This College Student Used A Class Assignment To Promote Body Positivity

Martina Maya Callen is a 20-year-old honor roll student at Salisbury University. Like most young women, Martina can not remember a time where she was comfortable with her body weight. Martina admits, “The reflection in the mirror hated me, and I hated her right back.”

Callen struggled with her body weight so much that she developed an eating disorder, following diet tips from websites promoting anorexia and losing weight unhealthily. Eventually, inspired by a quote she picked up from body positivity advocate Megan Crabbe (@bodyposipanda) — “You will never hate yourself into loving yourself” — she felt empowered to give herself a break and simply accept her body for what it is. It’s an approach that’s helping her become more comfortable in her skin and learn to love her body.

Callen is double majoring in sculpture and conflict analysis/dispute resolution and found a way to reflect her own personal journey through art. She decided to create a live performance project titled “The Hidden Secret of Eating Disorders,” just in time for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

“I wanted to create a sculpture that depicted the darkness and entrapment of a negative body image, self-hate, and eating disorders,” she explains. Callen constructed a standing closet large enough to fit one person. Inside, she burned the message “Welcome” and signed it from “Ana,” to represent anorexia. She covered the rest of the floor with scales and words that go through many people’s minds when they’re silently suffering from disordered eating.

The structure’s walls are made from black plastic with a dual meaning: The material represents the trashcan some sufferers use to purge, and at the same time, a body bag for those who die from striving to reach unrealistic standards of beauty. There are also broken mirrors to represent feelings of insufficiency and insecurity. Callen parked the sculpture on campus, then asked people to enter the closet, one at a time, and reflect on these issues by writing on the walls.

She had a hard time going through with her project, as it required her to wear a nude bodysuit in public, a feat she thought she would never overcome. On her body, she used a black marker to write out the negative thoughts that have long plagued her and are often internalized, things like “not enough,” and “ugly.” Then, she invited the public to write whatever they wanted on her body.

The project was a great success, garnering more than 26,000 Instagram likes. She also heard from numerous people who have expressed that were inspired and empowered by her story.

“After this project, I feel more confident in my body and am truly further in my journey of self-love,” she says. “But it’s also about all the other people who look in the mirror and feel like they are not good enough,” she says. “I’m unbelievably happy that I could be a catalyst to people’s journey of self-love.”

Martina is currently raising money to take her project on the road through selling body-positive and eating disorder awareness shirts, which you can purchase by contacting her via her website.

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