(Images thanks to Lisa Roden!)
We made the Body Love Conference happen.
And it was fucking glorious.
April 5, 2014 will forever be the day that over 400 women (and men!) got together with enough energy to fill a stadium and talked about the hardest (and thus most important) topic out there: radical body love.
With my nose to the grindstone for the previous 10 months, it stunned me when I stood on the stage and finally looked up. I was greeted by the loudest combination of cheering, clapping, and laughter I've heard. Maybe ever.
Goosebumps over my entire body.
The Body Love Conference came into existence because of 30+ volunteers from Tucson that somehow managed to work 10-20 hours a week on the event while raising families, working full time jobs... and y'know, living an already full life. I'm indebted to them beyond belief. They not only physically and emotionally powered everything behind the scenes, but also worked the day of- making sure that all information was handed out, questions were answered and all needs were met. Summer even had a glitter covered question mark headband to make her specialty clear. We had advocates attend for those who felt the need to process difficult information, or just needed hugs. We had 35 presenters (THIRTY FIVE) who all donated their time because they believed in the message. We had sponsors who believed in us when we asked them to support something uncharted. And beyond that, we had 400 attendees who's magnetic spirit enveloped every person there in something that could only be felt and never explained through simple words in a blog post.
Because of the power I witnessed that day, I really am at a loss for words... so I'm going to leave that part to everyone else.
"I can't really express what an absolute JOY The Body Love Conference was! The Body Positive movement is often a white cis gendered heteronormative space. It was clear and obvious that Jes M. Baker and team were committed to radical diversity, with panels on trans identity, disability, mental health, challenging the thin white ideal and more and a wide array of identities and bodies in attendance, I feel grateful for the camaraderie of humans; the people down for a REVOLUTION of radical self love! The Body Is Not an Apology is grateful for the chance to be in community with so many divine beings! Here's to many more chances to convene this UNAPOLOGETIC wave of world changers!" –Sonya Renee
"I really appreciated the opportunity to hear stories not only from women who fully embrace and love their bodies, but also from women who are struggling to do that. In a couple of different spaces I saw other women listen and support those who were feeling unsure, and it was wonderful." -Kirsten
"I think what made this conference awesome was the genuine LOVE, with Jes being at the heart of it. Having the advocates and safe space to go to was an amazing thing. She encouraged others to come up and give her a HUG, not just introduce themselves to her, and all this while I'm sure she was running around from one thing to the next. All of the presenters were coming from a place of genuine love, too, because it seemed like they had all been there. They all "get it." To have such a wonderful community to go to is so comforting. All of the women I spoke to were so inviting and nice. I came to the conference by myself, but was able to spend lunch with an awesome group of women who were also there. The cool thing about THAT was the fact that they were all very different women, but had all had their own experiences and connections with the conference. I was able to come this year because I had some family in town (aka free lodging) and cheap flights, but I would definitely spend whatever necessary to attend the conference again. I want to thank everyone who had anything to do with that conference, and all the great people who attended. It was such a fantastic experience!" -Lisa
"It was the most empowering, inspirational, joy-filled, possibilities-strewn, safe place to be exactly who I am. It was also a place to figure out where I am going next with the focused activism that I really feel is now available to me. That's it. The things we accomplished in our sessions, separately, magnifies what we will do together." -Jen
"I came down with a cold in the week after the conference. In the past, I would have been angry with myself for being sick and resisted getting care. Instead, I have been very tender with myself and getting the care and rest I need. In fact, I'm healing in about half the time it would normally take me. Louise Green said, "You are worthy of love and self-care," and I believe it!" -Carrie
"I attended the Body Love Conference because my sister Hally Thornton contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and lives in NYC and could not be there. When she offered me her ticket, I was a little ashamed that I hadn’t heard of it, but, even though she is my little sister, she has always known what books to read, movies to watch, music to listen and causes to get behind before I have. I was a bit hesitant that it would be a bit “woo woo” for me. I even texted my husband, “Skeptical…” when I was waiting for Jess to give the opening address. But it didn’t take long for me to be completely taken by what was happening around me.
The talks I attended, the movement workshops, the people I met…all swirled around me in this giant tornado of fabulosity and I was left in its wake. I felt like a part of something I believed in for the first time in a long time. Female drag queens, women that had been in terrible accidents and through terrible things that had overcome their circumstances at all odds, pregnant Lebanese professors teaching me burlesque, women telling me to accept myself as I am, and an amazing environment that let me be who I am and LOVED me for that. Those are things I will remember. And what I will take is the confidence to know that I am perfect as I am, that I do not need to be added to or subtracted from in order to prove my worth, the will to create my own happiness despite life’s greatest odds, and the determination to make my world one that resembles what existed on the 3rd floor of the Student Union on April 5th, 2014. Thank you for creating such a meaningful, pertinent, relevant celebration of humanity and including me in it. I will never forget any of you." -Bree
"My daughter's battle with anorexia began at the tender age of 12. After years of regular therapy sessions, a support group and her family's love, she seems to be winning the battle. While the treatment she's received was beneficial, nothing compares to the pride, acceptance and genuine love she (and I) felt at the Body Love Conference. There is nothing more powerful than being in a room full of over 400 women who have felt EXACTLY AS YOU HAVE. There is nothing more powerful to a young woman than hearing from many different beautiful, intelligent and courageous women share their stories of struggle with body love and their road to becoming the amazing, accepting people they are now. She and I both laughed and cried during this day long event. We hugged more people than I can remember and made what might be some life-long friends. It was one of the best experiences we've shared as mother and daughter. I only hope it becomes an annual tradition and I look forward to taking my younger two daughters with me as they get older." -Michal
"It was more incredible than I anticipated. I have stepped out of the self loathing identity trying to find my way to the Self love path and this was the perfect place for me. It isn't about where anyone is on the path of this journey, but the fact that we are all on it is amazing! I came alone from Washington D.C. I was so worried about meeting people. It was a non issue. Everyone was so loving and open. I made new friends and new contacts. It is a beautiful, empowering down right fun event. I can't wait to go next year." -Ashley
We'll be reconvening as committee members and chatting about how to improve next year. There are definite areas to work on (more photographers, longer sessions, and more days! to start the long list), but overwhelmingly the feedback is... "This was so needed." We're honored to have shared that day with all of you, and are looking forward to the next!
P.S. If you've blogged about the conference, leave the link in the comments! As we post more photos, we'll include them in our coverage roster!
P.P.S. I KNOW you’re going to ask (and I definitely don’t blame you) but YES the shoes were ridiculously comfortable and YES you can get them here. Dress too.
P.P.P.S. You can see more images by Lisa Roden here!
ALL THE LOVE.
Body and otherwise,