For the 18th BEAUTYfull post, we reveal the outer beauty along with the inner struggle of a young woman on the verge of becoming comfortable sharing both sides with the world. Often dressed in a way that covered her shape and minimized attention, and rarely sharing anything deeply personal about herself, I had seen and worked with a whole different Margarita than the bombshell who showed up for our BEAUTYfull shoot and subsequently opened up about her painful history, one I knew nothing about and due to her work, never could have imagined. I was totally blown away by her grace and poise and strength and vulnerability and wowed by her openness to accentuate and embrace her unique beauty for this project. Margarita has soulful eyes that hint at mystery and complexity, but only once her physical and emotional layers started to peel, did I understand their true depths.
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull®
Spread beauty. It’s our mission. And our goal in spreading beauty is that it reaches everyone. We believe beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, features, abilities, sizes, shapes, body types… in all the unique elements that form each of our unique whole. There is a FULL spectrum of BEAUTY and we all exist in it. With our own personal experiences, stories and voices. And with that, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull®.
For our 18th feature, we introduce to you… Margarita Garcia Acevedo.
THE 18th SUBJECT: Margarita Garcia Acevedo
Margarita was born and raised in Colombia and moved to the United States almost 5 years ago. She says she “moved to NYC probably for the same reason that most people want to live in New York, because NY is the city where everything is possible.”
Since she’s been here she has been motivated to develop her career as a photographer, learning from the best, and having the opportunity to show her work and her art to the world.
When asked to offer a little more about herself, Margarita shares “I’m a food photographer and in my career I found my biggest passion, my love, and my treatment for my Eating Disorder. I suffered from anorexia then bulimia, and was in treatment starting at 15 for almost 10 years. The possibility to create art and tell stories around food changed and saved my life and the way I see and want to keep seeing the world.”
And so began our moving and candid conversation about beauty and food and society and perfection.
THE INTERVIEW: Margarita on worshiping false social media icons, fitness as a means to mental health and managing an obsession with food through a career in food.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your past?
I almost died. It was out of control. I lost so much weight. My doctor chose to keep me at home and not a clinic. During my treatment, I had so many very low times, moments of shock, anger with myself and with the rest of the world. I wasn’t able to speak with people or create any kind of social relations. So for almost two years, I only spoke with my mom. She was who really kept me alive.I remember in the beginning of the treatment when my doctor decided to keep me at home, my mother had to feed me every three hours or so with some vitamin supplements while I was under very strong medication. She couldn’t even sleep at night because she had to feed me.Whenever you hear doctors saying that in mental health or addictive disorders the battles are fought by the whole family, it’s completely true; my mom was also in therapy sessions with my doctor many times during those years. I always have in mind a moment when my doctor, in front of me, told my mom: ”You have to be stronger than her, you have to keep fighting because she is going to be tired, she will want to quit but you can’t give up because if she sees you fighting she will keep fighting. She is going to do it because of you”. And I did, I kept fighting because my mom kept me fighting. I always say that she gave me life twice. I definitely would not be alive if it wasn’t for her.I said so many times in those years, I am tired, I don’t want to live more. It took years to get through. Now I don’t feel that way at all. I love my life. And the one who got me through was my mom.Te amo, Madre.
How does food photography help you with your treatment when it focuses on food?
Understanding food culture enabled me to see food differently whereas before I was afraid to be close to food. When I started to create things on set with food, everything changed for me. Food became a tool to express myself. Not something to fear. It’s not only for life and nutrition, but a tool for my art.
My obsession with food is still there and every day is hard in that my disorder is still there. But I read about food, I watch TV about food, I plan to start a magazine about food, everything in my life is about food — but now in a good way. My mother thinks I’m crazy to work in the field I do. But I feel I turned a bad obsession into a good obsession.
In Colombia we say if you can’t overcome your enemies, join them. So that’s how I think about it.
What appealed to you about the BEAUTYfull project? Why did you want to participate in this series?
I love being behind a camera but I never felt comfortable being in front of one, and the reason is because for many years I was super afraid of people knowing too much about myself and how I look… but after many years of fighting with my fears, I feel strong and proud enough to show and speak about the woman that I have become, my color, my shape and the struggles that I have overcome.
BEAUTYfull represents one step of my process to show who is the person behind my camera.
