There’s no way around it: I have big hips. In my day job as a photographer for a DC-based publication, I’m constantly reminded of them as I wiggle my way through the crowd to get the shot at the next Kennedy Center gala. But it was one such event that caused me to gain new perspective.
Let me back up a bit: I’ve always had curves. When I was in elementary school, my hips gushed over the sides of my desk chair. Other students could practically smell the insecurity. At least one boy stabbed a pencil into my thigh, asking if I could feel the jiggle.
Puberty hit like a freight train. My yo-yo-ing weight in the intervening years didn’t diminish the roundness and breadth of my hips. I learned to smile when a dance partner or date slides a hand past my waist, but I cringe internally. When someone praises my shape, I hear my own voice jump an octave as I thank them, but, really, I don’t see the appeal.
I can’t get over the sense that my hips contribute to my perceived gracelessness; that they mark me as undesirable, even as I was on a mission to lose weight. Although I eventually came to a truce with my body, I still wish my hips were less curvy – at the very least a little smoother.
For a solid 45 seconds, I completely forgot that I was a professional. The bark of a New York Times photographer yelling at celebrities to turn in her direction, the stress of beating my deadline and the discomfort of the shoes I’d worn melted away because it dawned on me that Ashley Graham was unspeakably hot.
Of course I’d known she was sexy – Ashley Graham had just been in Sports Illustrated. But standing there in that red dress, her hips were unabashedly full and she was a magnetic force rivaled only by the North Pole – barely.
I waved at Ashley Graham. She waved back like she knew me and I like to pretend it was because she mistook me for someone who’s photographed her before. I then remembered to take my photo, just before she walked towards CNN’s cameras – revealing what is possibly the nicest butt on the planet.
I managed to keep it together for the rest of the night, photographing the rest of the celebrities and political figures that came down the red carpet. Still, when I crawled into bed hours later I looked over the photos I’d taken of Ashley Graham and realized her build below the waist isn’t all that different from mine. Her stomach curves and her hips are lush and full.
I’m not Ashley Graham, but identifying where we were even slightly similar made me radically reconsider my self image. If her hips contribute to her undeniable sex appeal, maybe it added a little something-something to me too.