Okay guys, let's get real for a sec and talk about BODY IMAGE. 

Because my theme for the year is "Wildly Free + Incredibly Secure," I felt like this was a necessary topic to chat about as we head into spring! The older I get, the more and more I realize the value in embracing who you are, being confident in your own skin, and just being unapologetically yourself!! Many of you know a bit of my story, but for those of you who don't, let me give you a bit of a back story... 

I moved to NYC when I was 18 years old from a small town in South Carolina with big dreams to become a model. What I heard over and over again was that I wasn't tall enough, I wasn't skinny enough, and my skin was too broken out. ((Which to me of course meant that I wasn't pretty enough too.)) I'm so thankful for my faith because I know that my value doesn't lie in these labels but rather in who God says that I am. Instead, I used that criticism as fuel to motivate me to prove them all wrong. Let's be honest... I didn't always feel as secure as this may sound... Are you kidding me?! I was a teenage girl, farther from home than I'd ever been before ((PS- coming to NYC was my first time on an airplane, ha!)), and trying to figure out my new life in the big city. In fact, I often struggled with feeling inadequate and insecure— especially when it came to my body. Don't we all?! I grew up as a dancer and a gymnast, so I always had muscles and curves. One thing I knew for sure going into modeling was that I didn't want to change my body or who I was. Of course I wanted to stay fit and be healthy, but healthy to me doesn't and never did mean starving myself and trying to "be skinny." 

I could go on and on about this topic because it has always hit home with me, but accepting your body type and loving yourself despite your imperfections is actually vital to your health and happiness. I now primarily work as a fit model, which means I cannot hide a thing! ((What's a fit model? I'll share more in a post soon... but basically I try on clothes for designers as they check the sizing/fit, drape, and look of a garment before it's made in mass quantities-- kinda like a live mannequin!)) My day to day isn't photoshopped. I am measured regularly and I cannot lie whatsoever about my weight-- including the little weight I may have gained over the holidays or my bloated stomach because it is that time of the month yet again. It's the toughest part about my job, but it's also my favorite. I get to be raw, real, and most importantly I get to me 100% me!((Trust me.. nothing feels more humbling than trying on a pair of shorts that came in 3 sizes too small, you can't button them up, and when you walk out of the dressing room the first reaction everyone has is "EW! THAT LOOKS TERRIBLE!" haha!!)) 

Of course as a fit model, I have to maintain my measurements exactly, so health and fitness are a huge part of my life! Being healthy looks different for different people and different body types, and now more than ever I am finally learning to embrace what my healthy looks like and be confident in my own skin. I'm not ashamed of my body and not because I think it's great, but because it is just who I am! Why hide it? My body is actually my job... haha as weird as that may seem. I think sometimes posting a photo in a bathing suit can be scary, intimidating, and super vulnerable. And to others may look like you are showing off or trying to be sexy, or whatever. But when I do, I do it from a place of a long journey of acceptance and finally feeling free enough to embrace myself for who I am! 

I hope this encourages you to take a look in the mirror and be thankful. You are one of a kind, unique, beautifully created, and absolutely an original. Be proud of where you've been and how far you've come and learn to love yourself for who you are... imperfections and all!! :) 

Xo- Tara

PS-- I left these images unedited ((just with a filter but no retouches, etc)) to keep it extra real with you guys!

Photos by Zach Brose