Do You Want To Be On Top?

**Plays “I’ve Got a Dream,” from Tangled, as opener to this post…**

In May 2013, my older sister was a Junior at SF State, majoring in Apparel Design and Merchandising. For one of her projects, she had to design two outfits that would be presented at a fashion showcase. A lot of her classmates worked with strangers that classified themselves as, “models.” In her mind, why would she need a random model she didn’t know when she had me? A younger sister who basically had no choice but to be said “model?” She guilt tripped me about how it would be easier for her if I were the model so I could try it on and get fitted anytime she needed to make adjustments or measurements. Of course I wanted to support her with her passion projects and school work, but damn this bitch had me fucked up. I remember thinking… “Wtf, I really need to stand infront of a couple hundred people and walk on a fuckin’ runway? …bye.” The only plus side that I could see in this situation was the fact that I got to miss a day of class when the fashion showcase day were to come. I was a senior in high school who had a bad case of senioritis, but never had the balls to skip. Nevertheless, I was so embarrassed just thinking about it… ME?! WALKING DOWN A RUNWAY?!

I pull up these pictures now and I almost laugh out loud, as I’m at least 35 pounds heavier. But at the time, I was stressing and under pressure about my appearance. Although I knew months in advance that I’d be walking down a runway, no amount of time could prepare me for this almost embarrassing moment. I felt like I was going to make myself look like Boo Boo Tha Damn Foo walking down that runway. And for those reasons, I seesawed with my diet. One day I’d be watching what I ate, and then another day I would fall into a pit of self pity and eat my frustrations, in the form of hot cheetos. Long story short, I was never consistent with my attempts at trying to “lose weight,” “improve my figure,” “get runway ready,” or whatever the hell I was trying to do. This was also a very crucial point in my life in regards to my body dysmorphia and my struggle with my weight, however, that’s another blog post that I do plan on sharing soon 😉. Let’s just say I was truly struggling with how I viewed my body and went about it in a very unhealthy way.

I practiced day after day in those cheap uncomfortable heels that I got for like $20 in the Mission. I walked up and down the hallway in my house, trying to sell the outfit, but at the same time making sure I don’t fall and eat shit. When it comes to heels I literally can’t. All aboard the mess express, because that’s me in heels. I even put resistant patches on the bottom of my heels to make me feel more secure. I played in my mind all the things that could possibly go wrong, from falling, to passing out, even thinking if under the runway lights my underwear would be visible through the dress material. The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that I could see my belly button through the dress. And for that reason, I practiced walking in heels while sucking in my gut. So, I had to practice walking without falling, walking fiercely, but also achieve that by not breathing.

As the days loomed closer I think I had the mentality of “let’s just get this over with already.” At this point I already exhausted myself with anxiety and insecurities. I was just ready for it to be done with.

When we got to the practice run at the fashion showcase, I was starting to get excited that I would be the body to show off my sister’s designs. But I did notice something. I was one of the verrrrryyyy few “models” of color, probably the shortest, and definately the biggest. It seemed like all these women were atleast 5’10 without heels. I felt so out of place. Insecurities came back, though they never left. For a high schooler struggling with body image and weight, this seemed like the worst place to be.

All these tall, thin, “professional” models changing clothes openly infront of everyone is what got me cringing. The “changing room” was basically the back of the venue, outdoors and gated. They put up a tent where some could change more privately, but there were atleast 200 models. It was so crowded in that little open area that models would come right to the back after just walking off the runway and quickly disrobe to put on the next outfit to get back out there. When I put on my first outfit, I shyly went in the tent and made sure that I put it on as discreet as possible. You know, like when you’re in high school and you’re trying to change in the women’s locker room after swimming class? Like that.

When it was the real deal and the fashion showcase started, I could feel my heart pounding, my breathing picked up, and I felt like passing out. When it was finally my turn to walk down that runway, I faked it till I made it. Faked the confidence, faked the smile, faked my stomach and sucked that shit in. I didn’t fall. All eyes were on me, but at the moment I didn’t care. I walked off the stage exhilarated. I quickly met my sister for my dress change. I immediately started taking off my dress, left in my underwear and bra, scrambling to get into the next outfit.

“Marinelle what the hell,” my sister laughed but was also confused as to why I was doing it out in the open. At that point I was there all day, probably more than 9 hours. My feet hurt, I was tired, I was hungry, and most of all, I didn’t care anymore. I saw stares from the other “models” as I changed into my other dress with no shame. Some probably thinking “yo0o0o0o0, the nerve.” But I embraced it. I liked the fact that I was serving looks, but most importantly, that I was different.

A year later, my sister had her senior final project where she had to come up with multiple looks. My little sister, my 2 friends, my older sister’s co-worker, and I were my sister’s models. My little sister refused to be in it. In a way I saw myself in her. She was complaining about the same things I was just a year before. But I was telling her how cool it was, how it’s all in her head, and guilt tripped her on how we should be supporting our sister.

