"I am a big girl. A voluptuous, curvy, dress-wearing lesbian. I love my body; it's the only one I'll ever have."
The above statement from "Same Love" singer Mary Lambert shouldn't sound so extraordinarily brave -- but it is. Despite the fact that the media floods us with images of supposed "female perfection" on a daily basis, and things sometimes seem like they're not getting better at all, an increasing number of people have spoken out during 2013 about how we treat women's bodies -- and why standard beauty ideals are failing us.
We want to recognize the people who weren't afraid to use their voices to bring attention to these issues. Here are 11 of our body image heroes from the past year:
1. Jennie Runk
Runk is the star of a May 2013 H&M swimwear campaign that gained widespread media attention for not relegating the gorgeous size 12 model to the "plus-size" pages of their website. In an interview with activist group SPARK, Runk told a young blogger: "I remember often feeling like I should be unhappy with my body, but it was confusing, because I never thought there was anything wrong with it until people started talking about it."
In a piece for the BBC, Runk wrote of her newfound media attention: "This is exactly the kind of thing I've always wanted to accomplish, showing women that it's OK to be confident even if you're not the popular notion of 'perfect.'... There's no need to glamorise one body type and slam another."
2. Jennifer Lawrence
The famously outspoken "Hunger Games" star has been extremely vocal about resisting diet culture and pressure to be unnaturally thin. "If anybody even tries to whisper the word 'diet,' I'm like, 'You can go f*ck yourself,'" Lawrence said in an interview for the November 2013 UK issue of Harper's Bazaar.
She also hit the nail on the head during a Nov. 7 Q&A with Yahoo! employees. "The world has this idea that if you don't look like an airbrushed perfect model," she said to Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. "You have to see past it. You look how you look, you have to be comfortable. What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That's just dumb."
3. Lily Myers
4. Mary Lambert
5. Nickolay Lamm
Lamm, an artist who works for MyDeals.com, used CDC measurements of an average 19-year-old woman to create a 3-D model which he then Photoshopped to look like a Barbie doll. His images of "normal" Barbie next to the doll sold in stores is truly worrying.
"If we criticize skinny models, we should at least be open to the possibility that Barbie may negatively influence young girls as well," Lamm told the Huffington Post in an email. "Furthermore, a realistically proportioned Barbie actually looks pretty good."
It's awesome to see a man take a stance on these issues, especially considering that many men experience their own body struggles -- often in silence.
6. Trina Hall
Hall, a Dallas-based yoga instructor, abandoned all dietary restrictions between March and July of this year in order to see how her body changed when she wasn't actively limiting her eating habits -- and how people in her life reacted to her changing shape. The results of her project were not what she expected:
The people who didn't know, who were just with me in my life -- there was no difference that I could tell in the way that they treated me. The difference came in my own perceptions of myself, and I began to treat myself differently. I was very judgmental, and I would look in the mirror and critique myself... I would pick apart my body. Instead of looking at the whole of my body, I would look at different parts and analyze what's wrong with them.
"My most shocking discovery through the process is that I’m afraid of not being loved," Hall wrote in a Jul. 30 blog post. "I noticed the self-talk was that my beauty is only on the surface."
The experience moved Hall to better understand the dialogue happening inside her own head, and inspired her to help other people suffering from poor body image. "I want to empower people to love their bodies... if it's going to start somewhere, it has to start within," she wrote.
7. Shailene Woodley
I saw somebody -- what I thought was me -- in a magazine once, and I had big red lips that definitely did not belong on my face. I had boobs about three times the size they are in real life. My stomach was completely flat. My skin was also flawless. But the reality is that I do not have those lips and my skin is not flawless and I do have a little bit of a stomach. It was not a proper representation of who I am. I realized that, growing up and looking at magazines, I was comparing myself to images like that -- and most of it isn’t real.
Because of her discomfort with how women are constantly Photoshopped and edited on-screen, Woodley doesn't wear makeup to events. What a badass.
8. Elena Raouna
The beauty queen hopes to use her platform to inspire young women to be comfortable in their own bodies, regardless of their weight. "My confidence has grown over the years and hopefully I can inspire other plus-size girls to be confident in their own skin," she said.
9. Kelsey Miller
The Refinery29 staff writer turned to intuitive eating, a practice where you learn to listen to your body's signals and eat accordingly, to help manage her body demons -- and is chronicling her journey on the Internet via the Anti-Diet Project.
"The goal here is not fast weight loss," Miller told the Huffington Post in an email. "It's about creating a healthy, neutralized relationship with food and learning how to be fit and active every day -- but still have a life."
10. Sheila Pree Bright
Pree Bright's photo series "Plastic Bodies" examines how beauty ideals affect women, especially women of color. Her striking images combine doll parts with segments of human bodies, and the discord between the two is startling. She told HuffPost in an email:
American concepts of the “perfect female body” are clearly exemplified through commercialism, portraying “image as everything” and introducing trends that many spend hundreds of dollars to imitate. It is more common than ever that women are enlarging breasts with silicone, making short hair longer with synthetic hair weaves, covering natural nails with acrylic fill-ins, or perhaps replacing natural eyes with contacts.
Even on magazine covers, graphic artists are airbrushing and manipulating photographs in software programs, making the image of a small waist and clear skin flawless. As a result, the female body becomes a replica of a doll, and the essence of natural beauty in popular American culture is replaced by fantasy.
11. Golda Poretsky
If you've ever doubted that fat can be beautiful too, watch this health coach and fat acceptance activist's video response to a comment on her blog. Poretsky's advice on such a delicate subject is both warm and practical: "One way to see the beauty in more and more people is to literally look for it."
Who are your 2013 body image heroes? Comment below or Tweet @HuffPostWomen using #BodyImageHeroes.
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