PALOMA ELSESSER, NEW YORK USA
ON SELF ESTEEM, WOMEN & BODY IMAGE
It is my absolute pleasure to finally be able to share with you my conversation with an honest mind - model Paloma Elsesser. The timing could not have been more perfect to have this conversation shared - in the week of the Womens March in DC, the talk where Paloma so openly and vulnerably touches on the topics that have upmost relevance to females and women today.
So beautifully endearing and captivating, Paloma provides an honesty to a body of emotions and consciousness that is relatable to every single woman/man out there - especially at a time where we live in a society that places immense pressures to shape the way we feel about ourselves in our own bodies.
Talking about the things "that people just dont talk about" - I hope what Paloma has to say and discuss in terms of body image, insecurities and the ongoing battles in balancing self esteem with self love reiterates that all thoughts are globally shared and we are all not alone.
I WANTED TO START BY ASKING YOU ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY WITH SOBRIETY?
I was so depressed and I’ve struggled with mental illness and depression my whole life and I really dug myself a hole with it and in combination with drugs and alcohol, I was just left with a shell of myself and I was crippling, it was so sad. So I went to treatment and I was like oh I’m definitely going to smoke weed, but then I realised maybe I’m not chill enough to smoke weed right now and then all these incredible things started happening! I didn’t know what to accent it too but getting sober and clearing my head. And then I was like caught up in that and was like oh maybe I’ll try it for 6 months, then a year and then after that I didn’t really feel the need to drink or think about it - I felt drunk as it is. It's just not essential for me anymore, and it used to be the only essential thing for me. I mean I’m really inspired by people who can quit on their own and it’s even hard in rehab but I felt like it was really important and it was helpful for me to be in a controlled space like a rehab centre.
DID IT HELP SHIFT ALOT OF THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE FOR YOU?
Well I’ve been sober 4 years now and I mean I’ve gained a lot. I mean it’s not to say that sometimes I’m not like "oh I’m going to go on a juice cleanse or work out" and theres been times where I’ve been like "oh I wish this was a little different” - but I do wake up everyday and am like yeah I do really love myself but it is also a luxury too. I don’t know why women don’t talk about this as freely but like its a luxury to not hate yourself at this point. Theres a lot of women who deep down, to be like I’m not this or I’m not that but its incredible and I literally tear up sometimes when I get beautiful emails from younger girls who are like "you really inspire me everyday - I’m not white, I’m not skinny and I wore a crop top today!" which is like so sick because I didn’t really like have anyone to accentuate that too but in the last four years of all of this, like not to say the modelling stuff coincided and didn’t help, but it was like oh I can be myself and make money and I can be more than a pretty chubby girl. In the last three or four years I’ve been able to be really grounded and figure everything out.
I FEEL ALOT OF WOMEN ARE STILL ON THE JOURNEY OF TRYING TO FIND PEACE WITH THEIR INSECURITIES. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU STILL FEEL YOU STRUGGLE WITH?
Yeah I mean of course, I still struggle with it, I'll always struggle with it. The struggle is just much quieter than it used to be. I feel like insecurity and self hatred is such an emotional cop out you know, its very poisonous and its just so easy to get there. Like yeah I could check myself out and be like "oh I hate myself" but it’s so easy and you can see where that frame of mind could set you up and not in a good way.
I mean I’m sure Georgia [Pratt] and I have spoken about it in the past, but I’ve never been skinny, I will never know what it feels like to be skinny or small, I mean I’ve definitely been smaller but I wouldn’t know what it feels like to be thin. And thats just my body, but then I’m at an advantage because then I’ve been able to expedite the acceptance of space versus the woman. I can imagine maybe the journey could be harder to be skinny or once smaller and then you gain weight, then you hear the “I used to be” or the “I can go back to this” and I don’t know what thats like so for me it’s like the winter, the winter is coming, you just put your boots and hat on and keep it moving. For me, thats life - its like this is what I got, now its here, now it is what it is, I just have to get dressed and keep it moving. I just have to continue. My parents always told me that people will take advantage of your weakness so it’s always been important for me to hold onto my strength and a way holding onto my strength has been not hating myself. It’s just so easy to do that.
