Inside her office at Fed by Threads, a clothing line and retail store where profits are funneled into feeding the hungry, co-founder Jade Beall discusses her latest venture, A Beautiful Body Project, which is an upcoming self-published book. The aim of the book is to examine what constitutes true beauty. It features photographs Beall took of mothers' post-pregnancy bodies, along with written accounts of their experiences. The response Beall has gotten is that the project is bringing couples, families and friends closer. A Beautiful Body Project is due out in early 2014. For more information, check out abeautifulbodyproject.com.
How did you get the idea for the book?
I had been posting on my website for the last few years photographs that I take of mostly clients, Yogis and dancers, and then I write just about some inspiration, mainly words of wisdom. I gained a small following on my website. A lot of people had asked for me to show a wider range of body types because I talk about beauty a lot. (They said) 'You're just showing the typical—still the standard—of what our society defines as beautiful.' I was (photographing different body types). I had clients that had hired me but they didn't allow me to share the photographs. No one was really comfortable with that. I gained 50 pounds in my pregnancy and was having a really hard time losing it, with this very different looking body. So what a great opportunity to give the people who have been asking (for it) a different glimpse of body types on my website. (I could) write about what I was going through, with some post partum depression (while) trying to make something that was not feeling so good into something that felt good.
Do you feel that because you photographed yourself, it opened the door for other women to be more open about what they are going through and to be photographed?
Absolutely, yes. Within 24 hours my inbox was just filled with people I had never heard of asking me to photograph them just as they were—showing their post-partum blues or their inability to love their body post birth and wanting to find freedom from feeling ruined. That was the common thread. Then I took the first photo shoot ... and posted it on my Facebook photography page, and that's when it went crazy. I realized what a great opportunity (I had) to do a body of work, and that's how the project started.
How do you pick the women to be in your book?
Through their writings ... 95 percent of the women I hadn't met before.
How would your project have changed if you had gone with a traditional publisher instead of going through Kickstarter?
There wouldn't have been as much freedom. I get to curate everything; no one gets to say that photo doesn't work, except the mothers. All the women get a say if they want a photo in or not. If they are not comfortable with it we're not going to use it ... I think it is empowering that over 1,000 people are going to be listed in the book as making the project happen. It's like the community coming together and offering it.
How do you define beauty?
I define beauty through (the) irreplaceable beauty that everyone has through who they are. One thing I can't stand is when people say, 'Oh she is beautiful on the inside.' I am like, yeah, she is beautiful on the inside and on the outside. It is a whole package deal here. Life did not produce anything ugly. Everyone has something unique; none of us look the same.
How has the experience of creating the book been for you?
It elates me. I have a new purpose. It's really exciting. I look forward to getting up every day even when I am tired. I can't wait to get this book out and hold it (in my hands).
What do you hope this book will accomplish?
My dream is for women to waste less time (on superficial beauty), to feel empowered and irreplaceable, to have fun and get out their message (that they intend to) 'live the life I want to live.'