Models and bloggers have made Instagram the go-to place for body-positivity and self-expression. So where do those social media stars find their inspiration? Not just from oner another. Transgender plus-size model Shay Neary recently shared a very old-school source of “bopo” strength.
“Art museums are one of my guilty pleasures that this wonderful city possesses,” Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Neary wrote, captioning a nude photo of herself. “When I get to go, it’s always a confidence boost. I look at statues and paintings of women from time past and how the men who painted them were too keen to admire them in all their glory.”
The work of 17th century Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens reminds Neary that bodies that look more like her own were “not only fawned upon, but revered.”
“The words connected to this post are near and close to my heart,” Neary told Yahoo Beauty via email, crediting photographer Genghis Saikhanov with the pic. “Male Artists have admired women for centuries. They have sculpted, painted, and photographed the naked female form because of their love for it. I should be able to admire myself, in all my glory, and see what these artists saw. I’m not vain… I’m just seeing Shay. This individual that I’ve spent a lifetime coming to terms with. I finally see myself for the first time in my life. You can bet your change jar that I’m going to let it flood my mind with happiness.”
Neary posts nuggets of wisdom like this, as well as quotes from others, on her Instagram account often. She’s also had a bigger platform for self-expression after making history last year when she was hired to be the face of clothing retailer Coverstory, making her the first plus-size transgender model to land a major ad campaign. This was after just a year of modeling experience.
“Even though I’m transgender, and my platform gives me the entitlement to represent my community, that does not mean I embody my entire community,” she told Yahoo Beauty. “I express myself on Instagram, no one else. My own thoughts, my own views, and my own perception.”
One of the most striking elements of Shay’s photos is her platinum pixie cut, a recent development for the model, who chopped it off a few months after a breakup last year. She calls it “one of the scariest things I’ve done on my personal journey, other than transitioning.” She likes to use Ecru Dry Texture Spray on towel-dried hair. For dramatic effect, she’ll use Lakme K.Style Natural Boost Mousse and comb it into a pompadour or add water and do finger waves.
While she clearly wants to celebrate her naked body, in an interview with Refinery29 last year, she lamented the fact that she’s been hired for more nude shoots than clothed ones.
“I’m a new trans-plus model to the scene, but I have yet to find any designer willing to actually dress me for a shoot or book me an actual high-profile gig,” she told the site. “They’re not willing to get you clothes. They’re not willing to find a designer to get you clothes for a shoot.”
She’s also featured on the U.K. shopping site Yours Clothing, where in a new spread she shares fashion tips for trans women. While she enjoys floral prints and bold accessories, she encourages others to “find things you love, and make that your style.”
Asked how she got such shining self-confidence, Neary told Yahoo, “Confidence is earned. It’s not earned from other people, it’s a mental earning system. Confidence is stepping away from points of view, influence, and society you’ve been raised in and asking yourself what you think. I let go of what others think of me a long time ago. … I also stopped internally being at war with myself. You know, the constant battle where you take your flaws mentally and judge them. Our flaws are sometimes the most beautiful things about us. Think about it, you get a clean slate, other than birth defects and health conditions, your body you have now is a product of your life’s existence. Every scar, like, wrinkle, marking… each unique, each with a story. I find that so utterly beautiful. That’s what gives me confidence.”
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Plus-Size Model ‘Dipped in Melanin’ Shares Her Journey to Self-Acceptance
- Woman Shares Mastectomy Scar and Powerful Message: ‘Representation Matters’
- You Have to Hear the Inspiring Story Behind This Beautiful ‘Body-Positive’ Photo