Last year, we started hosting candid conversations with black women in our community, through which we explored their relationships with their bodies and the experiences that have shaped their perceptions of beauty and self. In this excerpt from our conversation, Erinn Brooks talks about embracing her curves and re-connecting with her body:
What is one feature or attribute that you celebrate about yourself?
I love my curves in total. My hips, my thighs, my butt, my breast. I love it all. I’ve always felt like God gave me a body to bear the children that I want to have one day. I’ve always accepted how my body looked, because I know my body right now is getting prepared for later on down the road so I can have the family that I want to have. So I celebrate my curves in every way.
How have your family, friends, lovers, or other influential figures in your life shaped your sense of self?
During family get-togethers, it was always me and my other cousin that were just big. We just always wanted to eat the food, we wanted to eat all the food, while everybody else was just getting these small little plates. The family would always make little jabs about stuff, and I think normally people would have something like that tear them down, but I think for me, it helped build my confidence even more and be sure of myself, and ignore those words that were being said.
I have a lot of cousins, aunts, and then of course my own mother, who have just ... been so successful in their lives—whether personal, work, or family—and just seeing them accomplish so much, and look the way they look—they look exactly like me, we all look alike—just gives me the confidence to do those same things, I think. They’ve always—especially my aunt, I’m exactly like my aunt. She’s always just carried herself so well, and held her head high. We call her bougie sometimes [laughs]. But she just has it all, and she wears it so well. So just seeing her and hearing about all her experiences has allowed me to be who I am and just do it well.
What are some pivotal moments or defining truths that have changed or are changing the way you see yourself?
I had this realization about seven months ago. I was at my heaviest, and I just didn’t feel like myself anymore. I didn’t like what I was seeing. I felt completely disconnected from my body, and that’s when I knew—oh shoot, I need to do something. I felt this heaviness inside of me. Not necessarily—it’s weird to explain—but it wasn’t necessarily the number of the weight, it was the emotional, mental weight inside. I’m fine being a big girl. I love being a big girl. I love my curves. But there was something else, some heaviness inside of me that I had to figure out how to get rid of.
I don’t know if I was or was not, but I felt like I was in a state of depression almost. I don’t really know what it was for me, but I’m going to characterize it as depression because it probably was. And just … at one point, I was just having trouble breathing, my chest kept hurting a lot, I thought something was wrong with my heart. I kept going to the doctor to see what was wrong, and they kept telling me that it’s acid reflux or something. But I didn’t believe them, because it was hurting too much. My body just was not moving the way that I wanted it to move. My bones felt like they were crumbling, I just felt completely disconnected from my body. I had this wake up moment of like, “what am I doing? What is happening?” I went to see a personal trainer at The Sweatbox and just started head in first, didn’t think about the financials or anything, I just wanted to get back in connection with my body.
“It wasn’t the number on the scale that I wanted to fix, it was this lightness within myself that I wanted to find.”
Yes, I’ve been able to lose the weight and all of that, but I think for me it’s about becoming healthy and understanding what I need to do to get the movement back in my body. Because—I used to be a dancer, so it’s something that’s a part of me that I’ve lost sight of.
Throughout my life, every time I felt this heaviness, I did something crazy like a crash diet to make myself feel lighter. Or I would go to the gym two times a day, every day—especially in college. Or sometimes, I would eat the weirdest combinations of things because I’m following some weird diet in order to make myself feel better. And I think now I understand that it wasn’t the number on the scale that I wanted to fix, it was this lightness within myself that I wanted to find. So now I’m in the space of doing that in a healthier way. In this next phase of my life, [I’m] making sure my inner beauty, my inner self, stays light, stays bright, and stays connected with my outer self as well.
To learn more about this project or read our other interviews, click here. Then, join the conversation! Use the hashtags #aboutfaceproject and #blackgirlmiracle to share your own stories of beauty and becoming with us.