Stretch marks are usually considered as something to hide or remove. But an Instagram account has made those lines the subject of celebration and empowerment.
Created by past mater mea mom and writer Alex Elle and regular mater mea photographer Erika Layne Salazar, Love Your Lines has brought an artistic and compassionate look to stretch marks. The account is filled with black and white images that highlight women’s stretch marks, along with the story behind how they got them—pregnancy, middle school growth spurts—and how she feels about the marks.
The stories are raw and emotional, and have done a lot to change the way followers feel about their bodies. “‘I had never thought my stretch marks were beautiful until I saw this page’” is a common response to the project, says co-creator Alex Elle.
“Just imagine,” she asks. “If we didn’t create this page, how many people would still be feeling inferior and ugly and damaged?”
Love Your Lines—which launched last year August to instant acclaim—has posted more than 360 user-submitted photos to more than 99,000 followers around the world, and has been featured in the Daily Mail, the Huffington Post, and Good Morning America. And with more than 100 submissions coming into their inbox every day, there is no shortage of stories to tell and lines to celebrate. Alex Elle and Erika Lynn Salazar spoke to mater mea to give us more insight into their project.
We really love the idea behind Love Your Lines. It’s so beautiful and so well-executed. How did you guys come up with the idea?
Alex Elle: Erika and I have tried to come up with a way, previous to this, to work together. We brainstormed how we could do that. I have had this idea of showcasing women’s beauty in a way that’s kind of unique, and we started chatting about that, because I wanted to work with Erika in a sense where we could showcase her photography and my writing.
Erika Layne Salazar: Alex was over my house, and we just got to talking about our bodies and our insecurities. We knew that other people were going through this, but it’s something that we don’t really talk about—I was never like, “Oh, Alex, do you have stretch marks?” So, it was like that. I’ve always wanted to do a photo project on this, so that’s how we started out—we took photos of each other and then posted them.
So when did you first have the idea and then when did you move from having the idea to setting up the account?
ELS: Oh, it was in one day. We were sitting on my bed, and I think I might have been getting dressed, and then she was like “Well, what should we call it?” and…
AE: And we brainstormed that…
ELS: For like five minutes.
AE: And I was like “Love Your Lines. That’s it. Love Your Lines.” Erika was saying that a lot of other campaigns have started to take off recently before we started Love Your Lines. And my comment to her was, “I think that those are awesome and amazing, but they’re all white women.” There’s no women of color showcasing—and not “women of color” in the sense of just black women, but Asian, Latina, Indian, whoever—there’s nobody of color showcasing this type of thing, you know? And what we like about Love Your Lines is it’s not just moms. I know people are like “What about us? We don’t have babies and I have stretch marks.” Okay, that’s fine. We want you to come talk. We want you to bring your story, because that’s even better. It makes it an even more broad spectrum and platform for people to showcase what society calls their “imperfections,” but they’re really not, at the end of the day.
ELS: We also didn’t foresee all the different reasons that women would have stretch marks. So that just corroborated what we were trying to do in the first place: bring everybody together. Each story, we get a ton of comments, like “Oh my gosh, that’s my story, too,” and the encouragement on the Instagram has been overwhelming.
What made you want to explore stretch marks?
ELS: At first, we blindly named it “Love Your Lines.” We were talking about body in general, and then, since our own pictures showed stretch marks specifically, it morphed itself into a conversation around stretch marks. And then we chose to keep it like that because we saw such a need for that niche, and for that kind of camaraderie.
AE: It’s definitely therapeutic, because so many people [say] “Your body looks just like mine, you guys! Your story is so similar to mine!” That type of thing, it really brings women together in a way that we usually aren’t brought together. We’re always in competition—”Her body’s better than mine, her butt’s bigger,” blah blah blah. We all have these body image things because Beyonce is portrayed as flawless; Nicki Minaj has a fake body, she’s portrayed as perfect. Kim Kardashian has a fake body, she’s portrayed as perfect.
My friend made a really good point about Kim K. the other day, when we were talking about Love Your Lines. She said, “After she had North, she poses in a picture maybe a month later with a flat stomach and no stretch marks that’s clearly airbrushed on the beach somewhere. That doesn’t give women a real sense of what your body looks like after pregnancy.” You’re photoshopping for Instagram, and that is a problem. It’s really giving—especially young women—this body dysmorphic disorder, because they want to be like the airbrushed celebrities.
What have you learned about yourselves through this project that you weren’t expecting?
If we didn’t create this page, how many people would still be feeling inferior and ugly and damaged?
AE: I’m much more empathic than I thought I was. I’ve always had empathy for people, but after reading these stories, I’m just like, “Oh my goodness.” I really didn’t know that a stranger’s story could affect me the way that it has, and, partially because we are strangers to them, new people start telling us some of their deepest, darkest secrets for us to share, and… I don’t know, it’s just like… wow.
ELS: I always knew that I was artistically inclined and that I wanted to tell the world something and that I wanted to do it artistically, but it surprised me that we’re putting something out there where everybody can be seen as an artist. And so, this is something that I’ve been wanting to do, but I’m totally grateful that I’m sharing it with our followers and with the world. You always see these quotes like, “one person can make a difference” and you always think, like, “What can I really do? I’m only one person.” This really feels like something kind of simple that we’ve done to help a lot of people realize that they’re not alone.
Can you share a story that you treasure or think embodies why you started the process?
AE: The one that really stood out to me was a young woman who was raped by her father. She shared that she was small all her life until she was 15 [when] her dad raped her, and then she started eating just to fill the void. Her story was just remarkable, and I couldn’t believe that she was sharing that. Sexual abuse happens all the time, and it’s something that we don’t share. It’s something that we keep to ourselves. It’s something that is very hard to speak about. So the fact that she opened up and shared that just showed the courage and the resiliency of people.
There were a lot of people who said, “Oh, your story resonates with me,” or “Oh, I can relate.” She opened the door for people to feel comfortable enough to say or notice that “I’m not alone. Not only is my body like hers, but my story might be like hers, too.” It was just remarkable.