Everyday, I fall in love with a different model. Immersing myself in the captivating presence of such chameleon-like beings is addictive. I have educated myself on multitudes of glamazons, waifs, and bigger beauties; from Veruschka to Kate, Cindy to Gigi, and Iman to Binx, my fascination with humankind's genetically-gifted is unquenchable. I recognize, however, that my adoration of these long-limbed bombshells is rooted in my obsession with the fantastic images they procure.
Model beauty is seemingly unattainable. Don't we perpetually want what we cannot have?
I do not know these strangers' personalities first-hand. Only now, as social media forcefully thrusts itself into the fashion world, have models been able to control their own image and share their truest selves with the world. As I stare at the glossy pages of my favorite magazines and the pixelated screens of my omnipresent technological devices, I often wonder what it would be like to get "Mossed" with Kate the Great herself, or pound New York City's pavement with the Californian Hadid sisters. I've even pondered, Does Ashley Graham share my love of French fries?
Fear not: A plethora questions have been answered by a model utilizing Instagram to pave her own road into the modeling industry. (She, too, has a penchant for greasy food.) As endearing as as Corrine Day's muse and thankfully double her weight in muscle, Shauna Sexton is as sexy as Yolanda Foster's offspring. Her looks could kill, but her wit is sharp. And that's what makes Shauna all the more enticing.
MOLLY MINTZ: The Shauna Sexton the world sees via Instagram is sensual, intriguing, and outspoken. A multitude of girls seemingly idolize you because you're not afraid to bare your body. What does "confidence" mean to you?
SHAUNA SEXTON: Well, don't get me wrong, I still struggle with confidence -- we all do, but I never want an illusion that I am not adequate enough to stop me from being exactly who I am. So confidence to me is being unapologetically just who I am and not being afraid to be just that.
MM: Have you always considered yourself to be so self-assured?
SS: You know, it's strange because [ever] since I can remember I've always been kind of isolated for who I am. I believe a lot of it had to do with the fact I never bent myself to make others appreciate me and the older I got the more I realized I appreciated my company more than others around me. I also felt more lost when it came to interests and paths in life but it somehow lead to the dismissal of anyone thinking their opinion was in consideration when it came to my self assurance.
MM: Why do you believe people feel so threatened by a woman that is comfortable in her own skin?
SS: It's dangerous, I mean it's lethal. A woman who is so comfortable with who she is that she has no fear of outside opinion, not to mention no need for approval -- I mean, god, that's absolutely beautiful.
MM: According to The Representation Project, "53% of 13-year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17" and "65% of US women and girls report disordered eating behaviors." Obviously, the national state of self-esteem in young girls is devastatingly low. What factors do you believe influence girls' poor opinions of themselves, and how do you believe we as nation should promote confidence in young girls?
SS: The media is obviously a huge influence in low self-esteem. I mean, we're raised to think that women are supposed to look at certain way, supposed to act a certain way, supposed to be calm [and] quiet [and] collected, supposed to lack leadership and/or be submissive... et cetera. How do we strike balance between being modest and letting our brilliance shine? Why do we have to abide by any social standard to [be] deemed "womanly"? Why are girls mean to girls who love themselves? We're on the same team; a girl achieving something in life is not a personal affront on you. I think far too often we view each other as a competition and not as teammates. Instilling confidence in each other is just a minuscule detail to these problems as a whole. I'm human -- I hurt, I get envious, but I’m here for girls that are all messed up inside. I am here for girls who drink too much, and do drugs to mask the pain. I’m here for girls who are promiscuous to fill the void. I’m here for girls whose bodies have been beaten and violated. I’m here for girls who are so depressed they can’t properly function or get through the day. I’m here for girls who are drop-outs. I’m here for mentally ill girls. Disabled girls. Sick girls. I’m here for every damn girl that doesn’t feel like life is worth living; even though we’re fucked up, we’re still valid and important.
MM: Let's shift gears. Your toned, healthy, muscular body is much more relatable and attainable than the lithe, sometimes scarily-skinny physiques of other models. How do you maintain your body through fitness and diet?
