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visual artist and writer marisol diaz

i am a self-defined Nuyorican creative (that is a Puerto Rican who is from both the isles of Manhattan, NYC and the Caribbean). I share daily in the joy of education and live in a cute port town in New York, in a 'teensy-weensy' apartment with my two dogs and canary named Valentino. Check out my Etsy shop for purchasable pieces. Please do not reproduce imagery off of this site without explicit credit and no derivatives may be made of my original imagery- Thank You.

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On Championing My Body

Well I said things had changed around here, except these changes were self-initiated and in no way thrust upon me ;) I'm about to share it all, but not without a pretty strong dose of responsibility first.

In 2007 I was sitting on the sofa and I decided to wake up and be an agent of change. I invoked the words of Ani DiFranco

any tool can be a weapon if you hold it right...
My weapons of choice, a camera and paint brush.

At the time I was inspired to action by Oprah. She had just opened her school in Africa for girls, The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy. Seeing some of those girls walk to school through violence, destitution and seemingless endless odds, inspired me to my core.

Imagine for a moment that we all do currently hold within us the memory and experience of the collective consciousness of women throughout history and all of their adversity. Then imagine that we also hold a common bond with all women globally - does this not create a tremor in your soul?

It seemed at first, that so many other disciplines are more conducive to DISSENT and revolution than visual art; music, theater, film and video.

Click photo by m.diaz

If I could, I was determined to find a way to use my skills as a visual artist and my occupation as a visual arts teacher to provoke change in this world. I wanted desperately to begin to try to address the daily frustrations around me in my own backyard. Therefore, I developed, designed and implemented the HERstory project at my school (you can see the photograph component of the Herstory project if you click HERE). I embarked on a mission to unlearn lies and re-educate with the truth inorder to assist young women (at the time specifically young women of color) to analyze the image-based world they live in, perceive themselves and their bodies in a manner that did not derail them from; wisdom, potential, capability, self-sufficiency and leadership.

2007 Herstory opening the girls & me

I debuted the HERstory project publically in Boston, Mass. in 2008 and presented it again refined and improved nationally in both New Orleans, Louisiana, and Denver, Colorado at the National Association of Independent School People of Color Conference - a conference that consists of primarily educators, students and administrators of Independent schools. Seeing as the face of the nation has changed so has the demographic of private schools around the country. So many of our young women of color co-exist in these schools still as minorities - when often they come from homes, communities and public schools in which they are the majority.

I have now spoken to a room of over 200 educators from around the country about the importance of implementing out of the box teaching methods to inadvertently inspire self-love, acceptance and potential for leadership. Educators who can should teach about; the history and origins of cosmetics, altering definitions of aesthetic beauty, the lure and volatile power of physical attraction- that of the female enslavement to it (one of the greatest acts of mass self-deprication in lust for an unattainable and non-existent ideal that I have ever seen), and most importantly how not to punish but to love, nurture and embrace all that they are.

Yet I've known all along that the reason I was doing that self-less work after school and teaching myself public speaking to peers was perhaps because the one who needed the most self-acceptance was me. The truth is, I came from public schools, inner city life and a divide between two islands (Puerto Rico where my father has lived his whole life and Manhattan where my mother and her family traveled to during one the first air-borne diasporas to this country). My youth was troublesome to say the least, and keeping up with the Jones' in my adult life has also caused its share of self-deprecation in my life. It was so much easier to do all the hard work at the service of others than to face that reality in myself.

me today

Yet doing the Herstory project began to inadvertently affect me. By doing all the research and the developing of the innovation; the classroom application, the gathering with the young women and doing readings from 'Women Who Run with the Wolves' I was slowly transforming myself. Shepherding young women served me as much as it did them. I was inadvertently and unknowingly planting the seeds I needed to sprout my own inner core of confidence and self-acceptance. Of becoming a person who lives life not as a body champion- because that would imply that I have arrived and well I don't ever expect to arrive...instead a person who is fully present in the act of championing her body.

Everyone seems to be obsessed with my fat cells and the question 'how?'. Not as many seemed to be concerned with my health. Or why it was that I was progressively developing a weaker and weaker immune system every year. I had maxxed out with five bouts of chronic bronchitis in one year. I have been affected by every respiratory infection I could get. In the last five years I have made it up to two inhalers and concerns of silicosis. My energy level has been the bane of my existance since any one who knows me knows I want to do everything.

I began two years ago with trying to cut back on white refined sugar usage. Who I was: 8-10 bags of sugar in hot tea in chinese restaurants, tablespoons of sugar in cereal, every dessert always. It all seemed not to have too bad an effect when I lived in the city and walked everywhere...always. However after leaving the city and instantaneously losing all opportunities to walk anywhere, it all began to take its toll, especially on my health. When I first pulled back on white sugar I transferred the need to honey. Yet as my brother-in-law eloquently put it 'honey is still sugar'. The jury (science) might still be out on white refined sugar and its actual effects, but thats my verdict.

Last year I stopped my daily addiction to coffee and transferred to tea and finally began to enjoy unsweetened ice tea. This summer I terminated my co-dependent relationship with caffeine completely. Now I can enjoy a cup of tea every now and then but don't NEED it everyday.

