Karessa’s Story: Totally Embracing the Skin That I’m in.

“I never had acne until I turned 30. It was adult acne from hormonal changes, and I completely panicked. Around my period, I used to only get 2 pimples. I would get one big pimple on my forehead and one on my nose. Around the time I had the hormonal acne breakout, I was planning a party for my 30th birthday, and I thought that maybe it was just stress, and it would go away.”

“But, it didn’t.”

“I started getting pimples all along my jawline, my cheeks, and then my whole face was covered. I absolutely panicked. I literally put on every face mask that I had, and it wasn’t going away. It made it worse. I cried and all. The dermatologist recommended that I use Differin gel, but it burned me. So, then I had burned skin, and pimples. And then it was hard because I’m a photographer, and I couldn’t be in the sun.”

“I am a content creator on YouTube who does beauty and makeup too, but I didn’t want to sit close to the camera. I recently did a skincare video, and that took me a year and a half. I didn’t make a video for a whole year because I was embarrassed of my face, and in public, I felt like I had to explain it. This experience really opened me up to myself. I’m a body-positive influencer, and I’ve always been comfortable with my curves and everything that people think I’m not supposed to be comfortable with. But for some reason, when it came to my face, that really affected me a lot. I love my face. And if I didn’t feel cute, it didn’t matter how body positive I was or how much people still told me that I was beautiful, it didn’t matter. I just felt like I could always lose weight, but I couldn’t change my face. I wasn’t comfortable with my face, but my face is a part of my body. I had to go on a journey where I learned to accept all of it unconditionally.”

Karessa shows a close up image of her face. Her eyes are starry and warm. A soft smile meets us.

“During my childhood, I had always been confident because I was raised by two very confident plus-sized women. Now, it’s funny because body positivity never really became a thing to me until social media blew up. People would look at my pictures and say - “oh, she’s body positive!” But no, I was just being cute. I just thought I looked cute so I posted the picture. And when I did, people started commenting - “I love your confidence. How do I get there?”

“That’s when I thought of building a platform around self-acceptance and self-confidence. Additionally, I’m trying to break through this idea of a fat fetish. We deserve more than being fetishized as a source of confidence. As a plus-sized woman, we shouldn’t be required to sell sexy in order to be admired or get views. I can get sexy, and plus-sized women do need to feel sexy. But, that’s not the only thing that I want to build for plus-sized women. I want to show that feeling beautiful is more of an internal thing, and I want plus-sized women to know that they can feel beautiful on their own. Also, you don’t have to lose weight to be gorgeous. You already are. Even before you lose the weight, you have to know that you’re beautiful. It’s a mental thing. It’s barely physical. Moreover, you have to get to the root. What made you feel like you weren’t beautiful in the first place? Who told you that?”

“For a lot of people, it was an outside influence. On the other hand, I can’t sit here and say that I was bullied for being big. I’ve always been big, but I wasn’t bullied. I had a personality that was like don’t “F” with me so no one came and bullied me. I was just doing me, and then I looked good doing it. And because I carried myself in a way that showed my inner strength, people didn’t really tell me otherwise. I learned that attitude from growing up. I grew up seeing my mama and my grandmama walk with their heads held high and just own it. And while they didn’t tell me to do that, that’s what I grew up doing. I knew that I didn’t want anyone trying to tell me that I’m something I’m not. And that’s the attitude I try to inspire within the people that follow my platform.”

Karessa has red locs her cut into a bod. She wears a stylish hoodie that matches her hair and a necklace. She photographs herself, and has a laid back expression on her face. She sit in her car.

“I think it’s really important. I’ve seen a lot of women get really down on themselves. And because I’m a photographer, I get to speak to a lot of them. Women say to me - I’m going to book you for an event when I lose weight and get sexy.”

“I’m always like - who told you that you weren’t sexy?”

“Often times, because someone has commented on their bodies, they feel like they’re doing something wrong.”

“Then, they think - let me do what I’m supposed and lose weight, and then I’ll love myself.”

“But they never loved themselves before. I often ask women who talk about losing weight as a way to feel better about themselves this question: Tell me one thing that you love about yourself.”

“And they can’t answer me.”

“A big problem is that there’s a whole culture in the world that doesn’t like fat people. They even get mad when we try to lose weight. Also, the idea of getting mad at a plus-sized person for losing weight is crazy. So, they’re going to complain if you lose the weight, and they’re gonna complain if you don’t. That’s why I say be yourself because self-love should not be a matter of winning or losing. With that said, we have to realize that we’re not going to automatically love ourselves once we lose 30 or 40 pounds. Social acceptance is not the same thing as self-love. We start internalizing it as such though. Truthfully, until you find something about YOU, yourself, that you love, not much will change on the inside. You can’t go from hating yourself to loving yourself tomorrow because of a weight loss plan. It doesn’t work like that.”

“Another thing - let’s talk about keeping clothes that don’t fit anymore.“

“It wasn’t healthy for me to look at this whole tote of clothes that I used to wear, and it wasn’t good for healing so I donated all of mine. When my face broke out, I had to start my spiritual healing journey last year and address deeper things. And on this journey, I actually gained weight. Before my healing journey, I restricted myself from a bunch of things, mostly carbs. I even stopped eating rice. I hadn’t eaten rice in four years. I remember how I used to count all of my food, my calories and record it all in my fitness planner. But the year I started my journey, I wanted to eat rice so I just did.”

“I was doing all of these diet things, but I decided that I couldn’t address what was going on with me mentally and maintain a diet at the same time. I couldn’t work on my mental health and restrict myself so aggressively because that also took mental energy. I gained weight, but I also gained mental clarity and peace. And as I move further into my mental healing journey, any steps taken in regards to my physical body will be for me and no one else. I can be sure of that now. It’s all a journey, and I won’t be held back. “

“I’m going to continue with my photography business and my plus-sized apparel brand. I want to continue to make my Instagram a safe space for women, and I will continue to give women resources that can help them love their current selves.”