I’m so thrilled to introduce you to my first featured guest blogger, Christina Calabria. She will have a bi-monthly article spotlighting women in the Triad area. I first met her a year ago at a body painting/photo shoot session with Scott Fray and Madelyn Greco of LivingBrush Bodypainting. When I told her of my MISSION: Beautiful campaign she jumped on board and was eager to join the mission. Here is her story.
Hello everyone. My name is Christina Calabria and this is the first entry to Bonnie’s blog, Mission Beautiful. I will attempt to thread the meandering stories of how I came to this very spot, at this very time and explain why. In the following months I look forward to sharing with you some of the fabulous women I know who impact our worlds everyday. Some entries will be about Downtown Divas, the many women in downtown Greensboro who own and operate businesses. Others will include Greensboro Goddesses, women in the area who are making their mark and doing it with a beautiful spirit. I hope to bring you interesting stories and make a difference in how you perceive yourself and discover the inner goddess in all! I also hope to continue connecting wonderful women. Enjoy the ride and thank you for your support.
Flash back to 1999. Well, even further if we really want to map this journey out. 1970′s, my mother raised me to love myself, be self sufficient, kind, loving, giving, accepting of all people of all races, ages, sizes, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It had a profound effect on me. She was a beauty queen from the 50′s, an Elizabeth Taylor lookalike with more bounce to the ounce who beat out George Clooney’s Mom in the 1956 Miss Kentucky contest. None of that ever mattered to her. She detested being flaunted to the world. She would have rather been hanging with friends, making new ones and sharing a laugh and a smile. She made you feel good, and still does, in her presence. I always tell people she is more beautiful on the inside than the outside. Point of this story, I was raised without the trappings of the era of body perfection and diet mania. We ate wholesome, home cooked foods and consumed little to none processed. We were involved with physical activities and moved our bodies a lot. Good genes crossed with good habits makes for a healthier attitude about body image, beauty and true beauty. Focus was put on making others feel good in our household. Mom used to always say, “Beauty is only skin deep, ugly goes all the way to the bone.” There was a combination of Italian and Southern hospitality of inclusiveness. So you gained a few pounds? You were too skinny anyway!
Fast forward to 99. I had lived in Greensboro since 1987, when I arrived as a young college student from the Northeast (suburbs of Philly) anxious to settle in to a Southern way of life, less competitive, slower paced, more warm and fuzzy. Within those twelve years I had met some fabulous women of all backgrounds, ages, etc, and wanted to create an opportunity for them to connect and share and network and feel good about themselves. I knew we were all goddesses but wanted to help convince all of my friends they were too! So I invited all these great women to my home. No boys were welcome…this was a judgement free zone and when you add a man into the mix women naturally compete for attention and compare themselves to the other women. Years later I continue to host my annual gathering where we come together as women and celebrate each other, reconnect with old friends, make new ones, network our lives and feel good about ourselves. It is always a laugh filled, fun time that many look forward to. I am a connector of people by nature and nothing thrills me more than for all my friends to be friends!
Moving right along to 2010. I find it wonderfully ironic how my life continues to come full circle, the circles grow and shrink and overlap in the most serendipitous ways. One year ago I had the distinct pleasure of being a model for now North American and World champion body painters Madelyn Greco and Scott Fray of LivingBrush www.livingbrush.com. At the time they needed a model to work out the design for the first time they were going to the world championship in Austria, which they won 2nd place. Luck had it the original model couldn’t make the time so I enthusiastically volunteered my body. Naked…well, there’s a first for everything. I anxiously awaited for Sunday morning and arrived at the studio of Bonnie Stanley, whom I was meeting for the first time later that day for the photo shoot following the 6 hour long body painting session. I already felt comfortable with Madelyn and Scott, a fantastic, dynamic couple who are the epitome of professionalism matched well with their love for art and the freedom of expressing it in all sorts of ways. About an hour or so into the painting (I only almost passed out once from standing so long) Bonnie and her husband (at the time I had no idea who he was) came in. There I was naked, dizzy, going through some sort of emotional/mental/physical transformation through this process of being painted (a story for another time) and now two more people have entered the room whom I don’t even know. I settled into the scene in the name of art fairly quickly. I never felt judged that day, standing nude in front of four people. I am by no means shy but naked in front of folks is a whole other ballgame! My insecurities melted away quickly. “Theses folks do this all the time,” I told myself. After the final strokes of the brush we commenced to the photo shoot. It was an exhausting day but when I viewed the pictures it was like I had come through some sort of spiritual journey and it was cathartic. I felt an instant bond to Bonnie and her husband as well as a deeper connection to Madelyn and Scott.
Bonnie and I reconnected on several occasions to discuss different business opportunities with her photography business and the restaurant I help manage, Bin 33 downtown on Elm St. www.bin33greensboro.com. One day several months ago Bonnie shared with me her plan to start Mission Beautiful, geared at helping all women realize true beauty and break the paradigm of popular cultures’ restricting definitions of beauty. I consequently had been thinking about ideas on how to draw more people downtown and I realized there are a multitude of women business owners right in our backyard! Why not put names and faces to these fabulous folks in an effort to market downtown and the many wonderful, independent businesses. Couple that with highlighting true beauty and you have taken my goddess parties to another level! Network AND feel good about yourself? Nirvana! Thus the idea for my part in the blog was born.
So, what exactly IS true beauty? Such a subjective topic…for me…it’s watching a couple who’s madly in love stare at each other; a younger person helping an elderly or physically challenged person accomplish a simple task like walking across the room; watching my 89 year old grandmother (deceased at 90 last year) dance in the kitchen while she is making hoecakes on her cast iron skillet; anyone who dares to dance or sing or smile like no one is watching; a woman’s confidence that exudes regardless of any variable of age, size, color, etc.; a child grabbing for a hand of an adult; the colors of the trees in October; the smile lines on a woman’s face showing the years of laughter; the sunrise and sunset. As you can see my ideas of beauty go beyond the shape of one’s face, the size of one’s butt or the brand of clothes one wears. When you start to view the world as beautiful and yourself as a perfectly formed child of the universe, ego falls to the wayside and true beauty emerges. One can quit criticizing oneself and others and begin to live a more fuller, meaningful life.
Let the journey begin! May you find the true beauty in yourself, the world, and others.