order to be considered beautiful.  We like to see all different types of women because…well, then, there is more of a chance that many of us out here will see ourselves in those magazines and feel good about what we see in the mirror.  Girls and women need to see diversity in media. Not that one picture makes me say that we have hit the nail on the head—one picture IS NOT diversity.

But, it seems that Leive is not totally dense.  She wants to know what kinds of pictures people want to see—and assures us that it won’t fall on deaf ears.

“Trust me, Glamour‘s listening, and this only strengthens our commitment to celebrating all kinds of beauty.”

As our colleagues over at Jezebel relay to their reads;

Hopefully she means it, because it’s already obvious from the response to one three by three inch photo that women are interested in seeing beautiful pictures of women of all shapes and sizes that look like them, rather than what the magazine says they should aspire to look like. But, we’re still skeptical. If magazines run more images like the one on page 194, women may internalize the idea that you can look sexy with messy hair, no clothes or accessories, and a layer of body fat and stop buying products to fix their natural yet somehow “flawed” figures.

Yup.  And wouldn’t THAT be just sooooooooo terrible!!!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

Trying to get the body to fit the swimsuit or vice versa?

I think we can all learn a very important lesson here (Thank you, Tracy).  Stop trying to make your body fit the clothes and start looking for clothes that fit your body!  Why do girls and women berate themselves when the clothes don’t fit us well?  Somehow, the size and shape of the clothes in the store become our own private dictator telling us we must lose weight, get surgery, and do dangerous things to ourselves just so we can fit into them. Who made them king?  Take back the power– find the clothes that fit you and that make you feel beautiful.  You deserve it.

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Share your body image stories and perspectives here!

One Girl’s Reaction to Teen Celeb OverExposure

Gossip Girl age 15What’s a parent to do with all these overexposed teen celebrity images?

Celebrities are wearing skimpier outfits everyday. Of course, there is less of them to cover these days too, having lost so much weight.  After all, that’s the “new normal” isn’t it? What are parents supposed to do with all these images? Hide away our girls forever? It’s no wonder some parents have contemplated it.

My opinion has always been that we need to open up communication with the teens themselves with regard to these images.  What do they think?  Sharing your values but also listening to their concerns and opinions are vital if we are to make any progress in this area.

Miley_VanityFairThat’s why it shouldn’t surprise you when I post teen responses to these questions. I always love it when teens write in with their perspective.  Perhaps they can teach us a thing or two?  Here is one teen perspective from a 15 year old girl– still stinging from the Miley Cyrus debacle (radio interview here) last year along with other overexposed celebs.

Ok Miley Cyrus and all those celebs maybe a little too young to understand this but being a celebrity is not all about money, fame, fashion and getting your hair done whenever you want. If  you want to be a  celebrity you should try to be perfect, i know it sounds crazy but that’s the cost of being a celeb. She KNOWS that young girls look up to her and i still consider those pics a little too provocative (even i’m 15 and make sure that i’m all covered up in public). Therefore posing for them is a BIG MISTAKE.  Someone said parents should control what their kids should see and hear but that would seem impossible with the media at every inch of this world. It really is time parents start paying more attention to whom they consider their role model. I mean my parents don’t even know who miley is and if they did they’ll ban me from the net.

I look up to girls that are ‘tough’ and not too girly and not afraid to be themselves like the old avril lavigne. Yes she has changed and i used to loathe her for being a party animal but her music esp. complicated, when you’re gone, slipped away and innocence had a big impact on my musical interests. She has real talent and her lyrics are just amazing with the exception of girlfriend of course!

It’s important for parents (of girls esp) to start acting when they’re young and innocent. First of all parents are a child’s primary influence and i personally think that controlling the type of toys would really help.  Though crazy it might seem girls shouldn’t be adorned with so many teddy bears, dolls, pink stuffed animals. This makes their personality ‘too girly’ and this is what makes them think it’s ok to look up to   britney, miley(hate her!), Lindsay lohan and you name it……..

As a  baby my parents never adorned me with more than about 20 toys. They bought me very few dolls (only about 4) and more towards animals. As a result today at 15, I hate pink, i don’t like the conventional boyfriend gossip, i don’t act like dadda’s lil princess. Instead i’ve taught myself to look more towards reality….like world issues (my dad encouraged me at a very young age to watch news) and no this doesn’t mean forcing cnn down kids’ throats, i mean let them step outside of confinement and look at what they’re surrounded with………..let them sympathize with the poor, needy . This will automatically have a big impact on their personality and in no time their taste of music will change from pussy cat dolls to u2.

I know this may sound nerdy but nerdy is better than…….you-know-what…….

So…is it? What’s your take? How should parents deal with these young celebrity images anyway?

Dr. Robyn Silverman signature

More Beautiful You and Other Positive Body Image Songs

Positive Body Image Songs

Dr. Robyn Silverman

During a time when it seems that no girl can look in the mirror without criticizing what is reflected back at her, it’s refreshing to hear a song that isn’t about sex, tight jeans, boobs and long legs.  Girls and women latch on to what they hear.  We need to hear more positive messages, don’t we?

Thanks to Dara Chadwick for bringing this song to my attention.

More Beautiful You Lyrics (By Jonny Diaz)

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine
Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight her body isn’t fake
And she’s always felt overweight

Well little girl fourteen I wish that you could see
That beauty is within your heart
And you were made with such care your skin your body and your hair
Are perfect just the way they are

There could never be a more beautiful you
Don’t buy the lies disguises and hoops they make you jump through
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you

Little girl twenty-one the things that you’ve already done
Anything to get ahead
And you say you’ve got a man but he’s got another plan
Only wants what you will do instead

Well little girl twenty-one you never thought that this would come
You starve yourself to play the part
But I can promise you there’s a man whose love is true
And he’ll treat you like the jewel you are

So turn around you’re not too far
To back away be who you are
To change your path go another way
It’s not too late you can be saved
If you feel depressed with past regrets
The shameful nights hope to forget
Can disappear they can all be washed away
By the one who’s strong can right your wrongs
Can rid your fears dry all your tears
And change the way you look at this big world
He will take your dark distorted view
And with His light He will show you truth
And again you’ll see through the eyes of a little girl

Other Positive Body Image Songs to Inspire Us to Love Ourselves and What We See in the Mirror

Put Your Records On (Corinne Bailey Rae)

Beautiful (Christina Aguilera)

Listen (Beyonce)

Unpretty (TLC)

Ugly (Sugababies)

Video (India Arie)

Any others you can think of?

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