Return to my body
An interview with model, photographer and artist Bekka Gunther on returning to your body and body image as something and someone you fully own
Thank you for being here! In the sixth edition of the Atlas newsletter, you will find “The Design of Return” podcast sixth episode - about what it means to build a home in your body, through your body and with your body in conversation with model, photographer and artist Bekka Gunther; show notes; a link to download the full transcript; additional resources on the theme for #thelibraryoftransit.
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The spaghetti strap shirt
What does changing country and culture do to your own body and body image?
When I met today’s guest at a café for the first time in Milan, we didn’t know her story would bring us here, to this question.
She told me about that time when she was like nine or ten, going to school for picture day.
As a child, she grew up in a religious cult in Southern California where she was from. The rest of her friends were homeschooled, while she was attending public school.
All the girls there used to get their picture taken for the yearbook in their spaghetti strap shirts, which she was not allowed to wear cause the religious organization her family belonged to practiced modesty.
That day she hid a spaghetti strap shirt, with little pink roses on it, under the turtleneck and sweater her mom dressed her in. She was giddy with excitement to take it off for the picture.
“I am going to look so cute. And so normal” she remembered telling herself.
Except she had forgotten her lunch, and so when her mum came back to school, and entered her class with her lunch box, in her own words, “all hell broke loose”. She took her home, talked her into the importance of modesty in their practice, put her in an even uglier sweater and drove her back to picture day.
Ever since then, her body and her body image have transformed many times in a journey in between different worlds and cultures.
From growing up in a cult, to modeling, to moving behind the lens to be a photographer and knowing she was queer, today with Bekka Gunther, we explore what it means to return to your body and your body image as something and someone you fully own.
And we talk about choosing Italy as her current home with her wife and the role that this choice played in her story.
The Design of Return Episode # 6 “Return to body” - Show Notes
Friedrich Nietzsche said “Every living being can become healthy, strong and fruitful by living within a horizon”. Our most immediate horizon as humans is our body.
Welcome to Episode 6, “Return to my body”. In conversation with Bekka Gunther, we explore what it means to return to your body and your body image as something and someone you fully own.
From growing up in a religious cult, to modeling, to moving behind the lens to be a photographer, to knowing she was queer, with Bekka we unravel a journey to feel and understand what it means to build a home in your body, through your body and with your body.
She tells us her story of finding her place in the world as someone who has felt “other” in between different worlds and cultures, how can we think of the body in our culture beyond owning it and choosing Italy from the United States as her current home with her wife.
Download full transcript here.
2:40 Home is where I feel connected to my body
4:08 Childhood in a religious cult as being in the world but not “of it”
10:23 Growing up in a family in between cultures
15:47 Physicality to cope with feeling “other”
18:03 On anxiety
19:43 On having her first Christmas at fourteen
23:18 Modeling as taking back control over her body and image
26:44 About owning your body image and quitting
31:21 Befriending your body as an alternative to owning it
36:05 From “protecting men from herself” to realizing she was queer
38:09 The difference of feeling for a man, and feeling for a woman in your body
42:37 Experiencing the power of her mind over body with an eating disorder
44:05 Her first time in Italy as healing
50:09 On deciding to move to Italy and her body experience changing with place
56:37 A rapid fire game on three Italian common bias
#thelibraryoftransit. Read, watch, learn.
“My body” is model and influencer Emily Ratajkowski new book, which launched the week we recorded our interview with Bekka. In this essay collection, she investigates beauty, sex, power, objectification and fame in an unapologetic way.
Everyone I spoke to about “The body keeps the score” by psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk, considers it a new bible. In his deep analysis, full of powerful case histories, he changes the paradigm around how traumatic stress affects, connects and heal mind, brain and body in transformation.
Sarah Robinson is an American architect from San Francisco, now living and working in Pavia, Italy. I found her work in this wonderful book as I was walking through “Il salone del Libro” in Turin, an annual book fair: “Nesting. Fare il Nido. Corpo, dimora, mente” - “Nesting. Body, dwelling, mind”, in its English version. She published it for Safarà editore, which is a creative and brave publishing house in Italy who invented “I libri obliqui”, books with an oblique shape. They are almost impossible to place on a regular book shelf - that is why Sarah’s book is a regular shape, but they stay true to their philosophy: to treat subjects with an interdisciplinary approach that knows no boundaries. And it’s about boundaries and horizons that Sarah magistrally explores how we as humans use our body and our inner reality to create our world and our built reality. Strongly recommended for an unusual and informative journey in how to build a home from the inside out.
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