To those whom are interested,
My name is Shantel, and I use she/her pronouns.
I view my life as a collection of short, wispy stories where I tend to hide in the background and
watch things happen. This contributes to a personality that some may call easily distracted, but I
prefer to think of as open to adventure. When you first meet me, I am a terribly shy person.
Always have been. The first five years of my life were predominately viewed from under my
mother’s skirt. Being shy was not cultivated from a conservative household. On the contrary, I
heard my mom tell stories of her hippie days burning bras, and I saw my sister shaved off all her
hair on a whim. For some reason, I never felt comfortable enough to latch onto that freedom.
Instead, I listened to my grandma. I took manners classes, learned how to sit, set a table, dress
like a lady, et. cetera. I never considered cultivating much of my own identity.
Without my own identity and definition of beauty, I conformed to societal images. Model
physique made me desperate to stay tiny and thin. I refused to embrace any bodily curves; I
wanted my clothing sizes to be small numbers. As a result, I struggled and continue to struggle
to consume food regularly. Forgetting to eat was a common problem. When I had access to
food, overeating was another problem. Friends and family keep telling me I was beautiful, but I
didn’t see it. I just strived to be thinner.
Growing up, we moved so frequently that I saw no point in making friends. Friends might have
enabled me to view all of me as beautiful not just this outside cover. It wasn’t until the middle of
my sixth grade year that my family settled in one one place for a while, and we lived there
through my high school years. As a result, I created a solid friend group, and, shockingly, they
complimented me on more than my appearance. They loved my eye color, the color combos
with my clothing choices, and my personality NOT just my tall, thin body. I began to actually like
something about my body, and my eyes became my first favorite trait.
Fast forward to my 18th birthday, I pack up my belongings and move off to live with my older
sister. In my sister’s house, I was the prude hiding from sexual innuendos and any possible
announcement of “naked times.” The atmosphere of positive body image began to rub off on me
anyway. In the privacy of my room, I created a new look. Piecing different clothing items
together to achieve a style of my own.
My confidence grew. I started dating based on the connection I felt with individuals. My
adventurous side sparked, and I felt comfortable enough to explore myself. I came to realize I
am a polyamorous and kinky pansexual. Ideas my grandma would never understand. Direct
contrasts to my manners classes. Nevertheless, it was me. The freedom I gained to date and
dress my own way made me feel sexier and more confident.
I went to my first kink event, and it blew my mind. It seemed that everyone I met knew what
made them feel sexy and emphasized it. I wanted that strong body image. With minor
reluctance, I let extroverts guide me to future kink friendly events. After the first few socials, I
dove in head first. I found beauty in myself through all my kinks. My body became an art canvas
for kink scenes. Rope weaved and tied accentuated my body features. Pain made me feel more
alive. I began to show off any marks I got from kinks. Over time, I wanted to show off marks
even if it meant exposing my body. If you look close enough, you might manage to spot a few
wrestling and bite marks on my body.
Kink wasn’t the only thing that built up my body image. I found blues dancing even before the
kink world. My love of blues blossomed as I explored the kink world. If you aren’t a dancer, I will
try to tell you how it makes me feel. A sense of complete comfort and safety comes from
dancing. I find blues as an escape from mental problems, and I can feel truly happy at a dance
social. Dancing helped me feel pretty and graceful. All my dancer friends encouraged my
exploration and self journey. Amongst dancer friends, I have grown comfortable enough to more
frequently lose my top than keep it on.
Now, I look at myself and see curves and hips intertwined with my lanky body. Some days, I
might see my thick thighs or small belly pudge as “ugly” or “unappealing.” More frequently, I see
them as dancer thighs that get down low or a belly able to take some scratches. When
prompted, I can consistently say the features I love about myself are my eyes, butt, and long
hair. I’ve still got a long way to go to love my body, but this photo shoot definitely helped.
For all the readers and viewers, enjoy the photos. I hope the laughter, rainbows, and silly
“clothing” creations show you that beauty comes from you being yourself. Being yourself is the
best way I’ve found to strive for happiness.