**Please note: All texts and interviews are in their original language, without translations // Veuillez noter que tous les textes et les entrevues sont publiés dans leur langue d'origine, sans traduction.
If you wish to hear 5 audio testimonies, follow this link: https://soundcloud.com/user-371025544/sets/testimonies-temoignages-pussylluminati
A I A
Like a lot of women, I’m not that confident when it comes to my vagina, compared to other parts of my body. I decided to be a part of this project, not only get to work with one of my favourite artists but also, to step out of my comfort zone and to help myself learn to love every inch of my being. What inspired me to be a part of this project is the Army of Vandals film. Its message was so powerful, and I loved seeing the beautiful women coming together to spread the word that these are our bodies and there’s nothing wrong with them. The Pussylluminati project is very similar in that sense: Vulvas, like bodies, come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all beautiful. Vaginas are what bring life into the world. I had never modelled in this way before, and it was an experience I was ready to have, to be part of this movement! I have nothing but love and admiration for MissMe; I even gave a presentation about her art in class last semester.
I felt comfortable the second I got to the location of the shoot; everyone greeted me with kindness and excitement. Both MissMe and Nastia, whose art I admire greatly, were so down to earth and warm. Once there, I was more excited than anxious to strip down and get right to it! The dynamic in the room was fun; everybody worked as a team to make sure everything was perfect. It was quite a sight to see and experience firsthand. Being a part of this project with other beautiful girls and working with amazing artists has been a dream come true.
\One Word\ Illuminating
Trusting strangers to take photos of my private body parts was an exercise in self-acceptance and body positivity. The photoshoot was an idea that inspired me, and I had to take a fearless jump and apply before second guessing my decision. The application made me wonder: “is my vulva interesting enough? What sets me apart from the other applicants? And what if this
is just someone collecting free porn?”. Would I have felt sad if my vulva was not used for the project, and would I have used it as more evidence to justify my low self-esteem? Probably. As a lesbian, my life can be pretty vag-centric. I love the vag; I worship the vag, but.... Do I like my own? Do I even know what it looks like? What makes a vagina a good one? I am glad my friends and I don’t whip them out and compare measurements. I saw the photo shoot as a challenge to my comfort zone, and a chance to be part of a project that affirms how different all bodies are. There have always been unreasonable physical standards in advertisements, and now people with vulvas can’t even ride the subway without seeing an ad for genital plastic surgery. I am fortunate that genital mutilation isn't forced upon my gender, in Canada. Body standards are completely unrealistic, let alone in a world of mixed cultures and genders. Feeling comfortable in your body is a huge challenge for cisgender, trans, and queer women alike. Projects like these create a sense of sisterhood in a society that teaches us to compete and to compare. Projects like these rebel and quell the pressure to fit into the mould. Why not take photos of your body and celebrate it as it is? Life is too short to fight things we can’t change, so let’s fight to change those we can.
This experience felt very comfortable and safe, and I left feeling good about myself. Everyone was supportive and respectful of each other. It was all about creating art, so the subject matter did not come off as objectification in any way. I had expected to feel shy and challenged at the shoot, but instead, I felt completely at ease. I even felt at ease when three people were looking at my vulva at once and deciding what makeup or glitter was going to be used on it. I feel that everyone who was involved is brave to have put this out there. It’s very empowering to find people who share the same political views and align together, to work towards creating change.
\In a Word\ Positive; uplifting.
J’ai décidé de participer au projet, car à un certain moment, on se demande tous si cette pression à avoir un corps qui correspond aux normes provient de la société, ou si elle est intrinsèque… J’ai toujours été aux prises avec mon estime personnelle et mon image corporelle. Très tôt, on a ri de ce dont j’avais l’air, on m’a fait sentir que mon corps était anormal et laid, et que j’avais moins de valeur. C’est comme si la grosseur du corps est inversement proportionnelle à la valeur d’un être humain. J’ai commencé à y croire jeune : c’était une fatalité… C’était si violent, que pendant longtemps, je me suis fait violence à mon tour, et de différentes façons; j’étais créative.
Apprendre à s’accepter est un long cheminement et j’avais la conviction profonde qu’une expérience comme celle-ci pourrait m’y aider. J’ai envie de dire que j’ai pris part au projet de MissMe pour contribuer à la représentation d’une diversité des corps, ce serait louable. Mais la vérité, c’est que je l’ai vécue pour moi, pour me mettre au défi; pour sentir que mon corps a une valeur similaire à celui des autres; et qu’il soit possible qu’il soit mis en valeur, photographié, et exposé. MissMe est une artiste inspirée et inspirante, qui dégage force et douceur et que j’admire profondément. J’avais envie de me laisser aller dans son univers parce que je lui faisais profondément confiance.
