I’m so excited to share this with you!
The Women’s Outreach and Resource Collective at The University of Georgia, a collaborative community for advocates of gender equity and social justice, asked me to do an interview about my take away after my Photoshop post went viral.
I copied the interview text from their website. A huge special thanks to Angela Seal from WORC UGA for reaching out to me, as well as putting up with my fashionably late reply :)
Last August, Dana Suchow’s body + fashion blog Do The Hotpants went completely viral after the part time blogger posted a series of previously altered photos in a post titled “Photos I Wish I Didn’t Photoshop.” Coming from Suchow, this was kind of a big deal. Do The Hotpants was all about rejecting the “flawless” beauty ideal we’ve all come to know [and hate]—not succumbing to the very thing that breeds self-loathing and insecurity. Clearly, Suchow was well aware. The brazen blogger took it upon herself to expound on her decision, perhaps in an effort to address the much anticipated shock-and-awe.
“In my ongoing mission to lift the veil that is currently suffocating us women, I realized that I, Hotpants, haven’t been entirely truthful with you…But because I want to be as transparent with you as possible, I’ve decided to expose the instances where I used photoshop to distort and change my body.”
Pretty cool, right? Let’s be real. We’ve all been there, done that. In the spirit of keeping things real, I think it’s safe to say few of us would have the guts to go public with our photos à la Hotpants. Which is exactly why her exposé was eventually featured everywhere from Elite Daily to Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post. Believe it or not, after all of this craziness was said and done, she agreed to answer a couple of questions from our very own Women’s Outreach and Resource Collective! Without further adieu, meet Dana Suchow. . .
(Trust me, you’ll love her.)
Angela: How did you come up with the idea for your body+ fashion blog “Do the Hotpants”?
Suchow: The name “Do The Hotpants” comes from a James Brown song that I love. When I was going to college in San Francisco, I would throw disco and soul parties, and the nickname “Hotpants” stuck. In regards to the blog itself, there are a few reasons why I started it.
I always got compliments on my style. Friends would ask me for pointers or to take them shopping, sometimes people on the street would stop and ask if they could take my photo. To me, clothing isn’t just things on my body, clothes are the definition of who I am without using words. My style tells people how I am feeling that day. Whether I’m feeling loud, quiet, approachable, sexy, funny, nostalgic….and so on. I liked the idea of blogging because I could be funny and goofy and wear clothes I couldn’t wear to my regular job. I was able to curate the best aspects of myself for everyone to see.
Another reason I started the blog is that I was dating a fashion photographer at the time. He travelled around the world to different fashion weeks and I wanted to be able to join him. By becoming a fashion blogger, I could start making a name for myself. Slowly building my brand and celebrity until I could travel with him using funds from brand sponsorships and advertisements. We are no longer together and these are not my goals anymore. If I could make Fashion Weeks nonexistent, I would :)
A: Last August you published a post titled “Photos I Wish I Didn’t Photoshop” where you provided before and after side-by-side comparison of several photo-shopped pictures you previously posted on your blog. Not surprisingly, the whole thing went pretty viral, as I’m sure plenty of people could relate (raises hand*). That said…How has your life changed since your new found Internet fame?
S: I didn’t know the post would go viral. I was completely blindsided by it. And while on one hand it was great and I got a lot of exposure, the reality is that it was actually quite terrifying. I had people from all over the world, from all different backgrounds and ages and sexes emailing me, telling me how great I was, how I was a role model. I had barely overcome my eating disorder and my own body image issues, when I was being labeled a hero and someone to look up to. It was a lot of pressure that I wasn’t prepared to handle. I’m still learning to love myself…shouldn’t role models be perfect people who already know exactly what to do? Not people who are still learning how to live their lives?
Another aspect of it was that people said terribly mean things about me and my body. In all of the comments sections, on Instagram, on Twitter, I was getting attacked online. People were saying that I did the post for the fame, or that I was incredibly ugly and they’d pick apart specific body parts. They’d say I should just go to the gym and quit complaining, or that the photos were fake. All of this took a toll on me.
So I guess the way my life has changed is that I’m much more cautious of what I put out there because people will use anything against you any chance they can. I also will absolutely never use Photoshop again to alter my body. I am working hard to make Do The Hotpants a body positive hub. I want to be a website women can visit and leave feeling great about their bodies. I am trying to figure out my next step.
A: Was there anything in particular that prompted you to post these pictures?
S: I’d been wanting to post them for a while but it took courage. The funny thing is that I probably weigh 20 pounds more now than I did in those pictures. I look at the photoshop article now and think, “Wow I can see what people were saying about it not being a huge deal.” But at the time when I was photoshopping my photos, I used to cry myself to sleep. I would go running in the middle of the night, I would avoid social dinners because I didn’t want people to see how fat I was while I stuffed my face with food. If anything, I just want people to know that you NEVER know what someone is going through. You can never know a person’s experience just from their outward appearance. And that’s why I posted the photos. Readers were commenting on how beautiful I looked in photoshopped pictures. I was lying, and they were being tricked. It finally became too much to deal with so I had to come clean.
A: I read on your blog that this is the first year that you chose not to include “losing weight” to your list of New Year’s resolutions, which is awesome for obvious reasons. Still, I’d say it’s probably one of the more popular resolutions to have, especially amongst us women. What do you think made you forgo dieting in 2015?
