Fashion Photographer Anastasia Garcia talks body image, self-worth, and the power of Instagram
Most days I wish I had a modicum of the confidence and self-esteem plus size models have. It takes a lot of balls to post a photograph of oneself in a bikini, no matter what size you are. But when society tells women there is only one way to be sexy, it is straight-up brave to stand up and say, “My back-fat is LIT.”
The road to self-care is a complicated one for each of us, but it won’t even get off the ground unless we as women slate loving our bodies at the top of the list. So says Anastasia Garcia, a popular fashion photographer whose images have been published in Cosmo and Marie Claire, and one of the creatives behind the film Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image. Garcia’s popular Instagram account—where she posts pics not only of her work, but also of her fine self—is one of my favorites, something that, as she tells me, she has carefully cultivated.
“Young people look to media to understand society, and how they fit into it, or how they don’t,” Garcia says. “When we consider that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words, the power of an image becomes very apparent. Seeing images of plus size women allows younger girls to feel more comfortable in their own bodies (regardless of their size), and to not feel flawed for merely inhabiting their skin. Seeing women who look like them helps younger generations develop self-confidence and identity.”
She continues, “I don’t think my social following has affected my career so much as it’s allowed me to connect with a broad range of people around the world. Particularly women, and girls— many of whom reach out to me, expressing their own struggles with body image. They are desperate to see fashion images that reflect them. And when they do, it’s like a switch flips. Suddenly it’s ok to wear a swimsuit, or a crop top. Suddenly they see women with bodies like their own, and it begins to change how they view themselves.”
According to Garcia, the plus-size fashion industry was almost a non-entity as early as 2014 and as a result, her work wasn’t taken seriously. “I’m sure being a young, fat, hispanic female myself probably didn’t help,” she says. But as the saying goes, she needed a hero, so that’s what she became.
“For a long time— especially from my peers—it was like, ‘oh you shoot that plus-size stuff’—my plus work was always referred to as a separate entity. It wasn’t treated as fashion. Because the fashion industry (even three years ago) didn’t view plus-size models as being fashion models. And as a result, I wasn’t taken seriously as a fashion photographer.
“But the truth is, I didn’t care. Because I’ve always understood that imagery is powerful, and by creating high-end fashion images of plus-size women, over time I could shift people’s perspective. Even if it at the time it was thankless, it didn’t matter. I believed in the models, and I believed in the power of the work.”
The power of her work has led to celebrity collaborations, like one with Tess Holliday, the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of People, and Ashley Graham, arguably the most famous plus-size model, and the first to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated. “Working with Ashley in the past has been like getting paid to hang out with my super-hot friend,” Garcia gushes. “Ashley has an incredible way of making everyone feel like her best friend. I mean that in the most kind and genuine way. When she talks to you, she always looks you straight in the eye; she always listens thoughtfully and makes you feel like when you’re talking to her you’re all that matters. I admire that about her. She knows how to make people feel valued.”
With value, self-worth, and body positivity at the fore in conversations about plus-size modeling, Garcia wants to remind young women of all shapes that sexy is many things. “I definitely think sexy is an attitude,” Garcia says. “To me it has very little to do with how someone looks. Sexy is when someone stands strong in their power, and owns the skin they are in. Some people call it confidence, but it’s something more than that.”
Garcia wants young people who are thinking about entering the plus-size industry to embrace everything about them that’s different. Instead of seeing these as flaws, remember how they make up your distinctive beauty. As this industry grows with demand and opportunities for young entrepreneurs and fashion icons abound, what sets you apart will set you free.
“I find that whatever makes a person unique, is what makes them most sexy. For example, I’m famous for loving gap teeth. I love women with braces. I love freckles. I’ve always been in the thought space of, ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it, and love it!’”
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