BEAUTYfull gives me the opportunity to empower those woman and men that, like me, felt once incapable to show who they are whatever the reason may have been. It represents the opportunity to celebrate our weaknesses and strengths because those are the things that make us beautiful and, finally, it represents the opportunity to accept how vulnerable we are to a society that creates subjective beauty standards.
Finally, I have to say the idea to collaborate on a project with a photographer and a make-up artist that I admire and I’ve worked with (two incredible professional women) is really exciting and allows me to also share a different side of myself with them.
Can you describe the idealized standard of beauty for women as you see it today. What does the perfect woman, as defined by entertainment, advertising and social media, look like?
The idealized standard for women nowadays has gotten beyond a “perfect body”; women today live under the pressure of “perfection” in all settings of life. Media not only sells us perfect bodies, they also are selling perfect lifestyles: women with a perfect body, eating in perfect places or living in perfect houses, they are perfect moms, wearing a perfect outfit all the time and of course they also cook perfect meals and somehow, they also are very successful in their professional life. Let’s not forget they also have time for the perfect workout. How? No one really knows how real those perfect bodies with the perfect lives are.
We always want to be the best of ourselves or to be “perfect” in some way. But we are pushing ourselves trying to achieve “the perfection” by following standards that don’t even exist in real life but can only exist in social media, advertising, et cetera.
Suddenly, this pursuit of unreal perfection leads us to feel that we are failing in different settings of our life and even sadder, it leads us to the loss of our identity following fake idols.
Have you personally felt this way? What have you done to overcome this feeling?
Comparison is the problem with social media. Whether it’s fake or not, we compare. I am trying to give myself a social media time limit each day, but it’s addictive. So I try to find healthy icons – not meaning fitness influencers, but just real people, with normal lives, daily struggles, busy with passions, creating things.
I look for artists over celebrities.
Do you think this standard of perfection is the same in Colombia or different?
The idealized standards for women in Colombia are the same. But the truth is, the standard of a “perfect body” has a stronger position in Colombian women’s minds; I really think the reason of that is because Colombia is a society where the people are always thinking about what others think about you and, unfortunately, lots of people will judge you according to how you look. So, not only do Colombian women feel the pressure of following a media-established standard, but they also have to deal with what their own society thinks or says about themselves.
I have to say that since I moved to New York I feel more freedom in being myself; I even started using less makeup because here the feeling of being judged by how I looked finally started disappearing someway.
So you would say New York is less judgmental?
In Colombia, the people are more critical and you get judged how you look a lot. Here in New York you have freedom to look as you want. There are still pressures but it’s different. Colombia is way harsher. There is judgment about how you look, dress, your education, the money you have. Here, I can be me.
Who were your first beauty icons and who you see as a beauty icon now?
I don’t remember having a famous beauty icon when I was younger, but I do remember seeing my mom well-dressed always. Her hair would always be done. Taking care of your hair has always been the the most important thing for her. I remember her at work looking like the super-professional-well-dressed-executive. That always made me feel so proud of her and when I was a kid and teenager, I always thought “I want to be like her”, “I want to look like her.” I still think she is really beautiful but I don’t see her like my beauty icon now.
Believe it or not, now my beauty icon is my grandma. She was the most secure woman that I have seen in my life. She was, of course, always nicely dressed but I didn’t look at her like that before or even while she was alive. The reality is that with the passing of the years I’ve started to understand how important she was for me; I remember her always so secure, empowering her role as head of the house, proud of herself without hesitation and always, always, perfectly dressed for each occasion. That security, the security that she had, that is beauty for me now!
Do you think inclusion and representation matter in image industries? How so?
Yes I think inclusion is important. As a Colombian, as a Latin woman, I am proud of the shape of our bodies, the color of our skin, the music we like — and I feel happy when I see my culture represented in a good way. Image industries can’t be just one color or shape. Image industries have the duty to help the world understand that diversity makes us stronger and beautiful.
Do you think it’s important for celebrities to share their issues with food and be honest about eating disorders?
I don’t think celebrities have to be completely open but those who chose to can help destigmatize things. Being open about things personally helps me and also can help others.When I moved to New York and started meeting chefs and people in the food world, I learned some have similar issues that I do. I was once working in a kitchen with a chef and I noticed she behaved with food the same way I do. The way she looked at food, touched food… So I opened up to her and she said, me too. I couldn’t believe it because chefs have to taste everything. As a photographer, I don’t have to taste everything. I asked her, how do you do it? And she said so many people in the kitchen and the food world have the same issues. That was unbelievable for me.I understood that a lot of us in the food industry love food but we also have to fight with food everyday. It’s part of our job. I am fine with my camera. It gives me some distance when I need it, but a lot of us don’t have that kind of safety.