I FEEL LIKE NEW YORK EMBRACES AND APPRECIATES DIVERSITY IN BEAUTY MORE THAN MOST CITIES I KNOW AND HAVE LIVED IN. THE CITY IS SO OPEN MINDED BUT IN HAVING SAID THAT, IVE ALSO NOTED A DOMINANCE OF SUPERFICIAL IDEALS IN THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY - IMAGE, SIZE, COLOUR, WEALTH...& NOW SOCIAL MEDIA.
I mean theres so much space right now to not feel good about yourself. It’s a really transformative time in that it’s been quite essential because now people are just fed up. Like girls are facing no choice but to just accept themselves for what they are because if they don’t fit that certain mould, they are completely without option in the media.
WELL IN THE EARLY 00'S AND 90'S GIRLS WOULD HAVE NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO HAVE WOMEN LIKE YOU AND GEORGIA [PRATT] TO LOOK UP TO SO ACCESSIBLY IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA. DIFFERENT GIRLS OF DIFFERENT SIZES AND ETHNICITIES NOW FORE FRONTING THE BEAUTY AND FASHION INDUSTRY - ALL OF THIS HAS GONE TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL.
Okay so its like you think about it and you think what kind of girl would you, Georgia [Pratt] or I have to look up to growing up? And for me - I didn’t have anybody. There wasn’t any girls with different ethnicities or sizes to look up too. And it’s so hard to find these people and so we were at the time where we were forced to become our own role models and figure out our identities and figure it all out for ourselves. It just sucks that human nature just forces us to act when theres nothing left - we’re at like this image rockbottom which I actually think is like incredible.
I mean now - all types of girls are getting time and now we’re given the space and voice to be essential to these worlds that we were never essential too - I mean even the girls at Into the Gloss is like "oh interesting". Weird like I never thought they would come to me but its like realising that at this time its becoming important to represent all kinds of people - whether or not its intrinsic for companies to want to do that or like their just getting some social bearing - I don’t care, whats important is that its happening.
YOU HAVE A VERY STRONG SENSE OF GROUNDING IN YOUR SEXUALITY AND WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX. TELL US ABOUT HOW THAT CAME ABOUT FOR YOU?
I mean there were plus size girls back then but it would be busty blonde catalogue girls and there wasn’t even any space in between and its crazy because it’s still a very specific market but it’s changing. This only started turning around only a few years ago I mean up until then I was only known as like the pretty chubby girl, you know? And I’m like fine with that and I grew up with boys and I never had problems with boys and so I could get a good sense of identity as a female and that helped me grow and it’s not like I was always seen as the ugly duckling or something. I always had a boy or whatever like that and I also grew up around a lot of boys so I was able to ground my sexuality and myself. Sometimes with certain people, male and female relationships can be so plutonic - my first best friend was a boy so I was lucky to have been able to forge my identity with the opposite sex separately to how men see me because I was always safe in that department. I was always going to be friends with guys so that has always been my central focus when I speak to people about accepting themselves because as women, our own self love is so dependent on how men see us.
HOW DID YOU FIND ACCEPTANCE WITH YOURSELF AND THE WAY MEN MAY HAVE OBJECTIFIED YOU GROWING UP?
Well I just figured out I take up more space than other girls and I’ve learnt to appreciate that I don’t walk around unnoticed - I’m not an invisible person. Even if I was thin, I don’t think I would be invisible. So growing up and learning to accept it was hard, my focus growing up was never on male attention but it was about wearing the type of clothes I wanted to wear and not wearing plus size clothes. Trying to find out what looks best on me and what suits my personality. I mean I wanted to wear things my friends wore but I just couldn’t and there were some things I could wear but some of it just didn’t look right, like I can’t really wear low rise jeans or really wear shorts and those little things. I mean I CAN but it would just attract too much attention to me and I don’t want that. It’s just knowing what I know and what I’m comfortable with and trying to navigate that. I mean I’m still trying to figure that out. But you know whats cool is now we’re at a time where I can support myself and support my family by just being myself and being different - thats really cool.
