As a kid, Lily Mandelbaum struggled with her weight—and with self-acceptance. But along with her mother, stylist Elisa Goodkind, she’s saying to anyone ready to listen: Enough is enough.
In case you haven’t heard (and if you haven’t, the time has come), this mother-daughter team behind body image acceptance site StyleLikeU recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn their viral video project, I Am What’s Underneath, into a feature-length documentary. The pair has already surpassed their initial fundraising goal, but the more funding they receive, the greater an impact the film will have—and trust us, this is definitely the kind of thing we need more of in the universe these days.
BUST recently chatted with Lily about the StyleLikeU experience, today’s worst body image issues, and one thing she wants people everywhere to know about what it means to truly accept yourself.
First off, we love your series. What made you decide it was time to kick things up a notch?
Since the beginning, all of StyleLikeU's content has been about exploring the connection between a person's style and their story. One day, we asked a diverse group of people with authentic, inspiring style, to let us interview them as they take they take their clothing off—and hence the beginning of The What's Underneath Project [a video series where women strip down and bare all, literally and emotionally].
How are you finding the subjects for ‘What’s Underneath’? For [the Kickstarter] specifically, we are looking for people who have an important story to tell—people who have possibly struggled with their self-image or faced prejudice in their lives—but are working on or have overcome their insecurities, and are empowered in their skin at this point.
How has this shifted the goals of StyleLikeU?
At first, it was about proving that style is not about trends, money, status, etc., but about the spirit of the individual underneath the clothes. We started with many people being featured in one video, and didn't get too detailed into each of their personal stories. ‘What's Underneath’ was becoming a forum for catharsis for our subjects, and people wanted to open up on a deeper level. So we began to create single person episodes, and dive much further into each person's stories.
What is one interview that sticks with you?
One with Melanie Gaydos, who has struggled since birth with ectodermal dysplasia, an extreme, visually- altering skin disorder. She told us that despite all of the suffering she's endured and outcasting she has faced her whole life for how she looks, she would never trade her experiences because they made her the unique, strong person that she is. To us, this is the most empowering concept.
What do you think the number one body image and acceptance issues that women face today?
Women feel irrelevant and ugly over 40, and most women hate their bodies, no matter how tall, short, fat, skinny they are.
Tell us about a moment that proved to you that you were making a dent in body acceptance issues?
We received a letter from a fan, telling us that she didn't commit suicide because of StyleLikeU—that she felt she had faith in the world and felt less alone because of our videos. Letters like that are indescribably rewardin
What is one thing you want to say to women everywhere?
Not to compare themselves to the models they see represented in magazines; to recognize that beauty is vast and comes in many forms; to embrace what they might consider their "imperfections." If they own it, that is what will make them the most beautiful—and unlike anyone else.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
The StyleLikeU Kickstarter project only has a few days left. To learn more about this powerful project, check out their campaign video (below) and their Kickstarter project page. We’d love to hear what you think of the StyleLikeU message—share your opinion in the comments below!
Image courtesy of StyleLikeU.