I had a love/hate relationship with Nike in the sixth grade. All of the popular girls walked around in Nike hoodies. I wanted to be one of them, but I also had enough sense at that age to recognize that labels were stupid. I considered asking my mom for some Nike gear to see if it would change how the girls in class (and the boys for that matter) looked at me, but I never did. The famous Nike symbol wasn’t really my thing and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I came to terms with the fact that I was destined to be “ordinary” by sixth grade standards.
But my absence of swoosh wasn’t the only reason I wasn’t one of the popular girls. I was rocking a Dorothy Hamill ‘do at the time. My growth spurt hit around that age, so I was super skinny, all knees and elbows, even though I ate like a horse (like I’m talking marshmallows, butter, and Rice Krispies out of a bowl). I was a bookworm who was always writing short stories about fitting in and social justice and romance (I was that precocious). I didn’t curl my hair or wear make-up except for dance recitals. I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs until sixth grade and even then, it was only because I came home and told my mom that I needed a razor now because a boy at school had called me a “wooly mammoth.” True story.
When middle school and high school hit, same ingénue, slightly different story. I gained some confidence through dance, friends who were misfits, too (my high school group was affectionately dubbed “The Amoeba”), a prominent role in the theatre department, praise for being a smart girl, and my first boyfriend.
But even then I never considered myself the pretty girl that anyone wanted to be. I was known at school, but not sought after. I didn’t date a lot. I wasn’t invited to parties. I was still taking risks with fashion (who wore black pleather pants to school with a matching jacket – oh yeah, that was me). I’d started wearing make-up, but class was at 7:30am and I prefered shuteye to eyeliner.
I had some standout moments for sure, but for the most part I was just one of the crowd. And that was okay. I was finding my way just fine and I really liked who I was becoming. I started to grow comfortable with the fact that I would never be the proverbial popular girl who was pretty and charming and destined to take over the world with the flick of a well-manicured fingernail.
But luckily, I never got that comfortable with the concept of being ordinary, normal, common, or average. Because I’m not. No one is. Like Nikka Costa says, “Everybody got their something.” You just gotta tune into it. And there are a few things we girls need to learn, to internalize, to really understand.
I’ve learned how to own my quirky, interesting, sometimes androgynous, sometimes other era look.
I’ve learned that you don’t have to be commercial or classic to be beautiful.
I’ve learned that it’s confidence in front of a camera that makes a model, not genetics.
I’ve learned that it’s freaking fantastic not to peak in high school or college.
I’ve learned that being genuine is more flattering than any color made by MAC.
I’ve learned that flaunting what you’ve got attracts opportunities like mad.
I’ve learned that the girl in the pictures below is fierce and gorgeous and motivated and smart. She’s surely destined to take over the world…
And she never had to wear a Nike hoodie to do it.
All photos courtesy of Eric Fiallos of Bald Pirate Creations. All rights reserved. No copy or redistribution of this work is permitted.
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