I’m truly honoured to have been selected to be the next contributor in the Under the Red Dress Project.
Unless you have been devoid of any media, press, television or social pages in the past 10 days, you have probably seen the amazing work Beth Whaanga and Nadia Masot are doing.
Under The Red Dress Mission Statement
The ‘Red Dress’ is metaphoric of the veneer. The version of ourselves that we unwittingly portray to the world. It’s desirable, strong, beautiful and everybody admires it. This veneer has been constructed by the very fabric of the societies in which we live. The ideologies we grow up with, what’s acceptable, what’s not. We all want to belong, to be accepted and so we feel we must be a certain way, and we fit in because it’s easier. And at first it might feel like it really is. So we cling to this veneer as if life depends upon it, and in so doing may feel the need to hide what’s going on underneath.
But what if life deals us an unexpected blow? Sickness. Accident. Abuse. War. Birth defects. We then bare the body-altering scars that not only make us look different, but perhaps make us see ourselves differently too. For those of us who find ourselves physically scarred by life’s events, we can easily slip into this idea that we are not beautiful at all. What is beauty anyway? Let’s redefine.
The objective of the ‘Under the Red Dress’ project is to build photographic theses by gathering contributors who have endured a journey resulting in grievous bodily scarring. They will tell real stories about real people. In this way we hope to enable people to appreciate just what negative messages they are unwittingly accepting without filter or accountability and at the same time bring awareness to the issue.
These photographic theses will then be made available to the public via media such as gallery exhibitions, books and calendars etc. Proceeds will also be forwarded to chosen charities in connection with the issue the thesis is addressing.
I followed with great interest the hive of activity in the busy first 24 hours after Beth and Nadia’s story went viral. It resonated with me so closely, for so many reasons. Like me, Beth and her family are residents in Brisbane, she’s in her 30’s, she’s a mother, a wife, and her strength was oozing out of her images in a way that drew me instantly into her life. While I didn’t know Beth, I felt strangely like we knew each other. Her story touched me deeply and as I was heading towards my own bilateral mastectomy procedure, I felt comforted by the beauty that Beth’s images portrayed. Nadia captured her raw body in a way that I wanted and needed to see, at what was for me, the most perfect timing.
For those that don’t know, I consider myself a ‘Previvor’. What does that mean? It basically means that I’m taking a proactive approach to beating cancer by having a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy. In fact, by the time you read this, I would have undergone the surgery, with my procedure taking place on Friday 28 February.
This journey has been a long one, something I started thinking about 10 years ago when I realised the pattern of familial diagnosis of breast cancer in my immediate family. My own mother was diagnosed at just 44, with one of her aunts losing her battle well before she was 40. It’ seemingly strikes us young and I’m not prepared to be next. I have written a blog piece about my Why? and I invite you to share this via my blog called Previvor.
To be honest, starting a blog was something I really wanted to do, but I put it off for months and months. Why? I think initially I was a little afraid of the potential judgement of me professionally when sharing my very personal story.
I spoke with my husband about it, who is also my business partner and we both realised that I owe it to myself and my family to share this journey. I’m a very honest and open person (sometimes probably a little too honest) and whether it’s in my professional or personal life, it’s something I really pride myself on.
I realised that there is absolutely no need for me to be concerned at company CEO’s, potential new clients, my staff, old colleagues or even parents and teachers at the local school reading my personal story. It’s a part of me, the whole me – personal and professional.
I started the blog a few weeks before knowing Beth’s story, so it was very timely to read that Beth had over 100 of her ‘friends’ unfriend her on Facebook. It really resonated with me.
I’m in awe of the Under the Red Dress Project and their work so far and I’ll be reaching out and wishing my best to them as they embark on this exciting project. I feel completely honoured to be one of their contributors and as I sit and recover over the next week or so, I’ll be thinking about the exciting moment I have when I am photographed by Nadia for my post mastectomy shoot.
I invite you to share my journey as I continue to write honest, raw and true accounts of my journey with the decision to be a Previvor.
NB: A big thank you needs to go to Jessica from Brisbane based Essence Images for my gorgeous new Facebook cover image pictured above and for helping document my journey in photographic format. Your support and creativity through this has been invaluable 🙂
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