Je mentirais si je disais que l’expérience fut facile. Honnêtement, elle fut vraiment difficile pour moi, mais je sentais que je devais le faire et que je devais aller jusqu’au bout de cette expérience.
J’ai beaucoup pleuré. Pour une raison que j’ignore, j’étais particulièrement émotive. Se dénuder devant des femmes inconnues, c’est s’exposer dans sa vulnérabilité la plus complète. Mais le sentiment de sororité qu’a occasionné cette expérience était vraiment puissant. Finalement, mon expérience a été bien plus marquée par le processus créatif de MissMe.
Ce qui m’est resté, c’est l’acceptation et la validation que m’ont témoignées ces femmes magnifiques, qui ont réussi l’espace d’un instant à faire en sorte que je me trouve belle. Et pas belle, en étant cachée derrière une tonne de maquillage ou de Photoshop, mais entière, avec mes imperfections et ma vulnérabilité de fille au sexe nu devant un appareil photo. Et je vous jure que pour la première fois de ma vie ça grondait à l’intérieur de moi : « Fuck you world, I’m fabulous » (« Allez donc vous faire foutre, je suis sensationnelle »)
\En un mot\ Sisterhood is powerful (la sororité est puissante)
Because I just wanted to. Because I’m tired of women with body confidence being told they are intimidating. Because I’m a woman, who enjoys sex for pleasure. Because I am not ashamed of it. Because I don’t need approval. Because someone attempted to blackmail me for money using a picture of my body. Because it’s nobody’s business to tell me when it’s acceptable to appreciate my beauty and when and how to cover it up. Because I love my perfect imperfections. Because not everyone loves their own. Because my pussy might empower other pussies. Because I simply don’t give a fuck. Because loving and respecting yourself should be the first thing you teach your daughters. Because respect and self-respect do not only apply when I am clothed. Because me loving me for me, is my beauty standard. Because I want others to feel this way. Because we are taught to compete with our sisters. Because we need to empower our sisters. Because we need to stand with our sisters. Because my sexuality is not for you to question. Because my being open about my sexuality is not a reason to denigrate my intelligence
I’ve always been rather comfortable naked and have wanted to take part in a nude shoot for some time, but let’s be real: I’m a dork, not a model. When I encountered the casting call for pussy models went out, I gladly volunteered. I was stoked to take part in the shoot because not only would I get to be naked, but I’m also a fan of Miss Me’s work. My nerves kicked in on the day of when I walked up to the building and then switched into high gear when I learned I would be the first to pose. That feeling was pretty quickly shut down. This team of creative women did everything to make me feel comfortable as they collectively contemplated which position and lighting better suited my pussy. Being the first model meant a lot of trial and error which only made the experience more fun.
\In a Word\ Fun.
Since the dawn of civilisation, imagery has been the catalyst for connecting to one another through time; past, present and future. I took part in this photo shoot because it is through this vulnerability I hope to destigmatise the expression of female sexuality. I would like to create a beacon for those who are too afraid to speak up or against the status quo. I believe in being a creator of content rather than just a consumer, and urge women to question societal norms at every turn. Every woman who is on the continuum of self-discovery should allow themselves the space to express both their inner light and darkness, to examine the furthest depths of their soul. The divine feminine is that of boundless love and creation, and it is through this understanding of ourselves we can reclaim what is ours, co-creating a better future. We can only become a force against the stagnation of sociopolitical views through honouring our stories and experience while we are here and still can. I wish to leave this mark, fighting for what I value with reckless abandon. It is the female who has the gift to create, nurture and grow new life, and I wish to leave this world in a better state for my children than when it was handed to me at birth.
My experience was profoundly positive, both during and after the photo shoot. It was something I did for both myself and the greater purpose of being a part of the change I believe can and will happen if myself among many actively engage in creating a conversation surrounding the toxic relationship society has with female sexuality. The energy of the shoot transcended any fears I had about making myself both seen and vulnerable in this way. It uplifting to be in a space where women’s bodies were shamelessly honoured and immortalised through the creation of this series; I was glowing. I am immensely inspired by the women who organised and took part in this project. I wish to encourage others to embrace every crack and crevice of their being as well. This experience is a reminder of the place in which we all came.
\In a word\ Revolt.
