Growing up in Los Angeles, I’ve been pretty well saturated by, if not totally drown in, limited ideas of beauty. As a kid I used to model and also was in beauty pageants. By the time I was 12 I couldn’t step out of my house without hours of honking and cat calling. I didn’t know how to process those experiences then, and so they became an ongoing underlying feeling of being hunted. The world no longer felt like a safe place for me.
Being a sex worker/dominatrix was a complex space of both being in power in sexual dynamics with men, as well as being objectified and commodified. In my personal life, objectification and commodification oozed into my relationships more subtly. On one occasion, a former partner threatened to end our relationship if I ever shaved my head. When I finally did shave my head, one of my partners at the time ended our relationship stating that they just weren’t attracted to me anymore.
As I’ve gotten older, ugliness has become a place of intrigue and play. My self-portraits have been a safe place for me to play with ugliness and to find the beauty and truth in it. If I’m honest, I never liked (conventionally) beautiful people. I’ve been mostly drawn to interesting people. The thing that’s strange about you is the thing I’ll probably love the most. For me, some combination of respecting the principles of design combined with an unapologetic ugliness feels like home.
Now at nearly 40, people are still preoccupied with my appearance and prioritize it over my personhood, but my arresting appearance doesn’t allow much room to relate to the falsehood of conventional beauty. Mostly, people stop me in the streets to compliment my tattoos or jewelry or clothing or my general aesthetic, which feels pretty good since these were all choices.
Much of my journey with my body has been about deconstructing and throwing off the expectations of gender that have been forced onto me so that I can embrace a fuller and more alive version of myself.
So, fuck beauty and fuck being palatable and fuck your fucking fickle sensitivity that requires that I be consumable and easy to digest.
Here’s to ugliness and all of its complexity and nuance!
Self-portrait ca. 2018 by me, Wind Nicely Photography