“Fashion Is My Weapon”

Photography courtesy of Lindsay Rae D’Ottavio 

Lindsay Rae D’Ottavio speaks out on body positivity

How can women overcome body insecurity and negative body image to reclaim their worth? Meet Lindsay Rae D’Ottavio, body image activist and owner of Self Love Experience LLC. We caught up with D’Ottavio to talk about fashion and its impact on self-image.

D’Ottavio wants to give women permission to feel beautiful exactly as they are. She has photographed over 600 women, most of whom struggle with body image, who have stripped down for private sessions. Now more than ever, D’Ottavio is hearing the term “COVID 15,” referring to the negative impact of the quarantine on weight gain and body image.

Coming from a background of trauma and abuse, it took D’Ottavio years to find self-worth. Through a healing journey, she learned invaluable lessons on how to truly find peace with yourself. Here is what she said about her experiences and work.

Why are we having a conversation about fashion and body image?

As women, we compare ourselves to the younger versions of ourselves, so we’re not just fighting against an entertainment industry, a fashion industry, the makeup industry — we’re also fighting against ageism and our own ideals and struggles. I want to help women realize their bodies are beautiful at every step in the journey, whether they’re a zero or a size 20.

How are you changing the world?

We’re going to raise the generation that’s going to change the world because women are stepping into their power in a way that we’re impacting our children to be kinder individuals. When you feel good about yourself, you move through the world with more kindness and love, compassion and empathy. I believe people come in all shapes of fabulous; in fact, I write about body inclusivity in my book.

What brands are best for women who wear plus-sizes?

I recommend the brand Eloquii to plus-sized women like myself. And I want brands to hear this: if they veered off into more diverse body types, I have money to spend on it — if you make it my size.

“Fashion is my weapon” is tattooed on your arm. Why?

It means the way you dress is the armor that you put on to attack the world. Necklaces, scarves, pieces you wear are your weapons and the elements that make you an individual. They make you stand out, and you take them to battle. They’re my confidence. Everybody’s got that thing.

Why is shifting body image your mission?

What people don’t understand is that in the movies and in photography, the subjects don’t have flawless skin. The camera operator has diffusion filters over their lenses, which scatter the light and diffract it to create a sense of blur over the skin. The entire beauty industry that was built upon destroying your confidence to build it back up, and that’s something I refuse to play a part in.

Often, children will emulate negative patterns when they see a parent insecure. Our children look at us and say, “Oh, Mommy doesn’t like her belly. Well, now I don’t like my belly.” I remember a time my daughter was four years old; she had on the cutest little baby crop top that she kept pulling down. This moment is vivid in my memory: she looked at me and she said, “I don’t like my tummy, Mommy.”

My heart shattered like it has never shattered before because a four-year-old doesn’t learn this from watching TV. They learn it from watching their mothers tear themselves apart. That was my motivation to change. I wasn’t intrinsically motivated to change for myself. I made a pact to change the way that I communicated about my body to everybody else in the world and, most importantly, to my daughter. 

Why does the way you speak about yourself matter – even when it comes to jokes?

Self-deprecating humor always got me through things, but it’s also part of what kept me down. I love laughing. There is nothing better to me than a belly laugh that makes you almost pee your pants. For years, I was the subject of the joke. The only way that I felt comfortable interacting in a room of people was if I could make them laugh, because how could they like me for just me? How could they like me for my fat face, my scars, my chin hair from hormones? So, I make fun of those things first so that way, they couldn’t do it. I controlled the narrative, and then, I began to believe myself.

What are some body image-safe social media practices? 

Create an emotional bubble for yourself. Pick who you see on Instagram. Pick what you watch on TV. Choose how you see the things online, and relate them to yourself. Remind yourself that there are diffusion filters that most professional cinematographers use.

What last words of wisdom do you want to leave people with?

It is my life’s purpose to share the message of radical self-acceptance with as many humans as I can.

More about Lindsay Rae D’Ottavio can be found at bodyimageactivist.com or on Instagram @bodyimageactivist.

Daniella Platt is a host of “Looking Good with Daniella & T. Coffee,” author, co-founder of Jungle accessories and apparel industry marketing consultant. Connect with her online at daniella.today.