As a kid, I was always different. I'm sure it was challenging for my parents to raise an outspoken, headstrong, vibrant, eccentric black child. As I began elementary school, I found myself in classrooms filled with students that looked nothing like me. In those moments, I began to embark upon my first understanding of body concept. I began to develop perceptions of my body’s attractiveness, acceptability and functionality by comparing myself to others. In those moments, reality would consistently hit me like tons of bricks. During my developmental years, I often felt isolated. I was consistently the tallest kid in class, the dude with a voice higher than most of the other boys, and (of course) I was always the chubbiest kid in the class. I started to feel self conscious about myself even as I rode public transportation to and from school. I worried about getting glances and being judged based on my appearance. I would always refrain from making eye contact and would head straight to the back of the bus. But, when I became a teenager, I learned how to make my self smaller. I would hide myself under large stylish baseball caps and $5 sunglasses from St Marks Place to mask the fear and shame of my face. From the beginning, I was labeled “different” which is something that has followed me throughout my life. At 6 years old, being “different” felt like a curse. But now at 29, being “different” feels more like a blessing.
Society has always had this obsession with perfection. This obsession that conditions most of us to never feel comfortable in our own skin because we are simply not enough and most likely will never be. Voices beginning to ring in our heads. Echoes of “you are not thin enough, thick enough, too pale, too black, or simply not beautiful enough” to be accepted. These deafening voices circled my thoughts throughout most of my life. This tone echoes from our coaches, teachers and even our own parents.This idea that “ perfection” MUST be achieved no matter the emotional cost.
It wasn't until I started working in the fashion industry that I started to see through the “4th wall”. Upon learning the powers of retouching, I started to realize that perfection and beauty are purely subjective concepts. Once I started to build friendships and working relationships with various models, I quickly learned that body image issues didn’t discriminate. Listening to male models with bodies that rival greek gods tell me that they too suffer from body image issues was equally eyeopening and jarring. Hearing damaging childhood stories of isolation, fear and obsessive self scrutiny made me realize that as men, we had more in common than I previously believed. Most of us had been programmed with this cycle of self hate beginning at the playground; in a space where we were most impressionable and vulnerable.
I am creating the “EveryMAN” project to empower and inspire. This project is geared towards creating a safe space that I hope will serve to liberate men worldwide from self hate. This book will challenge society’s standards of what the REAL male aesthetic is through the lens of re-imagined iconic 90’s fashion ads. I want to challenge society’s obsession with hyper masculinity and perfection by capturing men/male identifying from all backgrounds, orientations, gender identifications, personal classifications, races and colors.This is a call to all. This is a visual conversation about inclusion and diversity which I intend to translate into an actual conversation about the positivity that begins within.
- Tarik Carroll