I FEEL LIKE EVERY SINGLE PERSON SHARING SPACE WITH US IN THIS LIFETIME IS HEALING FROM SOMETHING, THAT'S WHY ITS BEEN SAID WE ARE ALL HERE. A LOT OF MY PROJECT WAS INSPIRED TO RAISE A PLATFORM TO TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT PEOPLE ARENT TALKING ABOUT - NOT THE THINGS YOU PROJECT ONTO SOCIAL MEDIA LIKE YOUR PERFECT DIET OR BEAUTY REGIME, BUT LETS TALK ABOUT THE THINGS YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH. THE DISCOMFORT THAT IS A GLOBAL THOUGHT AND FEELING SHARED WITH EVERYONE IN THE WORLD.
Like yeah! More girls are talking about like “well yeah like its actually really easy to do my make up” instead of us talking about why there are adults with full adult acne. Like lets talk about that - and theres nobody really talking about that.
It’s just been a journey, and figuring out how to be honest and treat myself and love myself because some days I do and some days I wake up and I just don’t fuck with myself like I’m like "eh my face" or my hair and thats normal and I also wish people spoke about that more, especially in the plus community where we are constantly barraged and made to feel accountable for our confidence and everyones like “oh wow you’re so confident! Like you’re amazing fuck everyones beauty standards - do you!” or whatever but yeah beauty standards do exist and it’s okay to feel shitty. And I feel like a lot of women who are in very powerful positions in the plus community always talk about how they used to not like their body but now "I love my curves!" and I love this and blah blah. The truth is it’s not like I wake up everyday and I’m like "oh god I love my back rolls!" but I hate them even though I don’t wake up and choose to hate myself you know. Now I just accept that. Like do whatever you want, but this is what you've got and it’s beautiful as well and it doesn’t mean you have to be celebrated everyday like "YEAHH!!" l mean lets say a chubby girl in the middle of america, maybe she’s feeling a little better but the most important part is for someone to accept it and be okay with it versus someone pushing this “LOVE YOURSELF EVERYBODY LOVE YOURSELF!!” in your face. Everybody struggles no matter what size you are, everybody struggles. Every single person in the whole world. I wish people talked about that more.
DO YOU HAVE CERTAIN EATING HABITS?
Like I mean lately I honestly thought I was pregnant because I couldn’t stop eating but I go through phases - I mean I have a weird relationship with food, it’s my first love and my first addiction, my first struggle, my first crazy juxtaposition of love and hate and still trying to navigate a way that it can make me feel happy without making me feel bad in time. And thats normal, it’s not like I’m unique in that feeling. So figuring it out, like not to eat out of boredom or emotion which I and everyone do or if we're stressed. I can never get full when I’m stressed. It’s not to say, I’ve come across people who are skinny or smaller or whatever where I’m like, I may be bigger than you but I’m definetly healthier than you. I wish I could integrate more exercise for peace of mind. Sometimes I find myself eating in secret, it’s such a familiar pattern it’s so emotional - I mean those are the parts I have to work on.
WHAT DO YOU FIND TO BE BEAUTIFUL IN ANOTHER?
Yeah I just think sincerity and authenticity. I think it’s even really cool when somebody is openly a bitch but like has a kind heart. Like someone who is just thoroughly themselves and unapologetically themselves. I think thats beautiful and really inspiring. It keeps me thinking about people, we’re always evolving and these emotional characteristics people choose to show are definitely the things that are the most beautiful to me. It changes and with that it changes how you view their outward appearance as well. People where you can be like oh wow they seem really settled with who they are.