empowerment

We All Believe in You - The Documentary by Andrea Beça

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My name is Andrea Beça. I’m a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller. I’ve been writing my whole life, and I became a producer/director when I was 19—over a decade ago. I’ve got two degrees, multiple awards, distinctions, and honours under my belt, and I am both proud and grateful to say that I’ve turned doing what I love into my full-time career.

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Photo by Jillian Schecher.

I also live with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and body dysmorphia. A lot of the time, I feel really good and you'd never know. Sometimes this means I feel short of breath in social situations. Other times it means that before I can even get to a social situation, I am on the floor of my bedroom in the fetal position, hyperventilating and feeling absolutely hopeless. Sometimes this lasts for a while, until I am numb and feel like I am living outside of my own body. Sometimes the darkness feels like it’s going to last forever. But the light always creeps back in, and I'm grateful to say that love and hope have always won.

I’ve been a fan of Blake Loates’ photography for some time. I got involved with We All Believe In You (WABIY) when I volunteered to transcribe a portion of the interviews that were going to accompany Blake’s portraits at the official launch of the initiative. I signed myself up because mental health and opening up conversations about mental health has always been very important to me. At the time, I also happened to be in a deep depression as the result of losing a loved one. And about a week into my volunteer gig, one of my friends became suicidal. I spent my days keeping tabs on them, talking them through some of their darkest times, and making multiple emergency calls, both to the police, and to my therapist.

The entire experience made it so clear to me that WABIY needs to exist, and if there ever was a time to make a documentary about WABIY, it’s now, with the help of Telus STORYHIVE's newest documentary edition. Mental illness affects everyone—whether you suffer from it yourself of you love someone who does—and it doesn’t discriminate. We’ve lost some very public figures over the years, making it clear that having your dream job or a lot of money isn’t a cure for mental illness. The number of people dying by suicide is on the rise, and—in the words of WABIY founder Blake Loates—suicide is starting to feel like an epidemic.

More and more people are talking about mental health and mental illness, but conversation isn’t everything—what we need is community. We need to support one another, advocate for one another, and do our best to educate those who don’t understand mental illness and perpetuate the dangerous stigma that surrounds it.

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Photo by Andrea Beça.

And that’s what this documentary is all about: giving people living with mental illness a voice, normalizing the conversation about mental health, and growing the community of support. I want to highlight the work WABIY and Blake are doing so that we can spread the love and help people across Canada—and all around the world—feel less alone. I also want to do anything I can to support WABIY in creating systemic change so that there’s more support and resources for folks suffering from mental illness. Many people don’t know what to do when someone in their life becomes suicidal, or how to navigate the system to get the help they or their loved ones need when they’re sick. Blake’s work with WABIY is quite literally changing that. The more people learn about WABIY and join the community, the more people learn what assistance and resources are available, and how to support someone who is mentally ill or suicidal. She’s spoken at numerous schools and events, educating thousands on mental health. Every day, by sharing her story, by advocating, and by being open to having the conversation, she’s helping people understand, navigate, and live with mental illness.

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Photos by Blake Loates.

The main subjects of this documentary are folks who have been involved in the WABIY community, as well as professionals and leaders in the city who are ready to speak up about their own experiences. From school teachers to psychologists, city councillors, stand-up comedians, youth workers, and family members of those who have died by suicide, we’re showcasing a diverse group of people affected by mental illness, and my hope is that the audience of this piece is as varied and diverse as the people featured in it. My dream for the WABIY documentary is that anyone watching it can identify with it—that they can see themselves represented on screen and feel seen and heard and less alone in their struggles. My dream is that anyone watching the documentary who hasn’t spoken up about their issues will have the courage to reach out—either to a friend, a family member, a professional, or to the WABIY community—and get the support they need. And if they’re not struggling themselves, my dream is that they’ll walk away from a screening of We All Believe in You knowing how to support someone who is. That, in my eyes and heart, would be a huge success.

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Photos by Blake Loates.