Growing up in a Vietnamese household made it challenging to be able to express my mind fully. My family is very conventional and religious; it was, therefore, difficult to discuss certain topics that would go against their morals and values. For example, sexuality was never truly discussed with my mother. I remember when I was in CEGEP I had already dated my boyfriend at the time for about a year; my mother told me something like: “Now that you are older if you are doing adult things you must be careful”. It was incredibly awkward since we did not share that type of relationship where I could be curious and talk to my mom about this sort of subject. I believe that the lack of communication with my family has resulted in me being uncomfortable, both with vocalising my thoughts and with my physical appearance. It also affected my confidence. The main reason why I decided to take part in this amazing project was to help me accept myself. Accepting my insecurities and even my views on certain topics is a work in progress: This is extremely difficult for me to do because I am always criticising my face and my body. It is to the point where I am still asking myself why I do certain things on a day-to-day basis. For example, why am I going to the gym? Am I doing this for myself? For my health or for how I look on the exterior. Why do I feel more comfortable wearing make up every day and semi-permanent lash extensions rather than confronting the world with my bare face? Initially was coming into this project, I was seeking empowerment, self-love and confidence. As of result, I am getting closer to my goal.
The overall experience of the photo shoot was great. I think taking pictures of myself for the submission for the project was more nerve racking than being in front of the camera pants less, with three people in the room. The staff greeted me into the apartment where the shooting took place. The procedure was clear and well explained. Everyone was very kind and friendly which made the whole process a lot more calming and fun at the same time. The theme chosen for me suited me very well, and I was very pleased with that. I honestly loved my experience, and I want to thank you all for letting me participate in this empowering project. In the future, I would like to participate in upcoming projects if ever the occasion does arise.
\In a word\ Empowering
I am a human rights educator, and I decided to do the photoshoot because I believe it was part of my call to action. I’ve been following MissMe on social media for a year or so, and I identify deeply with the Pussylluminati movement. I wanted to use my body as a canvas for art, and the timing of this photoshoot felt right. It was empowering to not just like a post but to actually engage in the conversation (cause). I was thrilled to be chosen and took the process very seriously. In today’s social/political climate, I had no choice but to go in purposefully. Our work as activists, artists, advocates is too important.
I was nervous, and you guys provided a safe space. It was comfortable, clean and calm. The choice of room, music and creatives combined made the experience that much better. Thank you.
\In a word\ Bold
Growing up, I was often criticised for the way I dressed, whether it was by my father or the authorities at school. On the second day of 8th grade I was told directly by the principal of the school that I should start looking for another school if I do not change my attitude, and this was because I was wearing a skirt that was too short. From such a young age I experienced the inequality of being a girl and the older I got, the more I have tried to take a stance for what I believe in; that no one should determine how I should dress or carry myself except me. Why is it that men can walk around wearing what they want, and be as sexually active as they want without being judged; yet women get judged by men and other women for how they dress, talk, who they hang with, who and how many people they are intimate with etc. ? A question I have always asked myself and to this day still question. By exposing my most precious and powerful parts, I feel like I am taking a big stance for what I believe in, and helping to break these double standards our culture lives by so strongly. I can also set a great example for my daughter, to not let society tell her who you are and what you can and cannot do, be and wear.
This experience for me was excellent. I was pregnant at the time and revealing myself the way I did make me feel so strong, feminine and powerful. To expose on camera and in front of others the part of me that months later would bring life into this world was a compelling experience. I left the photoshoot to feel- ing like a different person after baring myself like that after a lifetime of being told to cover up and being slut-shamed for the way I have dressed or behaved. I am so grateful to be a part of something this meaningful.
\In a word\ Power
Like so many evenings bored out of my mind, I opened my Facebook searching for an interesting article to read or for something out of the ordinary. A couple of months before that search, I went through some rough time… My body went through major changes. Despite me smiling, I was not balanced, not in a positive state of mind. That's when I saw a post about a casting for a photo shoot. I hadn't done something I love in a while… A photo shoot seemed like just the thing to bring my spirits up. I then decided to write my interest to participate. "Pussylluminati" resonated in my mind for the rest of the night.
A few days later, I received an email from the team expressing their interest in meeting me for the photo shoot and what would be needed before the meeting. I saw an opportunity to involve myself in something that's probably bigger than me. I wanted to be part of this photoshoot as a means of healing as I had recently lost a pregnancy and had emergency surgery where a part of my creation centre was removed. I felt like I no longer had a connection with my body. I wanted to reconnect with my divine feminine and feel comfortable in my own body once again. I have scars on my belly that once were inexistent and I want to take pictures in my transformed body.
I was the last participant to arrive on set. I was a bit nervous and shy but very excited at the same time. The atmosphere was warm, sweet, and welcoming. It was fun to be greeted by other women. The contact was very natural; conversation took off! I was about to share the most intimate part of my body in front of the camera… My secret garden. I was astounded to be complimented on my skin tone, on how soft my skin looked. The same skin in which I was uncomfortable. The compliment made me smile internally. I was told that the term "power" had been attributed to the photo of my vulva. I so wanted strength and power to radiate on film, during the shoot. Yes… "Sit on the throne and spread your wings. Be powerful"! The ladies told me I held the pose like it was nothing.
The experience was divine.
\One Word\ Divine