Date of Interview: January 29, 2017
Name: Mary-Berkley Gaines
Location: Birmingham, AL
How often do you bathe or shower?
Probably… every other day, every day. Trying to cut back ::laughs::.
If you were an underwater creature, what would you be?
Mermaid. For sure. For sure, I’m a mermaid, most definitely. Ariel was my favorite when I was little, I love the ocean, I’m a Pisces. I’m a water baby, it’s just me. I actually had a fashion blog that was called the Teal Siren. I’m such a mermaid. And now it’s a thing so I have to chill on that because everyone wants to be a mermaid and I am one. I was one first, just so we all know the deal ::laughs::.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about radical self love. Being body positive. Self acceptance. Growth, just like, progressing as a human. Making my world and my community better. I feel like we can always push ourselves to be better. It’s my life, starting my organization and now we’re an official non-profit… Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham started as just a website and it’s now it’s own entity. It’s crazy! I’m a founder and I started it, but now it has this own life. It’s amazing.The people… we wouldn’t be anything without the community and the people and having people identify with it. We have followers from all over the country and even some people from different parts of the world. I think that in Birmingham we are the heart of the civil rights movement. We are where things went down, so it’s only natural that we have this project that we can be progressive with and move forward with in a different way. There’s always been that history, I think people forget that we are a city of activists. There’s still a strong community of people. There are all these protests for different things every other week, especially now and we can’t forget what our history is. It only makes us better and stronger. I think people connect it with a lot of negative things but it’s positive in some ways because we can continue to better ourselves. Being in the Bible Belt is really hard but we’re a pretty progressive city and we are a city in a very conservative place.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
Well! I think giving myself a break. I’ve always been really hard on myself and being a bigger person, being a plus size girl and having eating disorders and struggling with that and body dysmorphia and going through a lot of stuff and having PTSD and depression, anxiety, mental illness, having a learning disability growing up. Going through all this stuff, I never gave myself a break. It’s a lot going on and I never gave myself credit and was really hard on myself. So now, I can push myself forward and progress but I still have those checks and balances of telling myself, “you can’t do anything but take it one day at a time”. So giving myself a break is my biggest accomplishment.
What is something you still struggle with?
Probably still struggling with trying to get over that thing of being a human and that I’ll fuck up and that it’s okay. Being flawed and knowing it’s okay for me to be… that I’ll fuck up and it’s okay for me to be on this journey.
What do you think of relationships? Platonic, sexual or otherwise.
I think they’re really important. You can learn something from every relationship and I feel like we need to be more intimate with people and that intimacy isn’t just a sexual thing. I love that I have friends that I can be like that with, that we can cuddle and hold hands and love on each other without it being a sexual thing. I love that I have sexual relationships where I’m respected enough that I can explore them. I’m queer and I’m noticing as I explore what queer means to me, I’m finding out so much more about myself and I’m glad that I’m in a place where I can do that. It was hard growing up queer in Alabama. I always knew I had an attraction to women, that’s how it started, but I never was really comfortable with that. Well, I was comfortable with it but you know, when you’re younger it’s kind of weird to come out. You don’t really know how to navigate that. So, I only came out a few years ago. I struggled with that because there’s not really a gay scene here and it was kind of what’s the point if I’m going through all this shit if I can’t go out and express it or meet people. But then, as I got older I realized that I wasn’t the only one. It just took me going through college and having those experiences to finally figure out that I’m queer! And like, it’s a thing and I can experience it. It’s been about three years. It’s been great!