A person is most likely to find cellulite near their thighs or butt or around their breasts and arms. It is, at the most basic level, fat that sits under the skin and pushes on connective tissue, making the skin dimple. While it's not totally clear what causes it, weight gain and pregnancy may make it more pronounced, even though people of all weights have it. Dimpled skin is a natural feature, and yet all too often we shame people — particularly women — for having it.
While there are ways to try and minimize the appearance of cellulite, there's another option: celebration, or at least acceptance, of cellulite. Allure took a closer look at six women's relationships with their cellulite, asking them how their perspectives on it have changed over time and how they've handled their body image challenges. Not every woman reported what could be called "love" for her dimples, and that's okay: Body acceptance isn't about adoring every part of your body at all times. Still, each one expressed appreciation for what her body does for her and a growing sense of peace with its appearance. Read on for their thoughts and their striking, unretouched portraits.
My cellulite is just a part of who I am. I can't remove that from myself and I don't necessarily want to. I first noticed it when I was maybe eight years old. I had my growth spurt really early — I’m 5'10" — and it was really hard for me, especially being the biggest black kid in a room. It really made me hyper-aware of my body. As I've gotten older, I've really tried to turn that hyper-awareness into a positive.
[Cellulite] was always something that people try to hide. You know, "Get rid of cellulite in ten days. Get rid of cellulite in six days. Get rid of cellulite tomorrow. Remove that stubborn fat." I always felt like it was something wrong rather than something that is just part of your body.
It's really funny: I have a lot of friends who are transitioning and they just started getting cellulite, and they're all so happy. You know, with the changes in their body, so they're like, "Oh, I'm getting cellulite for the first time, that's amazing!" It helped me. I feel like it's just part of like being human.
I think it would be really unfair to me and to other people to act like I was born confident because that invalidates...the journey I've gone through to reach self-acceptance. I've learned to accept myself fully, [and] that includes all parts — even the wrinkly, jiggly ones.
I have cellulite mostly on the back of my thighs and my butt, but my relationship with my cellulite doesn't bother me because it's a part of who I am. I'm around people who are loving and supportive, so they're not telling me, "Oh, you're ugly because you've got this and that," you know?
It first developed when I was pregnant because I started gaining weight, and then I started getting cellulite and a lot of stretch marks. People have been having cellulite since the beginning of time, so it's just part of being a human being. If that's part of being a human being, why is that ugly?
At first, it was like, "Whoa. I'm getting a little fat here." But at the same time, I like having a butt. I like having curves. I like being a curve model. I feel like when I was a skinny model and I didn't have stretch marks, didn't have cellulite, I feel like I was more insecure with myself.
I just want the conversation about women's bodies to empower women. I want that to be international. I want everyone to feel beautiful. If you don't want anybody to see your cellulite, it's okay. If you do want people to see that, that's okay. You choose what empowers you, and that's that.
My cellulite and I have a difficult relationship. I do work out a lot, but the one problem area is my thighs. And I could eat well, I could work out, and that one little area doesn't go away. I actually don't remember [when I developed cellulite]. I think it was when I was older, because I never paid attention to that stuff back in those days. I was into sports and having fun.
I was actually thinner when I started modeling, but I'm comfortable how I am. It's funny, because you would think that people do want a thicker girl nowadays. I don't know how good this is, but I was told one time [by a casting representative] that I had Michelle Obama arms, so that's why they wanted to pick me for the job.
I'm from the Dominican Republic, so you know, Latina wasn't really "in" that much [when I started in the industry], but now I pretty much can be anything. There's more diversity and they do want every type of women [in the modeling industry]. Big to small to whatever race, so I think it's different now. It's more open. We have to be proud of our bodies, and as long as we love the way we look, love the way we are, then that's all that matters. I am all about whatever makes you happy.
I started modeling seven years ago. Everyone was always talking about [how] I have such a pretty face, I am tall, my arms have the perfect length, everything is perfect — except for my shape. I can work on it, and I know that at the end it's in my hands, but also, I'm a woman and we have cellulite. It is what it is. It doesn't mean that my leg is ugly just because there are some [dimples] on the back or something.
It’s different [where I'm from] in Germany. The country is smaller, and I feel like they're always a little bit left behind. I think since I started modeling in the last three years, it's crazy how everything changed. Clothes got bigger. I feel like people get more accepted. Everything gets more open-minded.
In my perfect world, things like cellulite are things you do not discuss. You don't have to discuss it. It's just there. There are people out there with smooth legs with no cellulite. There are people out there with huge thighs and really big [dimples], and it's also totally fine. As long as the person is fine with themselves, I'm happy for them.
I’m learning to love my cellulite. When I first started out trying to model, I felt like if I wanted to be a plus model, I had to lose weight, which didn't really make sense after a while. So now I'm at the biggest I've ever been, and I'm getting cast. You have to embrace and love and honor your body because it's with you through thick and thin, through everything you go through.
I was 13 or 14 when I first noticed my cellulite — because those are the times you start getting into yourself, you're getting into your friends, you're going out, you're dressing up, so you start to notice how you're different. I didn't understand that I didn't appreciate my body yet. Certain things that I would do or certain thought processes weren’t progressive. It wasn't self-love.
I feel like the more we open the conversation to people who are not a standard model size, the more the general public and the consumers will be empowered to just feel comfortable being themselves. I'm learning to work with what I've got and to love what I’ve got. Your body can do anything, literally anything. Right now, I'm taking ballet, and I'm in leotards. My body is getting me through this hard-ass class... Despite what people or what society may think of how my body is supposed to function or look, it's not that. It's really what I want it to be.
Oh, I love my cellulite. I remember, growing up, I used to think it was the worst thing ever. I would never wear a dress, even long, without leggings under it. I thought it was some kind of weakness to have [cellulite]. Now I really don't care. I feel the most comfortable in a swimsuit and on the beach. I don't care if I'm jiggling. I think that's the real happiness.
My feelings kind of grew worse and worse the whole teenage years. I remember…wanting to just cut through [my legs] so I would get rid of my fat and my cellulite and all of it. You know, I had the worst thoughts...it was very uncomfortable, especially in France. If you don't fit the "typical" French girl — petite, skinny — you're not accepted. I didn't feel okay with my body until I moved to the U.S.
I have so many friends who work out all the time, and they still have cellulite. Most women have it. It's not a problem or a rarity to have some. There's no point treating it badly or wanting to change it because we think it's ugly.
To me, the hardest is just feeling that I'm doing enough because I always feel like I'm not. Even though I run my own company, my own charity, my blog, I'm a model, and I'm never not working, I always feel like I should be doing more for people. The main stress right now for me is feeling like it's okay. I am doing enough. Just repeating that all the time, it helps. It's the same for the body issues.… It should be just a goal to keep showing more diversity, more self-love, and more positive energy around womanhood, because I think that's been lacking so badly in the last 30 years in the media.
Fashion stylist: Rajni Jacques. Makeup: Seong Hee Park. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata. Manicure: Dawn Sterling. Prop stylist: Tara Marino.
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