Dawn Frisby

How my reaction to Dawn's honest photos led me to realise the media have trained my eyes, only to recognise the ideal beauty only they portray.

A few weeks ago my friend introduced me to Cooler Magazine. She drew my attention to an article she said “you’ll love”, although my reaction wasn’t what she was expecting, and neither was I… My blunt, negative response was followed by the feeling of absolute disgust in myself, quick to take it back and reflect on why that came out of my mouth.

Why Don’t You See More Bigger Women Surfing?‘, was the title of the article, and naturally before I read any further I scrolled down to look at the images. Shamefully this was the point that “Ew” left my mouth, when I saw the artistic, honest photographs of Dawn Frisby getting into her wetsuit. I paused for a while, my friend and me both looking at each other in confusion, before she broke the silence exclaiming “Lil!”, the subtext being “I can’t believe you just said that”. And neither could I. I quickly tried to scramble some words together to get me out the hole I had dug for myself, but it was too late, my reaction had happened, and while most people might awkwardly bypass it and move on, I wanted to delve deeper into my response.

I came to the conclusion almost instantly that I have a trained eye, constructed by the media over many years, to support their portrayal of ideal beauty. I wouldn’t go as far to say brainwashing, but unfortunately it didn’t help that as a teenager I was very impressionable, so what I saw in the pages of Vogue was, in my head, what true beauty should look like.

My first issue of Vogue was December 2008, which my Dad reluctantly bought for me since I was thirteen at the time. I remember feeling so mature as I explored the pages filled with the most luscious images I’ve ever seen. I vowed that from this moment onwards I was a follower of Vogue. Seven years later, I still have my very first issue and the latest one on my bedside table. I do love it, don’t get me wrong, but being twenty-one now my perception of the famous title has slightly changed.

Over seven years it’s undoubtable that this magazine didn’t have an effect on me, it did, massively, in a good and a bad way. But like I said the biggest impact was on how I saw beauty, and even though I’ve detached myself in the last year from my trained eye, it does unfortunately still creep up on me.

In truth, the images of Dawn present concepts that are much stronger than physical beauty: courage, fearlessness, strength. These traits, among many others, are embedded within inner beauty, which I tend to find more admirable nowadays. After finally reading the article I discovered that the photographer and Dawn purposely chose “the most disgusting images … to highlight all the imperfections, all the wonkiness. It’s not about looking gorgeous … it had to be real and honest.” This is the problem that so many of us have. We’re scared of being real, because we are so often presented with fake. We download photo editing apps to cinch that waist in, to smooth the skin, to apply a filter, all because of our trained eye, because we believe that a step closer to those glossy page spreads is the way forward. I’m guilty! Only this summer I was a click away from posting an edited bikini shot on Instagram. I thankfully stopped myself. I knew I was lying to myself, but it was lying to other people I wasn’t okay with. And if I posted that, how far would it go?

I’m with Dawn, it’s about time we just embraced our imperfections, it’s so much easier than fighting them – and that’s taken me years to realise.

Read the article that fuelled this post here:

Photo Credit: Colin Hampton White