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Rock Your Ugly by UAE-based photographer Waleed Shah chronicles human vulnerabilities arising from body imperfections and insecurities and turns them into empowering narratives. The beauty of this book lies in the collection of over 50 real-life experiences depicted through thought-provoking black and white photos, highlighting how body image and mental health are interconnected.
Living in a world where body-shaming is a real challenge due to certain set, often toxic, standards of body image, Rock Your Ugly is a refreshing breakthrough. The book offers an unfiltered look into the lives of real people and their bitter experiences, often at the hands of family and friends, causing a negative body image. One of the narrators Hamdan Al Abri sums it up nicely, “Sometimes we place a huge burden on ourselves to look a certain way.”
Body positivity is hard to achieve if deep-rooted baggage remains unaddressed. The accounts of shared pain and struggles associated with body image, thus, unsurprisingly, offer a healing touch, stressing how such conversations can be normalised through acceptance, awareness and empathy.
Instead of driving awareness about health conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome and insulin resistance in women, society brands them as fat and lazy. Fairness is still held as a barometer of beauty! Such toxic body standards often drive people to bleach their skin, opt for rhinoplasty, liposuction and laser hair removal procedure yet not be happy at the end. The book rightly argues if such procedures ever teach us to embrace our real body insecurities.
At the same time, Rock Your Ugly celebrates each narrative by smashing toxic beauty standards. The author himself who was athletic until a crippling back injury is seen holding his bulging belly. It is a strikingly powerful image bound to resonate in a world where body insecurities are often hidden behind edited photos using Instagram filters.