Last week, our latest collaboration with photographer Benjamin Von Wong took our SmugMug employees to new heights—literally. I was lucky enough to be one of those employees, though I am the unlikeliest of models. How did I end up on that rooftop with my superhero colleagues? Read on!
“Kerry, it’s your turn. Step up!” the photographer called to me, excitement in his voice.
Step up where? This ledge:
Which was followed by this drop:
And this is the safety harness that was certified to keep me — all 300 pounds of me — from plummeting to my death.
All the other models on the photo shoot wore harnesses, too, and I saw with my own eyes how many safety precautions were taken to make us secure. Logically, I understood that nothing bad would happen to me.
But I just couldn’t shake the feeling: I’m 2 people in 1. I’m going to be too heavy to pull up.
All I could think was:
If I fall, I’m probably dead because I was too fat.
Somehow I managed to step up on the ledge, and the photographer snapped a few photos.
When we were done, all the other models were excited to see how the pictures turned out. After all, we were on a skyscraper dressed as superheroes, getting our pictures taken by world-famous photographer Benjamin Von Wong.
But I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my photo at all. I had this nagging feeling: I’m going to look like crap. I may be on a fancy photo shoot, but I’m still a fat girl.
Here’s how my photo turned out:
Hey, that isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be.
Actually … I kind of look badass.
How the heck did this happen? How did I get to be a model on an awesome photo shoot? Models aren’t fat girls like me. But here I was, on top of the world.
Just one year ago, I was at the lowest point of my life.
My struggle with weight began right after college when a surgery on both feet left me unable to walk long distances for exercise. I ballooned up from a size 12 to a size 22.
I gained some experience after graduating and managed to get a great job writing for NASA. I had been there for 8 years when the phone call came from my boss:
“Kerry, I’ve got some bad news. I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. Actually, you were supposed to be laid off yesterday.”
This job was all I’d known for nearly a decade. What was I supposed to do now? How was I supposed to pay for my house?
I hung up the phone and burst into tears. Here I was, a 35-year-old grown woman, and I felt like a scared 14-year-old again. Completely lost.
I’ve never liked asking people for things, but when you lose your job, that’s what you have to do — ask everyone for help. After sending out hundreds of emails and posting to Facebook and LinkedIn, I heard about an interesting opportunity. Not a full-time job or anything, just a short writing assignment for SmugMug.
As a photographer myself (and longtime customer), I loved SmugMug and had been trying to get a job there for ages. Actually, they’d already rejected me once when I interviewed there 5 years ago. But no matter. This was a chance to get my foot in the door at my dream company, and I took it.
I completed the writing assignment for them, and the article somehow got the attention of Chris MacAskill, President and Co-Founder of SmugMug. It turns out he was the one who had vetoed hiring me 5 years ago.
He told me he’d made a mistake. Oh, and would I like to join SmugMug full time?
The next day, I packed up everything and moved straight to California to start my new job.
Within my first few weeks on the job, Von Wong was in town and SmugMug asked him to do a fun photo shoot for the employees.
SmugMug employee — that’s me! That’s how I ended up as a model on this phenomenal photo shoot.
The whole thing feels like a fairy tale, like something that only happens in movies. I landed my dream job and moved across the country. I felt on top of the world. But looking in the mirror, my outside didn’t match how I felt inside.
That’s why this photo means so much to me. It makes my outside match my inside.
It’s a reminder that, even when I was at my heaviest, I can look amazing.
Since this photo was taken, I’ve dropped a dress size. I’m eating healthier and working out regularly. If I could look amazing then, then I can continue to look amazing.
I went from rock bottom to a superhero literally on top of the world. How is this even real? This is the stuff of movies.
But this is my life now, and it’s pretty freaking awesome.
As great as this photo makes me feel, I almost didn’t write about it. I wrote and deleted this article 3 times before hitting publish.
The Internet is cruel. I’m already bracing myself for the comments people will make:
“She’s still fat.”
Or my personal favorite that’s been popular lately — “Why is she promoting unhealthy habits?”
It’s not about celebrating being unhealthy. It’s about loving yourself so you can continue to work on yourself. If you start the journey from a point of hate, that’s where you’re going to end. You may lose the weight, but you’ll still hate yourself. The root problem is still there — that’s why so many diets fail.
Start from a place of accepting yourself, so you love yourself as you continue to make progress.
Photography by Benjamin Von Wong. Read how he pulled off this photo shoot on his blog.
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