"Why would you like to be apart of this project?
So I can be amongst women in a sacred space where we can connect, support and empower others to speak with authenticity.
What about the project speaks to you, and how do you think you would benefit from and to the project?
The Flower Project holds such pure energy. It is a platform for all to express from a place of vulnerability and to find comfort in that is incredibly healing. I hope my story will encourage other women to rise and to witness women rising high is such a liberating feeling.
What kind of inspiration can you contribute? What’s your story?
At the age of 4 I remember my older sister and I pulling our younger sister behind the green velvet lounge after watching our dad physically abuse our mum. We yelled at him to stop, she tried to reassure she was okay. Dad didn’t acknowledge us. The mental and emotional abuse was ongoing. I don’t remember much from my childhood, only the dark nights. I imagine there was nice moments though, that story is told in photographs. During the next years my mum struggled to give us a life of stability. She was hardly coping as she had depression and was suffering.
We gained a step-mum who wanted only money and my dad was in denial. This chapter was full of similar events. The step-mums father moved into our home. He travelled up from a town called Orange. We were never told why he had to leave there. I never felt comfortable around him but wanted to keep the peace. This is normal for children. At 12 years old I encountered a level of sexual abuse from him. I didn’t speak up because keeping the peace meant that I was safe and there would be no domestic violence. There would be no reason for conflict. I now wish I did speak, as I wasn’t aware of what else had occurred at that time.
My dad’s second marriage came to an end and it seemed a cycle was occurring. At 16 he met a woman and they soon married. Again there was alcohol, drugs and mental and emotional abuse. That anger was projected onto my sisters and I. Keeping the peace meant we were safe. Sadly, along this journey our family lost many to cancer and of course we all grieved in our own way.
At one stage for a few months I had reoccurring panic attacks that affected many aspects of my life. Admitting myself into hospital to be laughed at and told you’re fine and there is nothing wrong with you. At work I would fall to the floor in panic with the thought I might die. I feel this was the effects of trauma.
Growing up I never understood the chaos. As an adult I understand that people have their own struggles they are facing. After years of trauma, blame and shame I’ve only recently found my voice, to speak how I feel and to know that not every scenario will end in conflict. The last year I have studied Transpersonal Art Therapy. This was an incredible and strengthening experience where I was able to express my past and create strong boundaries in my life. I was able to forgive and replace that anger with acceptance and unconditional love for my family and self. I want to inspire women to take a stand, to go within and have the courage to be you. There will always be chaotic times within our life and its important to surround yourself with those who bring you up, that make you smile and encourage you rise. When you wake, take a moment to breathe and find gratitude for the beautiful souls that surround you. Be aware of those who don’t serve you.
We are all here to gift this world in a unique and beautiful way and by healing ourselves we are healing others."
- Emily Cotelli
"As women in this day and age we are always faced with unrealistic ideals and imagery. A woman who loves herself is a woman unstoppable. The flower project speaks to me because it is about empowering women, encouraging us to LOVE ourselves, and I think photography is such an incredible way to show people how we see them, to show them how beautiful they are. Every day there are things that can get us down, things that make us feel bad about ourselves. The one thing that trumps all of the insecurity and shame is love! Love for our sisters, love for our brothers and love for OURSELVES 💖
I personally have always struggled with issues related to my weight and skin. I've had times where I didn't want to leave the house because my skin was so bad, times when I've cried being naked in front of someone who never made me feel beautiful. Every woman carries in the back of her mind an ocean of insecurities and self doubt, even self loathing. There are times I catch myself saying things to myself about myself that I'd never utter out loud to anyone I loved. Self love is something we all need to strive for and encourage and practice every single day. The flower project is something I wish all women got to be a part of, and I hope that in some way women seeing these photographs feel encouraged to be brad and be naked and be beautiful. This life is short and it is precious and our bodies are the vessel that will carry us through. I am lucky to be healthy, to be alive, to be able to run and swim and surf and dance, to be able to make love and feel the sand in my toes! Life is beautiful and so are we, it's important to remember xx"
"Why would you like to be a part of this project?"
For me, it was to step out of my comfort zone. Breaking down barriers of judgement, towards myself and to be in a space that is nurturing and completely carefree. This project gives women the permission to be proud of their bodies and to radiate their own unique beauty.
"What about the project speaks to you, and how do you think you would benefit from and to the project?"
I believe that for women to be comfortable in their own skin, is very empowering. We are faced everyday with 'the perfect picture' on social media and a lot of females I know feel pressure to be something different to who they truly are.
This project speaks to me in a way that I have been speaking to myself over the last year or so - to be content and grateful for what we have, realize that every imperfection is what makes us unique and it is so important to love those parts of ourselves.
I felt that by being a part of the flower project taught me to peel down the layers of self criticism, it allowed me to be completely free of the ego and I felt naturally beautiful in those moments.
"What kind of inspiration can you contribute? What's your story?"
I struggled with body image issues for many years, I worked in the dance industry where I had a lot of pressure to be a certain weight. It's hard to be happy with your body when you're constantly hearing "she's not thin enough, tall enough, legs aren't long enough" etc. I took a lot of this criticism to heart and everyday woke up feeling like I wasn't going to be good enough.. again. I went to unhealthy lengths to try and be 'perfect' and it wasn't until just over a year ago that I realized how toxic my thought patterns were.
I made changes to my lifestyle and started to love the skin I'm in. I figured, if I can't love myself how can I receive love from others? With this mental change came physical change, as soon as I stopped looking at myself in a negative way my whole life became positive. Everyday was a blessing and I began to love myself, with this came an engrossing feeling of ecstasy towards life. All women deserve to feel like this, each of us should be proud of the divine creatures we are and learn to embrace our flaws.
This is why the flower project is so special- it spreads the message of natural beauty while empowering feminine energy.
To be yourself and to be love."
- Ashleigh Evans