“I’m Nobody! Who’re you?
Are you –Nobody- too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! They’d advertise- you know!
How dreary- to be Somebody!
How public- like a Frog-
To tell one’s name- the livelong June-
To an admiring Bog!”
Since childhood I have struggled with confidence issues. When I was older, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I struggled with eating disorders. I became entangled in a series of abusive relationships where what little self worth I had was eroded further away. But I hid deep inside and hid behind a mask. By my twenties I was living so deep within my own self I did not feel like me. I felt like a nobody.
When I began modeling, it was at the urging of friends. I felt unsure of myself, an ungainly bird hiding in assumed plumage. As I gained more experience, I refined that plumage. The mask I wore became better drawn as I explored makeup and costume. I retreated further into the mask and hid in the photos that were taken of me- snapshots of a fake life. I hide in those photos. I fantasized about being a happy person who was confident and social, who could easily speak to others. I wanted it more than anything, but I was terrified of achieving it- of the admiring bog. But as I modeled more I felt more and more alive in front of the camera in my mask. I felt more real pretending to be an extreme of myself than I ever felt in my own skin.
The Emily Dickinson poem has always drawn me, ever since I first encountered it in childhood. I was the Nobody, terrified of discovering another Nobody, but I wanted to be Somebody. As I gained more experience modeling, as I said, the mask became more complex. I became comfortable wearing it more frequently than in front of a lens. Eventually I wouldn’t leave the house without heavy makeup. I often joked that less than a handful of people had ever seen me without makeup in adulthood. Eventually I even wore makeup at home too, hiding from myself.
Depression is a horrible, insidious beast that lurks in every thought. Anxiety is the demon that rests on your shoulder whispering lies and half truths into your ear. It makes you do strange things. It makes you not yourself. It isolates you further and further from the world. I became a recluse, hiding from friends and never leaving the house. I became like a black hole, refuse orbiting around me like the feelings of sadness that revolved around my head.
But masks are heavy and get heavier the more ornate they become and the more complex we make them. The effort of putting the mask on became exhausting. I wanted to take the mask off- for so long- but I was afraid of how. I forgot how to take the mask off until I was reminded that it could even come off. Just like that I wanted more than anything to be me in front of the camera and off of it. I wanted to shoot for myself without the mask. I have never been in front of a camera professionally without makeup and the mask. But here I wanted to be reborn symbolically and reassert myself as a Somebody. I wanted to show myself as I am. Depression, anxiety and all. I wanted to show myself stripped of the masks, stripped of the depression and the fake sociability. I wanted to be me, without sucking in stomachs or tilting my head a certain way. I wanted to show that to the world I am capable of living without a mask. Without the mask, I am beautiful, I am interesting, I am smart.
I am Somebody.
I am enough.
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