S: I’ve been trying to stop dieting for a long time. As women, dieting is part of our psyche. It is forced on us at a young age. Fat IS a feminist issue because when women only worry about changing their bodies, they have no energy to change the world. So this is the first year of MANY years that I vow to stop weighing myself.
It’s funny. I would feel really great about myself, then I’d go to the gym and step on the scale and see I was 10 pounds heavier than how I FELT and it would ruin my day! 5 pounds or 100 pounds, my day shouldn’t suddenly go south because I’m not the weight I dream to be. A scale can’t measure my personality, my intelligence, my beauty, my strength. It only measures my relation with the earth and gravity and the moon and the stars. And if you ever feel really fat one day, just remember that those few pounds you think you need to lose before you are perfect, actually mean nothing in the grand scheme of life.
A: According to Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly 4,” the average American is exposed to nearly 3,000 ads daily. Ads targeted at women tend to portray an extremely unrealistic beauty ideal as a means of instilling a false notion that “perfection” is attainable so long as you buy this product to look this way. You know, the whole chronic dissatisfaction hang-up we’re made to believe is just part of being a woman. That said, what’s a word of advice for women in college experiencing body insecurity as a result of this arguably inescapable media inundation?
S: STOP HATING YOUR BODY! I want to scream it from rooftops and hug every woman I see. Women being forced to hate their bodies is the biggest scam the food and beauty industries could have ever created. It’s a marketing ploy to keep women in the stores buying products and out of the schools, government and business running the world!
When I was in college I used to cry all the time about my acne. I had what I thought was the worst acne in the world. I thought no one could love me, that no one would want to date me. I was ashamed to have anyone see me without makeup on. So I understand what you’re going through. I know it’s impossible to suddenly turn off the self hatred. But if you can try a little every day by telling yourself you are beautiful and loved and amazing and smart and any other wonderful thing you can say to yourself, you will start to heal your body from the inside out. You will start to erase all the damage that the negative self talk has done to you over the years. Loving yourself unconditionally is a daily fight. It is an uphill climb, but as you get closer to the top, you build muscles and develop self love skills that stay with you forever.
A: Scrolling through any given social media outlet, it’s rare to see a photo without some form of editing. Even if we know it’s not real, many women, myself included, find themselves constantly self-critiquing as a result. How do you separate fact from fiction?
S: You do and you don’t….
A lot of people will argue that we should just know that photo manipulation tools are used in advertisements and social media, and therefore we should know better than to trust those images. But I don’t think that is a fair argument. Imagine that whenever you look at a magazine or a billboard, that it is you as a child looking at it. How would you tell the child you that the images are not real and you shouldn’t compare yourself? The answer isn’t easy. The responsibility to decipher right from wrong should not be left up to the viewer. Isn’t this why we don’t see cigarette commercials on television anymore? And until advertisements come with photo manipulation warnings just like a pack of cigarettes, we must try and avoid them altogether.
Even though I’m a fashion blogger, I do not read Vogue magazine. I actually don’t read ANY fashion magazines. I don’t look at fashion week photos. I don’t look at runway photos. I don’t even follow social media accounts that post photos that make me question my own looks. If I see something and it makes me question my appearance even for a second, I will unfollow that person, throw away that magazine, or close that browser. Until we have more legislation against unrealistic representation of women in media, we need to treat media like a cloud of cigarette smoke…hold your breath, close your eyes, and run through the poison as quickly as possible before the smell clings to you and lingers on your mind. You might think that analogy is a stretch, but it’s not. Young girls are constantly being poisoned into thinking they’re not good enough, and this epidemic needs to stop.
A: What are some changes you’d like to see in regards to media representation of women in 2015?
S: We need women of color, we need trans women, we need stretch marks, we need fat women, we need skinny women, we need WOMEN. We also need to get rid of this notion that “Real Women Have Curves.” How about we change it to: “Real Women Have Everything and Nothing and All Of The Above and A Little In Between”? What I’m trying to say is that there are roughly 160 million women in the United States. Each one of them unique. Each one of them different. Each one of them REAL…and yet, there’s only a handful of them represented in the media on a daily basis. What does this tell the millions of young women who don’t fit that mold?
A: Who is one of your body+ role models and why?
S: After my post went viral, I try not to have too many role models. I know women I look up to are still just people trying to live their lives and get through each day with as little struggle against their bodies as possible. I try to be my own role model. I’m awesome and I don’t want to aspire to be someone else. I want to be me!
A: What’s something most of your readers don’t know about you?
S: I’ve been thinking about this, but I am so honest on my blog I can’t think of anything they wouldn’t know!! Oh how about this….in total, in the entire 3 years of running my blog, I’ve made less than $100. If anything is a labor of love, it’s Do The Hotpants.
A: What’s your favorite body+ book, movie or song and why?
- When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies – by Hirschmann and Munter
This book changed my life. It was one of the first books I read about freeing yourself from diet culture.
- Eating In the Light Of The Moon – by Johnston
This book is absolutely magical. It uses fables and stories to reunite women with their inner power, strength and importance in this world.
- Please please have your [readers] watch:
- The Illusionists
- Miss Representation
- Embrace (when it comes out)
- Girl Model
- Picture Me
- Super Skinny Me
A: Lastly, if you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
S: I would make it so right now at this exact second, every single person in the world was stuck with the body they had…right now. Every zit, every body hair, every pound of fat, nothing would change from this moment to the end of time. Imagine how much your life would change. Imagine the freedom you would have to focus on what really matters in this life.