I know they’re not one person, but I have been working with a special group of students this semester that I want to recognize them as inspiring people in my life. The students in my Body Positive FIG have given me life this semester. Our group, made up mostly of women, has created a supportive and empowering space for learning, reflection, and conversation.
Last semester, a few students at the University of New Orleans approached me about leading a FIG (First-year Interest Group) focused on body positivity. This was the first time students had requested a topic like this I was excited by their energy! As I am passionate about body positivity and sharing self-love, I was happy to be the staff member to lead the group. Big shoutouts to Miranda LeBeau, Toni Chauppetta, and Alyssa Moore for voicing their desires and pursuing the creating of this FIG.
Our group meets weekly and is made up of students mostly in their freshman through junior years. We’re a small group - about 5 students come together every week and about 5 more have joined us on and off. Each week we check in with each other. I usually share information or present an activity and then we discuss. We’ve covered topics like bullying and discrimination, pressure from family members, diet industry lies, the Health at Every Size movement, the media, working out because you love your body, the unrealistic standard of beauty, and positive self-talk.
As a group, the students put together a program for UNO’s Diversity Week and Eating Disorder Awareness Week in February. It was a beautiful event that centered on individuals sharing stories about themselves, their bodies, and their personal body image. The group transformed a meeting room into a more intimate presentation space and filled the walls with positive quotes and messages. Many students within our group spoke and they invited others to speak, too. Topics included natural hair, bullying and body size discrimination, motherhood, eating disorders, being labeled “skinny”, personal style and expression, and more. Energy in the room was powerful, in fact, a few audience members hadn’t planned to speak but were compelled to share their stories.
I am really impressed by the students in our FIG. They are brilliant people who are learning to question what they’ve been taught and reframe their ideas of themselves and beauty. They’re considering intersectionality and thinking about body size, body image, and standards of beauty within the context of multiple identities. Plus, they are extremely supportive of each other. Thursdays at 2PM when we meet are one of my favorite parts of the week. They’re even considering channeling the energy around this into a student group so they can continue these conversations and activities in years to come.
Read what some of the folks in our group share what inspires them, women who inspire them, and advice for their younger selves below. . .
What inspires you?
“I inspire myself. I want to create the best life for myself. Be the best person I can. So, I can be a role model for others. I never had role models growing up. So, I want to be one for others and myself.” – Toni Chauppetta
“My poetry inspires me. It helps me cleanse myself of any negative energy. Words are powerful and a short phrase can go a long way.” – Keydra Jones
“People living their lives exactly as they see fit: living for themselves and no one else.” – Dominque Vancourt
“What inspires me is kindness. Seeing people who are genuinely kind to others regardless of who they are, gives me hope. It reminds me that there is a reason for life.” – Miranda LeBeau
What women in your life or throughout history inspire you?
“My mom inspires me every day. She possesses the strength, courage, and grace I wish I had.” – Keydra Jones
“There are many women in my life who inspire me I honestly think that every woman I have met inspired me in one way or another. Instead of giving specific names I'll list off the qualities that they have that make some inspirational: kind, genuine, brave enough to stand up for themselves and also for others, not afraid to admit their mistakes, and not afraid to be themselves.” - Miranda LeBeau
“Maya Washington. She's a YouTube persona and always talks about how her life hasn't been really easy and I relate strongly to her. So she inspires me to not let the little shitty things bog me down.” - Dominque Vancourt
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?
“That it's okay to be different. We weren't made to please everyone. Learn how to love yourself and be happy. Someday someone will come along and love you too. I've always struggled with loving myself and if I could would've started younger, I would probably be more comfortable with my body.” – Keydra Jones
“If I could, I would tell myself ‘you do you’. I was always worried about being judged as a kid. I'd tell myself 'Hey! You will be judged no matter what. So, you know what? Might as well be yourself and have fun. It is what it is, boo. You are amazing as you are'.” – Toni Chauppetta
“I would like to tell myself that it's okay to be weird and that you're the only one who can tell you who you are.” - Dominque Vancourt
“I would tell my younger self to never give up I would tell her to always try things, no matter how scary they are, and always stick to what she's passionate about. And also that I love her, even when it doesn't seem like it.” – Miranda LeBeau
The pictures below are from our event. About half of the folks pictured are regular FIG members and the other half were audience members.
This March, I am celebrating all the amazing women around me! Sharing women who have influenced me and make up my personal history. As the month goes on, you can see all my Inspiring Women posts here!