My reflections on being a topless model in Times Square, following my double mastectomy treatment for breast cancer.
Yesterday a photo of me went up on a billboard in Times Square, New York, alongside nine photos of other women.
It’s going to stay there for two weeks. I think that’s pretty remarkable. But what is more remarkable and quite amazing is that the photo shows me topless, without breasts. I repeat…the image is of me; a flat woman. This is the shot which is being used as a high impact image.
I’ve no idea how many people pass though Times Square every day or how many actually notice what adverts are being shown on those huge LED screens. But if my image empowers one woman to make the same decision that I did, having seen me and recognised that she can be beautiful, feminine and strong without breasts, then I’ll be delighted.
70% of women report that they don’t feel represented in media & advertising. Project #ShowUs has created the world’s largest stock photo library created by women to shatter beauty stereotypes. There are over 5,000 photos in the collection, taken by 116 female-identifying and non-binary photographers, across 39 countries, of 179 diverse beautiful women. And I’m one of them in all my glorious flatness!
There are around sixty images in the collection, all taken by amazing photographer, Sophie Mayanne; the majority are of me wearing clothes…for a change. But the ones I’m really happy to see there are the topless photos.
My inclusion in the project is a culmination of the work and campaigning that I’ve been doing since February 2018. A fire was lit under me when I realised that I hadn’t been given all of the treatment options when I was told that I had to have a mastectomy. My reconstruction option was very clearly and graphically spelt out to me but what about the option to remain flat? NOT OFFERED.
Clearly, I enjoy the experience of photo shoots and feel very comfortable about showing myself half naked. I get to enjoy and do a lot of really fun things that I would never have thought possible in my pre cancer days. I even did some life modelling last week! And – full disclosure – I got a massive thrill from seeing myself on a billboard in Times Square. Honestly – who wouldn’t have?
But I don’t put myself out there for myself. I do it to try to normalise a body like mine and to show that women can be beautiful and feminine without breasts. I’d never seen a photo of anyone after a bilateral mastectomy, so I want to increase the visibility and try to destigmatise the choice to live flat. It’s a positive choice and one that every patient faced with mastectomy should be able to make if they want to.
Here is one of the campaign’s straplines:
You can’t be what you can’t see
I couldn’t have put it better myself.