SS: First and foremost, screw the [industry's] ideal standards of beauty... That doesn’t define anyone or their self worth; people have to remember this. It comes down to what you feel is your definition of beauty, and if you aren’t happy with where you're at, I encourage you to channel that into a healthy way of living... Hell, hit the treadmill a few times a week. Cut out some carbs. For me, I honestly love curvy women, therefore I do what I can to maintain any little curves I have. I work out regularly, mostly cardio -- addicted to squatting -- and incorporate full body workouts in higher intensity intervals. I attempt to do a pretty mellow version of paleo diet -- with a lot of fast food. It's not anything crazy, just focused on an full diet regimen for athletes. But again, self confidence weighs in with this... You have to do the work to feel a positive out come for YOU.
MM: Modeling nude, in underwear, or even in swimwear is daunting -- even the most famous of supermodels have expressed discomfort in showing their skin for photographs! What helps you relax while doing such exposing shoots?
SS: I get this question often. It seems like this is [what people feel] most opinionated of all I do... Either people respect [my nude photography] or kind of neglect it and base an opinion of me off of this. I have absolutely no discomfort in [doing] exposing shots. Not to say I'd move to any other form of this industry, as in film, et cetera, I just lack the discomfort others get in such personal settings. I think it really comes down to what kind of shot we are attempting to capture. Most of the photographers I work with do their best to set a tone or express something through our shots, whether it's feeling or a detail. I'm always listening to music, which helps calm any outstanding nerves. I just look at it as I know what my body looks like and the human body is really the most beautiful form of art. I'm creating something, whether you agree with it or not.
MM: I have often felt that people disregard my intelligence because they only choose to focus on my appearance, which is exasperating. This objectification feels like a stubborn and longstanding aspect of society. Why do you believe that a woman's beauty is regarded as more important than her brains?
SS: That is initially the first thing people are drawn to about another human. The way you look, whether you like it or not, tends to have an effect on what you do and how far it can take you is scary sometimes. I meet people all the time and hear "I honestly never expected you to have a personality!" [and] "I just thought you were some hot chick who poses nude on Instagram." It's insulting, but I can't blame them! It's social media... It's how I portray myself, I don't necessarily regret any of it, I just like the feeling of knowing I bring more to the table than the way I look and I think that's really what it comes down to. You want to be a strong and beautiful woman, you want to be your idea of beautiful. It feels good to be acknowledged by others but at the end of the day, you have to live with who you are and you better be damn proud of her.
MM: Exactly. You are not solely an Instagram model: You are an exemplary young woman with a powerful voice that deserves to be heard. So, what are you passionate about?
SS: I'm passionate about many things, I think this entire interview is a perfect example of [showing] something I am drawn to in regards to other [hobbies and things]. I am passionate about cheeseburgers, puppies, men who are six-foot and have tattoos, self love... And when referring to feminism or rape culture, I believe it's not a political conversation or a war on men or women. It's not about someone wanting to be a "social justice warrior" nor is it completely gender specific or biased. I am passionate about it because it is people's actual lives being shaped by misogyny since childhood and the daily reality of people living in fear of violence. I'm passionate about equality for women, [the] LGBT community, men and women of different races, nationalities, beliefs, et cetera working twice as hard on half the opportunity for a fraction of the success and respect as someone of similar abilities. It isn't a game or philosophical debate or limiting to anyone. I'm passionate about people feeling as though they have the same abilities as others.
MM: Do you believe that social media is beneficial to society, and all of the communities and groups you've just mentioned, or is it detrimental?
SS: I really think it's how you use it. Like with anything, you can promote good or bad.
MM: It has been widely discussed that social media, specifically Instagram, is merely a highlight reel of life's most photographable events; through photos and other shared snippets, users allow followers to see only a fraction of a person' world. What do your Instagram followers not know about you?
SS: I'm so boring but I have fun doing absolutely nothing. I have a pig named Roofus. I eat non-stop, I sing really awful and have the worst dance moves ever. 90's music and 2000's hip-hop are my weakness. My laugh is pretty ugly and I look like a little Asian boy without make-up.
MM: Finally, what do you want people that will never meet you in person to know about you?
SS: There's more to me then my nude Instagram posts and I accept large Domino's pizzas with pepperoni and banana peppers [and] mounds of hot Cheetos... if you wanna show some love.