What I was insecure about a year prior turned out to be what I was most proud of. Being a “model” with my sister and friends made me prideful. I took pride in knowing that I was the thick Filipino chick who totally wasn’t a model. I took pride in the fact that we were a group of women of color who stood out from the rest. I took pride in the fact that I was in a space some would believe I don’t belong.

After the 2nd fashion showcase (where I wasn’t trippin as hard), my parents were smiling ear to ear. They were proud of my older sister for making all those clothes, and proud of all of us for coming through for her.

“Bigay ng bigay,” my mom and dad told me laughing. In bay area translation: I was givin it/ giving it my all/ doing the most. As I should’ve. The 2nd year was a totally different experience than the 1st. The 2nd year I embraced what made me different. I got more political and defensive with my insecurities and turned them into positives.

But I bet you’re thinking, “But why is ‘I’ve Got a Dream,’ from Tangled playing in the backgroud?”

I think it was this experience (and my later self-discovering moments in college) that made me have the far fetched dream of being a plus sized writing model. You know, like I get discovered for my body positive writing pieces and my radical views of realness, that I’m featured in a magazine or something 🤣. Sidenote, I’ve thought about posting “real” photos like a lot of body positive influencers I follow, but I personally feel weird posting half nude photos of myself. Power to the females that do though ✊🏽 I respect and appreciate models and influencers who put their real unedited photos up for people to see that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. But most importantly, highlighting parts of their bodies that society has labeled as “unattractive.”

I realized that I was so insecure of my size because I never seen someone that looks like me on TV or anything model related. I told my cousin, “What if one day I get discovered for modeling, think of it, plus-sized Filipino model, we’re underrepresented!” Unedited, gut out, stretch marks, blemishes, all the above. Even pulling up these old photos from 2013 made me feel some type of way. Like I said, I’m probably AT LEAST 35 pounds heavier. But I got to remind myself that weight does not define me. In fact, I was in a pretty dark place at the time when I was at my smallest. The backstory will be a future blog post.

That “modeling” experience helped me take the first steps to self-acceptance and self-love. Even though the journey is still continuing to this day. 💖 Embrace what makes you different!!!

Advertisements

“I’m a Writer”

I think back to an exercise I had to do in my Women and Gender GWAR class my last semester of college. The “GWAR” class is one of the core classes you have to take for your major/ minor that is heavily writing-based. It was maybe the first or second day of class, can’t be exact it seemed so long ago… Anyways, it was one of the very first class meetings. My Professor, Nan, stood in front of the class and said, “Ok, I want you to introduce yourself to the person next to you by saying, ‘Hello, my name is ….. , and I’m a writer.”

What a simple exercise to do. My classmates went about introducing themselves as writers with a smile, probably thinking, “Ok, whatever.” However, I hesitated. Saying “I’m a writer,” hits different and has a completely different meaning when that’s actually what you want to be identified as. But I turned to a classmate and gave my quick, “Hi, I’m Marinelle, and I’m a writer.” I could feel myself getting hot and turning red. I felt embarrassed that I was taking this exercise way too personally, but it really made me reflect on why.

I always get self-conscious about calling myself a “writer” for a lot of reasons. For one, I feel weird calling myself a writer if I’m not getting paid to write. When I tell people I have a blog, I feel a little shy and awkward, knowing that my online presence is nowhere close to where I want it to be. A lot of the time, I’m writing about things I’m passionate about, or experiences and stories that I think can help someone in some kind of way. At the very least, I want people to relate to what I write. From the get I’ve told people that my blog entries and the stories I share would probably never make it on your local TV News station. This ain’t breaking news. These are your everyday life stories.

My Professor went on to say that the point of the exercise was for us to be comfortable with calling ourselves “writers.” She explained that no matter how good or bad we are at writing, no matter how many eyes we have on our work, whether it’s for the public or for ourselves, that at the end of it all, we write, so therefore we are writers. It was a boost for the class to be confident in our writing, since the class was basically a writing class. Nan stressed that we’re all writers at different stages, and we all have more to learn.

Later on in the semester during our 1 on 1 meeting, I brought up how that exercise really hit home for me. I told her that it made me realize that if I can’t even confidently say that I’m a writer out loud, how do I expect others to see me in that light? We went on to talk about my research paper, and all the little goals I had with it. She assured me that I was doing great in the class, and that she was impressed with my writing abilities. She went on to tell me that I’m such a pleasure to talk to 1 on 1, but in class I’m so disconnected and almost not present, in a sense that I don’t want to contribute to the conversation when I know the answer. I laughed because that’s typical me, full of personality when you get me talking, but totally unbothered and minding my business if not. Nan encouraged me to apply for the Women Gender Studies Conference that was going to take place at Fresno State. I took her advice and applied – mostly because it was extra credit if I showed proof of just applying. A few months later, I was selected to speak at the conference about my paper focusing on the Body Positive Movement.