Can you share what you love about yourself physically now?
I really love my eyes. Specifically my eyelashes and eyebrows. The reason why I love them is because I feel like I really express everything through them. My eyelashes and eyebrows are really black so the best part is that I do not even have to use makeup. I also don’t like to use mascara or anything for my eyebrows because I think it’s not healthy for my eyes and could make me lose hair so I decided to stop applying any makeup on them.
What is your beauty regimen? Has it changed over your life?
My beauty regimen has been changing over the last years. Probably because I didn’t have any before I moved to New York. After two years of living here, I started suffering from cystic acne, so I’ve been on a treatment since then. During this process I finally created the habit of actually taking care of my skin so, in addition to my prescription creams, I use moisturizing cream every single morning and night, sunscreen, an eye cream in the morning and at night, a primer that hydrates my skin, I also use a simple powder foundation, never liquid or oily foundation, and, at night, I always clean my skin. Needless to say, all those products need to be free of harsh chemical ingredients and made with natural ones, as much as possible.
How did the acne make you feel?
The acne, when it started, was horrible. Not only because of what you see in the mirror but also the pain of cystic acne.
Any beauty advice you’ve been given that you particularly appreciated?
My mom was always very persistent in a ritual for your skincare before bed. I didn’t take her advice at all back then because I was too lazy for that kind of process. Now that I am in the habit of taking care of my skin, I definitely can see the difference and why my mom put so much emphasis on that beauty advice. She also still insists that I should make some natural masks for my skin, using natural ingredients like honey, oats, aloe vera… but I’m still working on getting there, it’s just too much work.
How did you feel during your BEAUTYfull shoot? I had never seen you in bold color or showing skin before. You looked gorgeous and sexy and strong and very confident.
It was weird for me. Being in front of the camera. I don’t know how to move, how to smile. But I tried to be open because I trust you and Stephanie. I can show you guys — and myself — a different side of me.
You ended up wearing the makeup home to your husband, not having me take it off. Why?
I wanted to show him a different side of me too. My husband thinks I wear to much makeup already – which isn’t true – so I wanted him to see me in the shoot makeup. He likes natural and I do too. But for the shoot I felt like a real model. I wouldn’t wear that makeup every day but I felt like a model. I would love to see my skin every day look like that. The eyes and lips were fun for the shoot but I’m more obsessed with my skin, especially after the acne, looking clear and glowing. When your skin looks good, you really need very little else.
When do you feel beautiful?
It’s going to sound weird, but the moment when I feel beauty is after my workouts. After a long run, long bike ride or a swim… it doesn’t matter that I’m sweaty, that is the moment when my mind is clear, my body and skin are relaxed, I feel liberated and proud and it’s something that I do completely for me, for my mind and body, and that makes me feel beauty.
You mentioned recently starting to work out more and seeing changes in your body. Can you tell us about that?
Working out and being healthy with exercise was part of my treatment. I can eat what I want and not feel guilty if I work out more. It gives me freedom. I don’t feel obsessed with working out though. Working out helps my body but also helps my mind. I work out for my mind. When you change that thinking, your life changes. My mind and my soul need to be healthy. I chose to go off medication – which makes you sleepy and sedated – and this is how I became healthy on my own. I didn’t want to feel sedated my whole life.
For more BEAUTYfull interviews, click HERE.
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and owner of DIVAlicious® and BEAUTYfull®, a brand consultant and ambassador, a creative director and strategist, a published contributor and writer, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines and most recently serving on contract as Creative Director, Beauty for Bustle.com/BDG brands.
Lauren’s site gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be unapologetically fabulous as fuck (#sorrynotsorry). The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, motherhood, fitness and wellbeing.
Stephanie Stanley (or Stephania, as her Greek family calls her) is a New York City-based advertising and editorial photographer who specializes in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work can be found on ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, TODAY, DailyCandy, and TeenVogue. Her client list includes Levi’s, JCPenney, Clean & Clear, Microsoft, Olay, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Garnier, TRESemmé, Estée Lauder, Nexxus, GAP, Secret, and more.
Stephanie holds an MFA in Photography from Parsons and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and puppy, Ophelia, where she can be found running along Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoying chocolate croissants from the local Italian bakery (typically in that exact order).