I meet Taruri at the bustling Java House on Kimathi Street just as she is finishes up another meeting. She gives me a warm hug and offers a seat. Taruri has the easy confidence of a woman at peace with herself, her natural hair is done up in loose twists, her face is make up free and an easy smile plays on her lips. She is beautiful.
At just 31, Taruri who is also a trained fashion designer, is a life coach, an amateur vegan chef as well as the creator of Flawnt It Love. Flawnt it is a tumblr site that lets people celebrate what the world perceives as flaws, a safe place to share and embrace the things we may feel conscious about.
Taruri decided to start the site as a way to deal with her own and other people’s body insecurities.. She took the bold step to start with a picture of herself and her story.
“It was one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life because on social media, you know, you want to paint the best picture of your life, capture the best moments, even if you take pictures you want filters. The fact that it was so raw and my insecurity was just there… halfway through my shoot I started crying like ‘I can’t do this’,”
Taruri laughingly admits how anxious she was the night before the shoot. She downed some shots because she wasn’t even sure how it would all turn out.
“I think it was a journey of my own insecurities with my physical body coupled with seeing the frustration other people had with their physical flaws. When I noticed how it was such a universal issue, I realised it would be more powerful if I shared it and also draw in other people to tell their stories”
After the first picture of her was posted as a teaser, Taruri was inundated with requests from people curious about what she was doing and eager to take part.
“With my head cut off, you couldn’t even tell it was me, we wrote a short description along the lines of ‘have you ever struggled with your flaws…’ not even anything to call people to join but so many people responded asking to be a part of it,” she says.
Thanks to the powerful reaction the picture garnered, Taruri realised that this was something that was bigger than just one story and it snowballed from there.
“I get messages even now, every week someone is like can I take part in this? The Facebook page is always full of messages saying thank you for telling this story or I identify with this person because I’ve gone through the same thing.”
What was even more powerful for Taruri, were the people in her own life who were going through similar struggles and now felt safe opening up to her.
“There is one person who told me she is now able to wear sleeveless things for the first time in her life because she always felt insecure about her arms since she was a kid…I mean that really made me feel so happy!”
Taruri begun having body insecurities when she was about 14 to 15 years old. Her family was generally health conscious in a positive way, and though there was a lot of attention on weight she says she always felt beautiful growing up.
“People would make comments like “Oh my God your hips! And I was just like ‘what are these things and where did they come from?’”
“But when I went to high school and started getting a little hippy …when I look at the pictures now I was so skinny so I didn’t know what I was seeing … but I guess because I was developing pretty early people would make comments like,“Oh my God your hips! And I was just like ‘what are these things and where did they come from?’”
To divert attention from her developing body Taruri begun wearing oversize clothing.
“I noticed my cellulite when I was 12 or 13 and I thought ‘Oh dimples!’ because you know dimples are cute”. It was only when her older sister mentioned how disgusting cellulite is as they perused a magazine that she became self conscious.
“I asked her what it was and she was like; ‘ you know those dimples’. “ I just thought “Oh my God!”.
The newfound awareness made her avoid physical activities like swimming even going as far as wearing bikers with her swimming costume. But after a while she became tired of hiding and decided to be brave even though she didn’t feel brave inside, she wore her swimsuit and went swimming.
The body acceptance journey has not been easy. Though she is more confident now there are still days when she is not as accepting as she would like of with what she sees in the mirror.
The mind shift
The shift happened in 2010-2011 and she remembers just feeling so tired of constantly thinking about her body, worrying about what she is wearing, what people are thinking.
“And what happened was, because of all these insecurities I had actually started developing an eating disorder, In fact, I was anorexic in high school then I stopped then it came back again, it was on and off,” says Taruri. She could feel the effect it was having on my body and she could foresee her health failing her in the future.
“ I was exhausted and that’s when the concept of FlawntIt came to me but it was more of a personal thing, I wasn’t even thinking of telling other peoples stories”.
For young girls going through body image issues, Taruri shares some advice:
“Your physical body is not the sum total of who you are, it is a vehicle that carries a spirit and a soul, there is so much emphasis put on how you look (especially as women) it is so ridiculous, there is so much more that we are capable of, there is so much more that we are than our physical body.”
“Your physical body is not the sum total of who you are, it is a vehicle that carries a spirit and a soul, there is so much emphasis put on how you look (especially as women) it is so ridiculous, there is so much more that we are capable of, there is so much more that we are than our physical body.” – Taruri Gatere
Check out the FlawnIt stories on FlawntItLove
This story was originally published in its entirity on HairpolitanMagazine Kenya’s first natural hair and lifestyle online magazine as part of their African Esteem issue, read the full issue at Hairpolitan
Photos: Teddy Mitchener Photography