Body Positivity with Nichelle Sheffield

Image courtesy of Nichelle Sheffield.

Nichelle Sheffield is a fourth-year photography student at SCAD Atlanta who explores the complexities of beauty and the stigmas of body image through her use of paint, glitter and photography.

Aspen Evans: How did photography become your medium of choice?

Nichelle Sheffield: I got interested in photography because of my dad. He used to photograph landscapes as a hobby and it was just something that stuck with me ever since — he was a big influence on me when I was young.

AE: How does body image, beauty and self-esteem play a role in your photography? Do you feel that your work helps resolve body image issues you have with yourself or is it just a means of expression and awareness?

NS: As far as my work goes, I initially thought it was just going to be a representation of what I felt inside — the deep inner voice that I can't ignore that tells me 'Are you seriously going out like that?' But it actually has helped me push through some of my issues and it coincides with my acceptance and understanding of the fact that I'm not some Barbie to be oggled and it doesn't matter what others think. This is my face and my body and it doesn't matter what I look like because I'm a person. Being able to talk to my models and know that we are all having the same struggle makes it easy for me to feel like I'm in a group of people who understand and care as opposed to people who want to judge and make fun of others. People  everyone  should feel comfortable in their own skin as who they really are. And that has always been kind of hard for me, but I feel like as I grow as an artist I'm learning more about what I want from my art and how I can better define myself as a good person and stop worrying so much about things that don't matter in the long run, like looks.

Image courtesy of Nichelle Sheffield.

AE: What are your thoughts about the media’s role in body image and self-acceptance?

NS: I deal with self esteem issues daily. I'm not a cookie-cutter-hot-out-the-oven-skinny-perfect model  I'm a person. I feel a strange need to attempt and fulfill my personal vanity despite my personal hatred for the media and society making girls feel ashamed of who they are. In my opinion, our society is ruled by celebrity royalty and bullsh*t trends and I won't deny my participation in them. I want to be accepted just as much as I want to hate what these people are doing.

Image courtesy of Nichelle Sheffield.

AE: What are your tips for others who may be dealing with body-shaming or body image issues?

NS: My tip for body image is look at yourself all the time naked in front of the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are. Point out your flaws  the ones you think you have  and instead of shaming yourself for it, compliment yourself about it. Everyone is mean enough already; try to love yourself. And don't care about what people think! This is the hardest one for me, which may seem odd to some people, but despite my apathy about most things, I'm so self conscious about how I look. My No. 1 tip though is to realize that you're not the only one struggling. At some point, we all feel inadequate, but don't let that little voice in your head take over, because we are all worth it.

To see more of Nichelle’s work check her out on Behance.