I get so in my head about writing, that it is beyond writer’s block. I have so many ideas and topics that I want to cover. It gets to the point where I go over a possible blog post in my head over and over again – how I would start it off, what topics to cover, what my point would be, what correlations to make, etc, that I exhaust myself. It seems like I write it a thousand times in my head already, that when it gets time to actually writing it out, I’m over it. And that’s partly because I’m high key a perfectionist, but at the same time a scared lazy ass bitch. I want my content to be worth the read, and sometimes I think, “Maybe this idea isn’t as good as you think,” and I talk myself out of writing it. Butttttttttttt, I gotta stop that. I am a writer. If not now, then when? If I’m writing into outer space and nobody actually cares what I say except my best friends and those closest to me, then so be it. Enough of trying to perfect everything. I always say I’m going to be consistent but end up fallin’ off. A lot of changes have been happening in my life and I feel like I should write about them because I know there’s people out there struggling with the same things. So stay tuned for my rants and quarter-life-crisis’s. You know that feeling where you feel like you’re turning to the next chapter in your book of life? Well that’s me. My brain’s in shambles thinking about life decisions.

With that said, I’m Marinelle Cabillo, and I’m a writer.

Analyzing My Instagram

I made this video of myself where I analyze my Instagram feed and ask myself the questions: Why am I posting this? How do I want people to perceive me? How do I accomplish the image I’m trying to portray on social media? Is my social media accurate with what’s going on in my real life? I analyzed my Instagram and came up with 5 things about me that I try to reflect online. I’ve realized that I really want people to know that 1. I’m a writer, 2. I have a blog, 3. I’m obsessed with J.Cole, 4. I’m from the Bay Area, and 5. I’m a body positive advocate and a feminist. I’ve provided screenshots from my actual Instagram profile to be completely open and truthful, but to also show what specific pictures and posts I’m talking about.

I thought it was important to dissect social media in particular because it’s such a big part of our lives. I personally think that people try so hard to uphold a certain image online, and at times, it can be very detrimental to ourselves and others. We tend to compare our lives to those around us, and if all we see are curated, happy, “I’m livin’ my best life,” photos all the time, it can leave some viewers feeling like they need to measure up to something unachievable. It’s like a competition of “Who has the better life?” It’s more common to see happy pictures and moments posted up on the ‘gram, rather than in-depth self-reflecting posts. I’ve written a couple stories on social media and the effects it has on people and how they view themselves. And I’ve found that social media tends to make people feel worse about themselves- whether that be their appearance, their self-esteem, their jobs, their life decisions, or their life in general. Social media is so readily available to view, but this also opens the door for constant criticism and comparing. People are so fixed on broadcasting certain aspects of their lives, but you will never really know the entirety of someone’s life through social media. You’ll just know what they want you to know, what they choose to show you. Like I said in my video, it’s like playing mind games with your followers. It’s not like we’re doing anything malicious, but it’s still trying to persuade your audience to view you in a certain way.

When I was analyzing my Instagram and asking myself these questions as to why I posted them, and what image I’m trying to project, I had my moment. One of those self-reflecting moments where you’re sitting there trying to make sense of everything, and all of a sudden the stars align and everything makes sense and you hit enlightenment. Just kidding, it wasn’t that deep. But I really had a moment of clarity, where I’m like, “ohhhhh…. Ok, so that’s what I’m trying to show, because X, Y, Z.” I think that’s what’s really important. The why behind what we post. What’s the motive? What is it accomplishing? Is the explanation as to why I post things detrimental, or a toxic way of thinking? I believe self-reflecting this way can help someone see their real motives. When I was recording myself talking about why I post things, I felt a little embarrassed to give my “why.” Only because we’re so used to uploading things with a witty or meaningful caption, but never the reason behind posting.

You’ll only know what they want you to know, is what I’m leaving with after this video. Even if someone documents their everyday life regularly, you’ll never really know someone’s truth just by their social media accounts. I was scrolling through my profile and chuckled in my brain a little. Yeah, y’all know I’m a writer, I broadcast it all over and post up my work consistently. But did you know that I’m actually very insecure about posting my work? Did you know that I sometimes wonder if I should even post it up because I have that doubt of, “who will even care?” Yeah, I have a blog. But did you know that I only made it because a class required me to? And did you know that I wanted to make a blog before that but never had the courage to do it? Did you know I kept the blog a secret- aside from those in my class- for about 6 months because I wasn’t confident enough to publicize it? Yeah, J.Cole is my favorite artist of all time… Actually, there’s no revelation for this point, haha. I fuck with J.Cole and I don’t care if you get annoyed of my J.Cole posts J . Yeah, I’m from the Bay Area and proud! But did you know that I constantly beat myself up over the fact that I probably have to live and settle down somewhere else because of how ridiculously expensive it is here? Did you know that I see the neighborhoods that I grew up in changing, and that it makes me really sad? Yeah, I identify as a body positive advocate and feminist. But did you know that I still have those days where I struggle to accept my body? Were you aware that I am so passionate about this topic that I cried in front of my whole class when pitching a body positive podcast idea to a well-known podcaster? Probably not. And that’s my point.

There is so much more to you that your audience will never know. You are the only person that can figure out your why. I’m putting this out there in hopes that someone views it and it changes them, or impacts them in a positive way. I hope that if anyone decides to analyze their own social media, and they realize they’re posting for toxic behaviors, that they reflect on it and find peace within themselves.