This summer after seeing my father and his battle with diabetes, I took my health focus to the next level. I did fast for 48 hours to clean out my system and I detoxed (Chinese herb tea is and Chinese herbs are great for this). I retrained my taste buds. I would say that was the hardest part. I retrained my brain to turn away from anything that was processed and clearly unhealthy. I NEVER skip a meal. I did skip every opportunity to have summer desserts, but NOT to punish myself but to stay committed to treating my body as sacred. I drink water now 'like a fiend' roughly two twelve packs of bottled water a day. I taught myself what the size of my stomach is and I learned to honor that through portion control, instead of satiating myself to sleep. I EXERCISE every day on the treadmill that was gifted to me this summer when my intention was made clear.

me and my children photos by m.diaz

Final answer when folks ask how - the real answer is SELF-LOVE- real love, like a husband who wants his newly pregnant wife to eat only organic food- I chose to love myself that way. If you love yourself deeply - it doesn't matter how you eat. What matters is that YOU ARE HEALTHY, at peace and treat the vehicle that is your body with respect.

-Ciao Amarettogirl

Reader Comments (13)

omfg. you look so good. man, this is so inspiring diaz. it makes me freak out about the amount of soft serve i eat. I love this part: "like a husband who wants his newly pregnant wife to eat only organic food" man, you are so kickass and i love you so much. i am so happy and send you love and light every opportunity i get. i am so glad to have such a powerful role model in my life.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlightfoot

yarrrr, dude! props to self love. your words hit an audience wider than you aim for on the surface; dealing with myself and my own consciousness, realizing how the self deprecation affects my mental health and (in turn) physical health is wild.

so glad you're healthy. forrealz.

and yeahhhhhhh! i love the new layout. it looks so goood. you're gonna crack up when you see my bird drawing that i'm 1/2-3/4 done with right now. coyotes and foxes, dude. coyotes and foxes.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercolin

Hello Mari--
You look stunning to say the least..there is a glow about you that is quite evident! Your beauty shines through from the inside out! I am so proud of your accomplishments; as my friend, not only as an artist and author, but as a woman who has 'chosen' to take care of her mind , body and spirit. Cudos to you dear friend.

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnnaMaria

you da (wo)man ms. diaz!!

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames

You look wonderful Mari! Change in heart, mind and lifestyle is defintiely what's required to keep keepin' on! You are doing a fab job! Thx for the sharing the inspiration!! xoxo

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersusetg

okay okay
one, LOVE LOVE LOVE your new theme and blog re do!!!! ><
2! I love How you look! You really lost a lot of wheight you look FANTASTIC !!!!
we need to chat lol ><
xoxoxoxoxoxo RINA

October 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRina

MS. DIAZ! YOU LOOK ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! i am in awe, and i am so proud of you. i can't wait to see this in person very soon.

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremi


what this entry represents speaks to how it is not perfection, but imperfection, that inspires.
i admire that instead of just making it a "before&after" type thing, you made it really personal.
the larger message is well received.

thank you

October 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterB

First, LOVE the new look of the blog and wish I lived there so that I could go to that magical party at the end of the month. It sounds like a ball!
Now, onto championing my body. There are so many thoughts in here that I want to hold onto including "It was so much easier to do all the hard work at the service of others than to face that reality in myself" (so true for so many women) and "I was inadvertently and unknowingly planting the seeds I needed to sprout my own inner core of confidence and self-acceptance. Of becoming a person who lives life not as a body champion- because that would imply that I have arrived and well I don't ever expect to arrive...instead a person who is fully present in the act of championing her body." (gorgeous and spot on) and "What matters is that YOU ARE HEALTHY, at peace and treat the vehicle that is your body with respect."
All so inspiring, as are you, my dear friend. It is on my birthday list to wean myself from my sugar dependence, and your blog further inspired me to begin that journey.
You are an inspiration and you are loved, Rosie

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

so i will be honest, i read this a few days ago and forgot how much bloggers love comments (my focus knowledge is going out the window) but YOU ARE INCREDIBLE AND I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND YOU LOOK BEYOND FANTABULOUS AND YOU ME AND EMERY AND ROYCE NEED TO GO FOR A WALK/RUN/EXERCISE DAY OF FUNNESS.
love you lots love your new blog stuff and yeah basically you are too incredible for words and i miss you too much
xooxox forever and always,
allison :)

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterallison

Ms. Diazzzzzz ! I love this post (along w| all the others !) You are an inspiration to me and a role model as well :) this blog is so personal and I'm glad that you shared it w| all of us because it truly shows how we should accept oursleves no matter what . I love the idea of being the "Champion " of our own bodies bc we are in control of it and we should be at peace w| it :) I love love love this a lot nd i hope that you keep writing bc it is really relatable & rewarding for both of us .

Btw ; i am soo thankful that i got to know u better this year :) You have REALLY helped me get more comfortable in the school ; i feel like im finally beginning to find my place here so Thank You ! Love you lots <3

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGen

Ms. Diaz you look absolutely incredible! Im so proud of you!! But I am not surprised that you were able to accomplish yet another amazing achievement because you have always inspired me by how driven you are. xxxx I miss you! lots and lots of love

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlly Rodrigues

Awesome points you made in this post! I will need to deeply rethink some of them! It really is not that easy as the celebrities make it seem. You really ought to be very very persistenet and one should never ever stop trying. The results will show in due time.

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentervisalus

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