The Naked Truth

I've been staring at the computer screen for some time now. Coffee in one hand and Enya playing in the background. Think, breathe. Breathe again, think some more. But it's not easy to write an article exposing insecurities. Hello, my name is Hope Olivia, and I am....

Thirty years old.

Photography by Brian Cann Photogrphy

Wow. Think, breathe. Breathe again, think some more. This is the first time I've ever written those words: "I am 30 years old." There's no way to describe the feeling that just went through me. A little shiver of fear. A pang of sadness. Father Time forcing me to leap from the age of 29 to the age of... thirty. "Dirty Thirty," I believe, is what they call it. Why is it that it's so hard to say "goodbye" to my twenties? What is it about the age of 30 that makes it so "dirty?" Think. Breathe.

On my 18th birthday, I ran upstairs and locked myself in my room for a day. And cried. A lot. I was never that kid who was in a hurry to grow up. I was the kid who built tree forts. I was the kid who had her first kiss at the age of 14 (It was a peck on the cheek... in the woods... after showing him my tree fort. And, no, "tree fort" is not, in fact, a sexual innuendo for anything). I was the kid who waited until after she had graduated from high school before having sex... (with the same guy who gave me my first kiss, at the age of 14). I didn't do drugs and I didn't drink and I never lied. I was a good girl, with good grades, and a passion to stay forever young.

But I'm not 18 anymore. I'm 30 years old. Think. Breathe.

Flip through any beauty or fashion magazine and tell me what you see when you gaze on the models between the pages. This one is young and beautiful, that one is young and beautiful and, oh, heeeey, just look at that! Another model who is young and beautiful. But, wait. Let's step back for a second. What exactly defines beauty? And at what age does one stop being young? Do you stop being young at the age of 25? Thirty? Forty? If you're 80 years old, that does mean you're old... right?

My thirtieth birthday caused me to do some serious reflecting. I was miserable the entire weekend and, in retrospect, probably caused everyone around me to be miserable as well. I was moody. Irritable. Sulky. I didn't want to turn 30, damn it! I didn't want to be another year older!

I washed my face so that I was devoid of any makeup. I stripped off all of my clothes. I stood in front of the mirror and looked at myself for a long, long time. I looked at my hair... flat and lifeless (and OMGISTHATAGRAYHAIR?! WHAT THE FFFF***?!?!). I looked at my eyes. I've always had droopy eyelids. I looked at every little detail and tore myself to pieces with my negativity. Big nose, thin lips, small boobs. I saw every bit of cellulite, every scar, every birthmark. And, yeah - I cried. I just let myself stand there and cry and cry and feel. And I felt miserable.

Think, breathe. Breathe again, think some more.

It's funny, isn't it? People have told me I'm pretty. They've told me I'm beautiful. Nobody has ever called me ugly or fat or given me any reason to feel insecure about the way I look. But there I was, judging myself so harshly that I was shaking all over from my unwarranted sobbing. Then I started thinking about all the people I know. The people I find beautiful, who don't see how beautiful they really are. The woman who told me she thought she looked old, even though she has amazing curves and great facial features. The girl who told me she wished she had a larger thigh gap, even though she is already incredibly thin. The cute guy with the award-winning smile who said he thought he was ugly just because he's bald. Or the handsome man that told me he thinks his lack of height makes him undesirable. In these cases, it didn't matter how much I stressed to them how beautiful they are. How they didn't need to change the way they looked. All they saw was their flaws, the same way all I saw was mine. I guess we really are our own worst critics.

So I looked in the mirror again and forced myself to switch my focus from all the qualities I hated about myself, to the parts of my body I was proud of. Yes, my eyelids were droopy, but they were blueish-gray. I liked my blueish-gray eyes. Yes, my chest was small, but I had a tiny waist and a nice butt. Yes, there was cellulite on my thighs, but it wasn't anything that getting back into shape couldn't fix. Besides, I liked my long legs. And yes...I had just turned 30 years old. But I could totally pull off a solid 25, if I tried.

Oh, wait. There it was again. Even as I was trying to be positive about my body, I was thinking about trying to make myself look younger. What the hell?! Why was I still trying to turn back the hands of the clock? Time to take another deep breath and do some more thinking.

You already know about racism. Sexism. Ageism. Oh, wait... you don't know about ageism??? That's not surprising. It's not exactly a subject that's widely talked about. According to VOGUE, (props to Alexis Mabille for understanding and promoting "timeless beauty.") the average age for working models is just 17 years old. Seventeen?! I started modeling at a very early age. I was never pressured into it. It was just something I loved doing and my mother fully supported me, so long as I was staying healthy and happy. I never considered there would be a day when I'd be too old to model. Why does age play a part in a modeling career? You don't hit a certain age and all of a sudden stop wanting to buy beauty products and nice clothing. You don't hit 20 or 25 or 30 or whatever age and suddenly turn into a hideous ogre. I mean, honestly. Seventeen years old?!

Princeton University posted an article that stated, according to the aDvANCE Project, professional dancers ended their career at an average age of just 34 years old. THIRTY FOUR?! I love dancing. And I'm already thirty! I used to dance professionally and stopped due to reasons that had nothing to do with age. It had never occurred to me that, if I waited too long, it would be too late to hop back in the game. Ridiculous! I'm becoming incensed just thinking about it.

Think. Breathe.

In an effort not to ramble on endlessly, I've provided you with only a couple of examples of ageism. But ageism is very real and it does affect the way we see ourselves. It does have an influence over our own insecurities and it absolutely plays a role in our day to day lives.

Age should not define beauty, or ability, or anything else in your life for that matter. I know 50 year olds who could kick my ass in a heartbeat. I don't know about you, but I really have no desire to be judged, based on a number, and I'm tired of looking in the mirror and wondering if the random gray hair that sprouted overnight makes me less desirable. It's time to embrace all ages and cast off all insecurities. It's time to remember that you look great, and NOT just "...for your age."

My name is Hope Olivia. This is my body, and I'm proud of it. I am strong. I am beautiful...

And I am 30 years YOUNG.

*Shoutout to Women's Health magazine for their amazing September 2017 "Naked Issue." It was both beautiful and inspiring! Also a shoutout to Allure magazine for featuring the gorgeous and talented Helen Mirren on the cover of their September 2017 issue and to their editor, Michelle Lee, for her letter "The End of 'Anti-Aging'."

**Big shoutout to Brian Cann Photography. Thank you so much for taking these photos and helping me to feel comfortable in my own skin!

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