In order to make this documentary a reality, Blake and I need YOUR help. From today, July 30, until Thursday August 2 at 1pm Mountain Time, you can go to our STORYHIVE page and vote for our project to be made. STORYHIVE will be awarding funding to 15 projects here in Alberta, and another 15 projects in BC. We're hopeful that with the support of our amazing communities, we will be one of those projects!

The nitty gritty - a summary:

  • You can vote for We All Believe in You right here on the project's STORYHIVE page.
  • You don't need to sign up for anything to vote - simply click "VOTE" and you are set!
  • You get 5 votes per day, and can vote for any given project once per day. We encourage you to check out as many projects as you can and vote for all the ones you'd like to see made! 30 projects will be funded! (Here are a couple you might dig: Queer Scouts, MSed With the Wrong Girl, Go Girl...)
  • You can vote every day from RIGHT NOW until 1pm Mountain Time (Edmonton time) on Thursday, August 2! Please vote every day to give us the best chance possible of winning the funding we need to make this documentary real! 
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Photo by Andrea Beça.

I cannot thank you enough for your support in making this documentary a reality. Please follow We All Believe in You - The Documentary on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date, get voting reminders, and ultimately to find out if our project has won funding! 

Boudoir Photography is for Everybody and Every Body / On Body Positivity, Self Love, and Creating Safe Space by Andrea Beça

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DISCLAIMER: Writing this blog post has been a strange and wonderful journey. I thought I could write a really simple post announcing that I have a boudoir marathon coming up, but as I started - and re-started - writing, I kept finding myself diving into a deeper story, and I think that's a clear sign that I needed to dig deeper and say more and share more about myself, my work, and where I'm coming from. 

So if you don't want to read the whole story, scroll down to where you see some photos for details on my upcoming boudoir marathon - the first of what I hope will be many!

And now onto the blog post...

I've always been a huge fan of boudoir and pin-up photography.

My obsession with pin-ups started when I was in my teens and I discovered women like Bettie Page and Jayne Mansfield. I loved the confidence they could exude in a single photograph. I also loved that many of the women I saw in pin-up photos had round bellies and fat rolls and bigger boobs and bums. Because my whole life, I've been bullied for one thing or another, and most of the time, it's been about me being "fat."

I used to REALLY fear the word fat. It haunted me for almost 30 years. It started when I was 5. It's been shouted at me. It's been whispered under my bullies' breath along with cruel laughter. It's been said to me over and over by doctors when I've gone in for issues completely unrelated to my size. It's been implied over and over again by both students and fellow fitness instructors. It's been graffitied on sidewalks alongside my name at junior high. 

It's something I used to run from. I wanted to be ANYTHING but fat. Fat was something I had to strive to be better than, somehow. It's something I had to move past and escape and never utter because heaven forbid it was a word that would EVER be associated with me again. 

(WTAF, right? I know.)

I can't even begin to start to tell you about the journey I've had with self-love and body positivity. I'd need days - no weeks - of your time. (And I'm gonna maybe write about it in a book one day - HINT HINT IF I EVER GET TO IT.) But in a nutshell, I can tell you I've been up and down - through self-loathing, self-harm, disordered eating, sleeping with jerks in an attempt to feel pretty, exercise addiction and obsessive calorie-counting - always trying to fix not myself, but everyone else's definition of me.

Because deep down, at my core, I've always been super down with who I am. I'd say, "sorry if this sounds arrogant," but that's just society's training of me to be a well-behaved and humble woman, so I'm just gonna say it: I'm great! I'm kind, compassionate, smart, talented, and YUP - beautiful, too. I dare say I'm a hottie. People, I'm a catch

And so are you.

But it's so easy to get bogged down. To get caught up in the world telling us we're too fat or skinny, or we're too large-breasted or flat-chested, or we're too weak or too muscular, or we're too queer, or our skin isn't the right colour, or we aren't able-bodied enough, or our names aren't easy enough to pronounce, or, or, or, or...

So I've found self love and I know I'm fab. Do I always feel this way? Hell NO! I've thought I found self love and then realized I was still just trying to please others. I've actually found self love and then lost it from time to time. I've struggled to remember my self love on really, really dark days, or when someone says something that triggers my deepest insecurities. Our relationships with ourselves and our bodies are hugely complicated. There's no switch to flip to make you, me, or anyone feel spectacular all the time. I'd say, "wouldn't that be nice?" but how would we grow if nothing challenged us from time to time? How would we know joy without sorrow? 

