Beyond the #Girlbossmoment: Jen Schenkel Takes Her Body Image Campaign to the Streets!
“As a kid, I was overweight, had terrible acne, spent a couple Christmases wishing for my two front teeth, and wore clothes big enough to simultaneously fit all my friends plus me. I walked around for years with sad eyes because boys weren’t interested and ate nothing but salads because I wanted to be the size of a Barbie doll. I even stole a razor to shave my body hair after being brainwashed into believing doing so was the norm, and I can also recall hiding my period for years due to embarrassment.
High school came around and I began experimenting with my dad’s DSLR camera and a super old version of Adobe Photoshop. As I began playing with the idea of photo manipulation while watching tutorial after tutorial on YouTube, I discovered I could change the colour of my hair, zap zits, whiten my teeth—hell, I could even lose ten pounds, including that double chin—all without dropping a dime or breaking a sweat.
It is no secret that advertising distorts reality. If you think about it, we never see the original model, only the finished result. Without realizing it, this makes us (the viewer) self-conscious about our inability to look exactly like the models we see in advertisements. According to research we, on average, see 400-600 advertisements a day. Take a minute to let that sink in.
The media makes it really hard for anyone to be individual. We spend so much time judging ourselves based on someone else’s idea of perfection. Advertisers need to realize that there is a difference between beauty and digital alteration; there needs to be a radical change.
After high school, I spent four years at the Ontario College of Art & Design studying in both art and design departments, where I had a hard time differentiating the two. As someone once told me, 'Art asks questions, design answers. Design is there to fill a need. Art fills no need except its own internal need to exist and challenge the viewer. You design to make people’s lives better in ways they don’t necessarily see or appreciate, but without which they would be lost.'
As I entered my fourth year, full of angst and feeling like more of an artist than designer, I was lost when it came to choosing a topic for my thesis. It wasn't until I turned the voices in my head off that it became obvious I needed to look inside and focus on issues that matter most to me—issues that also happen to affect others on an incredibly large scale. It was also at this time that I realized that I could incorporate my artistic skills into my design thesis, fully tapping into the deep depths of my creative power.
I saw this as an opportunity where I could help create change. I could use my skills, voice and creativity to share a message. I took it upon myself to encourage women and men to think critically about the information they are consuming in regards to popular culture. I designed a chart, inspired by nutrition facts, and Consume This was born.
Growing up with a burning love for street art (and Shepard Fairy) I headed to the business supply store and purchased sheets of adhesive stickers that I could run through my cheapo inkjet printer at home and print off stickers as I needed them—a very DIY approach. I handed stickers out to friends, family and strangers, with the goal of plastering the city. Like advertising, I wanted to make sure I was getting my message out there; I wanted to make sure I was being heard.
Surviving my thesis year is still to this day my greatest #girlbossmoment. To this day I continue to work on the project. Thesis was a long and winding road, with many, many late nights; an almost Dave Grohl-like coffee addiction; and many, many doubts, though I kept pushing forward. Years after graduating, I still continue to work on my thesis, with hopes of eventually turning it into a documentary series as the topic is continuously evolving in the public eye."
Three pieces of advice for building a freelance career:
1. Love your work. Discover and pursue your passions. Create the work you want to be creating. This is key. When what you are doing is aligned with who you are, it’s energizing, and this energy will spill over into other areas of your life. You will be sending off nothing but good vibes to all those around you.
2. Keep your friends close, and make friends with your enemies. Having enemies takes way too much energy that could be better spent on your dreams and becoming the best person you can be. Don’t be guarded or defensive. In a world of freelancing, your network is everything; you can’t afford to have enemies; try your best to be nice and professional to everyone as often as you can.
3. Don’t undervalue yourself. One of the hardest parts of working freelance is deciding how much you’re worth. It’s important you find a number that you are happy to charge for your time.