“I think it’s important to think about your body as an object, outside of a sexual or beauty context. Bodies are weird and wonderful.”
What are you raising awareness for?
I’m raising awareness for self-acceptance, body positivity and “The Flesh It Out Project”. The goal of this project is to encourage people to connect with their body in a fun way. The exercise is very simple – all you have to do is draw yourself naked from memory. The drawing is then submitted anonymously in person or through our Instagram @flesh_it_out_project. The simple task and anonymity allows people to feel free to explore their bodies. It’s not about “good” or “bad” drawings. It’s about capturing your body as you see it. The drawings can be quick and simple, or detailed and realistic. Some drawings are just words written down. The outcome isn’t important at all. I think it’s important to think about your body as an object, outside of a sexual or beauty context. Bodies are weird and wonderful. We all have things that we would rather not show to the world. Art can be an incredible form of therapy for processing body issues. I want to help facilitate this exercise so that people can talk about their bodies and have fun. A silly little drawing is a great way to start a conversation about a difficult subject.
Where did your passion for The Flesh It Out Project come from?
Self acceptance is important for everyone. We all have a unique relationship with our bodies. The body positivity movement can be quite serious and I wanted to create something fun to get people to engage with it. I created the “Flesh It Out” exercise while I was working on my art degree. I wanted to create a safe space for people to create a small piece of art about their bodies. I am always inspired by the drawings and the beautiful diversity of the human body. What is so special to me is when I get to see people taking part in the project in person. I love it when people laugh and have fun while drawing. I have also been deeply moved by some of the less joyful submissions. Many people really struggle with their body image and the exercise can be triggering for them. I hope that the experience for them is cathartic. It’s important to me to help others to begin a journey towards self-acceptance. I also want to use everyone’s drawings to show how many different types of bodies there are out there. In mainstream media we don’t get to see all of the totally normal things like hair, stretch marks, cellulite, pimples, etc. I want to encourage people to think about their body as the space that they occupy. You only get one and you have to stop judging it.
What is your personal connection to your art project?
I spent so much of my life hating my body. It was only when I began to make art using my body that I began to accept it. Unfortunately so many young people have serious issues about their bodies. Mental health issues and eating disorders are increasing with devastating consequences.
With social media there is a crazy expectation for bodies now. It pains me to think of young people judging their bodies for not looking like a celebrity’s. I grew up seeing “perfect” celebrity bodies and hating mine. I started puberty young and always felt that my body was very “wrong”. I never thought that I could be as comfortable in my own skin as I am now.
What is standing in the way of people accepting their bodies?
Social media can be very harmful to people’s body image. I think that young people need to see more regular bodies to understand that nobody is perfect. We’re exposed to “perfect” bodies online and it’s impossible to not compare. I think that it’s very important for all of us to see more types of bodies and more representation. We need to see more sizes, more skin tones, more ages, more abilities,- MORE! The mainstream media is slowly improving but there’s still a long way to go. I hope that creating more fun ways to get people to engage with their bodies will help too.
The body positivity movement can get a bit serious and I feel that more laughter and fun is needed.
Are there any misconceptions about you as a body positivity artist and activist?
I think that a common misconception about people involved in the body positivity movement is that they are always confident about their body. Everyone has bad days. I do not love my body every day, but I do accept it every day. There are a lot more things that our bodies do for us than being attractive. When I don’t love the way my body looks then I try to love the way it feels. Body positivity is a huge global, and simultaneously tiny personal, topic. It’s ok to not love your body all the time.
How would you like the future of your project to look like?
I started creating art about the body because I was dealing with my own issues. I would say that my activism started accidentally. I was exploring my body through art and by treating it as an object I began to slowly accept it. As I shared my art and thoughts online people would reach out to me and say that I had helped them. This deeply moved me and I wanted to keep creating things that would resonate with people. If I can help even just one person through art, then that is all I want. I hope to continue to help people to accept themselves. In the long term I hope to continue to grow this project so that it can reach more people. In the future I would love to be able to do this work as a full-time job. For now it’s a passion project.
What is an important lesson you learned?
I have learned that EVERYONE has things about their body that they don’t like. We are all just humans. Some of the most beautiful people you know, are the most insecure. Just because you think someone else’s body is beautiful doesn’t mean that they think that. There needs to be space for all of us to share our insecurities and be heard. You don’t know how someone feels about their appearance by looking at them.
Do you have any advice for anyone struggling with body positivity?
Don’t take your body too seriously. Bodies are weird. Every body makes noises and smells and things we’d rather not share. It’s ok to laugh at your body.
What advice would you give to people who want contribute to body positivity and body positivity in art?
I would say that there is no such thing as too small. Your body positivity movement can be just for you, for a group of friends, your family or a big community. With art I think that it’s too easy to focus on likes or follows. I would say try to make art that helps YOU first. If you’re making art that is helping you, then it will probably help someone else out there. We all need to see more representations of more bodies online. Your small act of body activism can help someone else to feel seen.
How can people support The Flesh It Out Project?
Well, if anyone who reads this would like to follow the project on Instagram then they can find it @flesh_it_out_project . I would love for people to do the exercise of drawing themselves naked and sharing it with me. They can send a picture of their drawing by DM or by emailing email@example.com. I hope to have more in person “Flesh It Out” events in the future so keep an eye out for that. I’m only just getting started so it will be fun to see how this project and community grows.
If you are interested in other body related art then you can follow me @jessiedeboe
What is the importance of being heard as a body positivity artist?
I think it’s important to amplify small artists. Small projects like mine are still valuable and can make a difference to someone’s life. I’m not a professional. I don’t have many Instagram followers and I don’t have huge reach. I make art and created this project to help as many people as I could. Artists like me who are creating things to help people feel good are making small positive changes around the world. Something small and silly can improve people’s lives.
Want to connect with Jessie de Boe? Reach out @jessiedeboe on Instagram.