In the last 6-12 months, I have been asked so many times about building community and safe space, and how I got so good at it. I was even asked to speak at an event on the subject (shout out to my friend Jocelyn of The Virtual Effect for inviting me!), and to be totally honest, until that moment, it wasn't something I had even considered to be a strong suit of mine, or something I even did.

I agreed to speak, because at that point, it was a question that had come up so frequently, I felt like the universe was finding a way to force me into realizing something, and then think about it. (I've found the universe to be very good at pushing us towards introspection when we really need it...and when we're open to listening.)

Am I a "community builder"? What does that even mean? How do I make people feel so comfortable when they're around me? 

I'm going to try to keep this as short as I can, so I'll just tell you now that I had my realization. It hit me randomly, in between the frantic to-do lists always running through my mind, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I've always been a misfit. I've always been "fat."

And I've spent my entire life doing my absolute best to make sure that no one else ever has to feel that way around me, because I know how much it hurts. 

And for the record, when I say I don't want people to feel "fat," I'm using that word to mean all the hurt, negativity, and shame we feel when we don't fit in, for whatever reason. It's in quotes because it's a concept that, while very real in its impact on me and so many other people in the world, is bullshit.

Fat babes of the world, I see you and love you. Skinny babes of the world, I see you and love you. The bottom line is that no matter who you are, what your size is, your age, the colour of your skin, your gender identity, your disability, your mental health, etc., you are spectacular, beautiful, worthy of love, unconditional acceptance, joy, and happiness. 

Yeah, I'm fat. So what?

How does this all tie into boudoir photography and why am I writing all of this on my work blog?

Like I said, creating safe space is something I always strive to do, and so is promoting diversity and inclusivity. So when I knew I wanted to start offering boudoir photography, and I started to work towards building up some marketing materials and portfolio images, I reached out to friends to be my models. And of course, I ended up with an amazing variety of gorgeous human beings eager to take part. 

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And I also ended up getting way more than I bargained for. In the best way ever. 

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One of my models told me they had had really negative past experiences with boudoir, and that they had chosen to take part in my session because of who I am, and because they felt safe with me and my intentions. 

Another wrote to me days later and said, "You helped me feel beautiful while in a really difficult headspace. I don’t think I could possibly express my gratitude for that."

Another expressed that they felt so powerful and beautiful and couldn't believe that the person in the photos was them. 

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My heart has felt on the cusp of bursting since that day of photo shoots. I am humbled and honoured, and I am so incredibly excited to host my very first official boudoir marathon and continue helping people harness their confidence, find their power, and see themselves as beautiful - in their own eyes, with their own definition, whatever that definition is. 

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THE DETAILS

When is the boudoir marathon happening?

It's on Saturday, June 16!

Who is this boudoir marathon for?

Absolutely anyone who wants boudoir photos.* 

(I've been asked by multiple men if they are allowed to get boudoir photos, and the answer is yes, of course.)

*Unfortunately, the studio I have rented for this particular session is upstairs, and the building does not have an elevator, which does limit some folks from attending. I apologize for this, and promise that I am working on a fully accessible space for next time! 

What is the cost and what is included?

Each session is $425 +GST. This fee includes the following:

  • Professional hair and makeup
  • A glass of wine or kombucha while you're getting pampered
  • A 45-minute photography session (with as many outfit changes as we can fit in reasonably)
  • 7 edited final photos (delivered digitally, with the option of purchasing prints, extra photos, or the entire session)

What time are the sessions?

Photo sessions start at 10am, and happen throughout the day. There are only 10 spots available, so if you want a spot, be sure to snag it soon.

How do I book a session?

Thanks for asking! Click this button for availability and to book your spot:

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Kapow, that's it, that's all. If you read this far, you are a gem, and I truly appreciate it. 

I leave you here for today, feeling incredibly grateful and excited to see you on June 16th.

A.

Dig this post? Do me a favour and share it. Help me spread the word and spread the love. And thank you in advance.