During a hot summer day, 12-year-old Kiana was running around outside with neighborhood friends she had known her whole life, in her bathing suit. The girls loved to go to the pool, run through sprinklers, and play on a Slip ’N Slide out on the lawn on days like this.
But today, Kiana’s father came home from work, and instead of just waving hello to his daughter and her friends, he got out of his car and firmly asked Kiana to come inside. Confused, Kiana followed her father in, and he immediately launched into lecture mode: “Never wear your swimsuit out in the neighborhood like this. You shouldn’t present yourself that way outside! You’re being inappropriate.”
Kiana was dumbfounded and didn’t understand why her dad was reacting this way. She didn’t feel she was doing anything wrong — and at age 12, she really wasn’t — and didn’t understand why none of her other friends, out there doing exactly what she was, were being chastised.
This was Kiana’s reality growing up. She had always been curvier than her peers, and when she hit puberty at the early age of 10, she filled out even more. Through no fault of her own, she was always treated differently from the other girls her age.
Later on, she decided to wear a racerback tank top one day to high school. A fellow classmate wore the exact same one that day, but it was Kiana who was called into the dean’s office and asked to change into her gym uniform because the tank top had been, you guessed it, “inappropriate.” (The classmate, however, was left alone.)
It wasn’t always a negative discrimination she experienced, though — in high school Kiana also was frequently typecast as seductive characters like Victoria in Cats, where she had to wear a skintight white bodysuit and perform suggestive choreography. While fun, Kiana now wishes she’d had the chance to really practice her acting chops back in her theatre days. “I was never cast as the ‘sweet girl’ or anything more challenging than the seductress or vixen. . . . On the one hand, it’s flattering to be portrayed as an attractive person, but there’s only so much to the only stage direction I ever got: ‘Be sexy!’ ” (Not to mention, at that age, was “being sexy” really something she felt ready for?)
But sexy she was, apparently. As a young, impressionable teenager, Kiana was more often than not perceived as being overly sexual when it was never her intention. Such was the nature of being naturally curvy: She had breasts when no one else did, an ample booty, and felt very aware of looking very different from everyone around her. Not only was her body thicker and fuller, but her ethnic traits such as the texture of her hair were also so distinct that she couldn’t pull off many of the conventional looks that were popular.
Now, as adults, we all know that to look good, we need to dress for our body types. But in high school, being unique isn’t desirable at all — it’s dreaded. All Kiana (or any other adolescent) wanted was to blend in with the accepted status quo. Abercrombie & Fitch — now exposed for its discriminatory marketing tactics, which evidently worked on malleable teenage minds — was the brand of choice at her high school, and Kiana looked markedly different in clothing that simply clung to her body the wrong way. “Dressing for your body” is often a concept too foreign for teens that are just beginning to familiarize themselves with the new shapes their bodies are taking.
“When all you want to do is be that ‘cool all-American Abercrombie girl next door,’ it’s hard to accept that you look nothing like the models on their walls,” she says. The same thing applied to the women in fashion and beauty magazines and widely celebrated celebrities like Kate Moss or Cameron Diaz, so while Kiana never felt unattractive, she also was very aware of simply never possessing what everyone considered beautiful: tall; skinny; angular; with straight, blonde hair; blue eyes; and subtle curves. “I was always hyper-aware because I didn’t fit in.” She even felt that way toward other peers of Indian descent, who may have shared some traits, but not her shape.
Once she was eventually exposed to new environments of more diverse groups of people, she began to see that physical beauty often expressed itself in any shape, size, and color. And when the very same homogenously “tall, skinny, blonde” peers of before began to celebrate the likes of Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira, Kiana began to better understand that in fact, her curves were not meant to be a source of shame or “being inappropriate.” She was how she was, and the supposed “curse” of a fuller bum and thicker legs were actually seen as attractive. When the guys in her life began giving her positive attention for the very things she’d felt most insecure about, that was enough to teach her that it was time to embrace what she was given.
She also eventually realized that even the girls who are “conventionally beautiful” all have their fair share of insecurities, too — as well as women of all other body types. Instead of seeing her body as something in need of modification, Kiana learned to accept her body and celebrate it. Rather than hide her figure in strategic clothing, she started to learn how to dress to showcase her assets rather than try to disguise them. As she has matured over time, she has also become less preoccupied with physical beauty and more interested in inner beauty. This further helped her realize the irrelevance of matters like shape and size.
When she came in to Art of Seduction to celebrate her curves, which she now loves — understandably! — it turns out even she was to be pleasantly surprised with her experience. “My preconceived notion of boudoir photography was always that it was very sexual by nature. But shooting with Argentina, I realized it was much more about the beauty and art than anything else. When I saw my pictures, I saw that it was far less about the lingerie than it was about me. It was fun to dress up in the lingerie, but I actually preferred my photos in the nude. I felt the most beautiful and comfortable in my bare skin.” (You can find our favorite image in Argentina’s newest couture sample album!)
Though not everyone is comfortable being photographed in the buff like our daring Kiana, she definitely encourages every woman to shed her insecurities in front of Argentina’s lens and in life in general. Her experience helped show her her own beauty tastefully through an artist’s eyes, and Kiana hopes that her story may inspire other beautiful women that may not fit the mold.