How Posing in a Swimsuit Changed Me Forever

I want to thank Jessica Peterson, designer of Sorella Swim for the opportunity to be a part of the Sisters of All Sizes campaign.  I’ve done many photo shoots, but this one was by far the most challenging and empowering.  



As a fat woman of color, my body is far from society’s ideal of beauty. For years I struggled with my weight and above all my self-esteem.  I really thought that having a thin body would dissolve all my problems, but I was wrong.  I’ve been thin more than a few times in my 38 years, and it only ever lasted for a few months because the real problem was that I still didn’t love myself and I still had the same life problems.

About 3 years ago I began a journey toward self-acceptance that has materialized into seeing my body in a very different way. I did lots of research on fat-acceptance, body diversity and feminism and eventually started my own website and blog to help other women like me begin to embrace themselves fully.

Since then I have met some amazing women and men who have supported me and pushed me to get outside of my comfort zone.  And I’m so grateful to all of them. 

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go through with the Sorella Swim shoot.  I was already hesitant, but when I walked onto the set and realized that I was the largest model, I began to panic.  If I had been fully dressed, I probably would have been at ease.  But stripping down to what felt like near nakedness was altogether different.  


After hair and make-up, we had to get into our suits and I started to freak out. I pulled my dear friend and fellow model Melinda aside.

“I can’t do this. I cannot do this.  I’m so huge and everyone else is so small.” My voice wavered as I gripped her arm.

Melinda told me to relax.  She reminded me that I wasn’t just doing this to overcome my own fears, but to empower other women who look like me as well.  

I understood her point, but was still scared shitless.  I had to do a lot of positive self-talk that day.  I was going to have implement the “fake it til’ ya make it” strategy to get through the shoot.  So that’s what I did. 


I changed into the suit and stepped out of the bathroom for Jessica and Delia to see me.  My heart was pounding and I expected them to jump back, and wonder if they’d made the right decision.  But they both smiled and told me I looked great.  I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I just kept faking it.  

Before the group shots, we did individual photos and I was called first, of course. The Universe has a very twisted sense of humor!  Before I got in front of the camera, I got a quick pep talk from photographer Michael Anthony. I told him that I was afraid and that I was going to need a lot of support.  He was so kind and comforting, telling me that I was going to be great and he had my back. I trusted him, and off I went.  

Yes, I have cellulite and a tummy with multiple rolls, and I’m beautiful. 

The first minute was absolute torture.  The lights were bright, and the cellulite on my thighs was in plain view for the entire crew to see.  But Michael Anthony continued to put me at ease, encouraging me. I began to relax and eventually found myself getting more and more comfortable.  I started posing and channeling the the beauty that exists inside all of us.  I kept thinking of the women who would see this campaign and be grateful that I had the courage to represent them.  I was facing my fears head on and it felt good.  

From left to right: Melinda, Neidy, Lornalitz, Krista, Pia

I thought the group photos would be less scary, but then I realized that there were going to be small bodies next to my large one, and that my body would be under tremendous scrutiny when the photos were released to the public. But I channeled my energy in the same way as before, realizing that the ideas about body diversity that I write about were coming true, and I was an integral part of it. It was that thought which gave me the strength to continue and to model my ass off — pun intended.

Mid-shoot Delia pulled me aside to tell me that Jessica was so impressed with me. I was so touched by that. I think she must have sensed my trepidation. Thanks Jessica!

The Sorella Swim Sisters of All Sizes campaign has had a huge impact on the way I see my body.  I am grateful to Michael Anthony for releasing untouched photos of us so that people can see what real bodies look like. All the bodies in that shoot are beautiful, including mine. 

This experience made me put my money where my mouth is. All the positive body talk in the world is meaningless unless I truly believe it myself. Now when I tell other women to love their bodies — to set themselves free, I can speak from multiple experiences of having to walk the walk. 

I love how the suit looks great on all of us!

All bodies are good bodies and that’s the truth. When more clothing companies and designers realize that all women want to feel beautiful, regardless of their size, they will do what Jessica has done — create a garment that makes all of us feel included and special. Yes, big girls like to shop and be chic too!

Thank you to Jessica, Delia (DDH PR), Michael Anthony, Melinda, Krista, Neidy, Lornalitz, Rich Magana’s hair and make-up team and DTLA Studios for their commitment to making this happen. I am forever grateful and forever changed. 

In solidarity,
Pia

  1. Dear Pia,
    I just wanted to take a minute to tell you what an inspiring and motivating piece you have written about the Sisters In All Sizes shoot! You are a delightful model to work with and I never sensed your fear…you worked the camera with full professionalism and made Sorella Swim look amazing! I am thrilled I got the chance to meet you and even more thrilled you agreed to take on your fears and model for Sorella Swim! You are a role model for many women Pia! Thank you and I cannot wait to work with you again!
    I wish you all the best Miss Beautiful!
    Jessica Petersen
    Owner, Sorella Swim

  2. Pia, you are such a brave, beautiful body warrior! You look so gorgeous in the photos, but I feel that is secondary to the larger picture. You did that shit. You walked your talk and nailed it. You are amazing.

  3. I think you look great and all the models look awesome the bathing suit is beautiful and you look beautiful. I support you and all that you do can

  4. Congrats and thanks for sharing!!! It is, indeed, a journey to self-acceptance. Here I am thinking of doing a boudoir photo shoot (that no one will see but me – lol!) and you are modeling a swimsuit in an ad campaign! Bravo girlfriend!

  5. Congrats!!! Self-acceptance is, indeed, a journey! Here I am scared to do a boudoir photoshoot (that no one will see but me!) and you're donning a swimsuit in an ad campaign! Bravo, girlfriend!!!

  6. I enjoyed reading your experience 🙂 glad you had the courage to follow through! This designer had a great idea for this shoot & it is awesome! You look slim and good in your solo black swim suit!

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