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Nia Long Poses Nude on EBONY Cover. Would You? … One Mom Did. In A Train Station. Read Her Story.

Nia Long Pregnant

 I love Nia Long. And you know I love seeing empowering and beautiful images of pregnanct black women. That’s why I just love the October issue of EBONY. But would you pose naked? And in a commuter train station?? Mocha Moms National President Kuae Mattox did, and she shared her story in The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy. Read an excerpt of her experience here.  

Pregnant, Buck Naked and Beautiful Posing On The Train Tracks!

By Kuae Kelch Mattox (from The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy by Kimberly Seals Allers (Amistad/HarperCollins). 

 

I’ve got a
confession to make, and I must admit, I am smiling sheepishly as I think about
it: When I was nine months pregnant, ten days before my son was born, I posed
nude for a photographer. That’s right, I stood in all my glory, belly
protruding, breasts round and full, hair all done up, skin glistening with oil.
Now, mind you, it wasn’t for a steamy publication for mass male consumption. It
was for a respected female photographer working on her own dream book project.

Even so, that was
quite a leap for me, to step out of my otherwise ordinary life and do something
that was, well, not so ordinary. It struck me especially, because, had anyone
asked me to pose nude without being pregnant, I would have immediately scoffed
at the idea. In fact, I would have rejected it outright.

So what brought
about such a change in me? I guess I can only look to my roots. Growing up, my
body image usually hovered between good and excellent. I always had what I
considered to be a healthy body image. I was, quite simply, comfortable with my
body. As a young girl, I remember being very skinny and sometimes a little
awkward. But I credit my inspiring parents, and especially my mother, for
teaching me that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that it comes in
many forms. Of course, like many parents, they told me that I was beautiful on
the outside, but they always made it a point to show me that the greatest beauty
comes from within. My mother, the drama teacher, playwright and romantic, would
often share with fondness her own pregnancy stories, and my father, the
professor and poet, would tell my brother, sister and I that our entry unto
this world was the greatest gift that could ever have been bestowed upon him.

Together, their
words and actions, always loving and supportive were my role models, planting
the seeds of confidence in my young, impressionable mind. As I got older and
started to fill out, I remember as a teenager thinking my body was kind of cute
and shapely. I didn’t mind revealing a little, but I was never one to flaunt
it, or even show it off. I always wanted to be dignified, elegant and classy.

So that’s why I
was not prepared for this sudden change in mentality with pregnancy. What was
it about pregnancy that had me gushing so much I now wanted to show off my
body? I had heard the stories that so many women are eager to tell – Girl,
you’re not going to feel as sexy as you did before…wait till those stretch
marks come…your ankles are going to be as big as a cow’s…your skin is going to
change…your butt is going to get big…if you lose your beauty, that means you’re
going to have a girl…in the end you’re going to be begging that doctor to take
that baby out.

Yet, as a pregnant
woman (and I can say this with great certainty because I now have three
children and I felt this with all three), not only did I feel physically
beautiful, I literally glowed from within. It was as if someone, or something,
was constantly shining a warm and glorious light around me. I seized every
opportunity to marvel at myself in the mirror. I was one of those women who
liked to touch her belly and rub it, savoring each and every movement that I
felt inside. I carried myself with such an air of confidence. I even stood
taller.

Then there was the
emotional and spiritual icing, the knowledge that a most precious gift had been
bestowed upon me. I felt, quite literally, that my body and my mind now had a
higher calling. My self image catapulted to a level that words could barely
explain.

So one day in 1999
while working as a producer for NBC News, a fellow producer told me about a
female photographer friend of hers who was working on a book about nude
pregnant women. She said her friend had taken many pictures of nude pregnant
women already, but wanted more women of color. She thought I looked great and
that I’d be a perfect subject for her friend.

I was very
flattered at the suggestion, but the journalist in me was skeptical. Who was
this photographer? Why is she taking pictures of nude pregnant women? What, on
earth, could those pictures look like? Were they sleazy, were they trashy?  What’s the point? I had a million questions
when the photographer and I spoke.

She was patient and
very detailed in her descriptions and explanations. It turned out she had
always wanted to publish a book of photographs of nude, pregnant women in
unusual locations, and she wanted the women to write about their feelings being
pregnant. A few days later, samples of her work were in my mailbox. I was
completely blown away. The pictures, in black and white, were stunning – women
of all shapes and sizes, some posing with delight, others with solemnity, in
locations that I could not believe. There was a woman standing amidst a corn
field, a woman stretched over the top of her grand piano…a woman standing in
the middle of the Brooklyn
Bridge. The pictures had
been taken at different times of the day, so the natural light gave the images
an undeniably organic quality and the shadows and shadings made each picture
look like a true work of art.

The next day’s
topic of conversation over dinner with my husband went something like this: "So
honey, a friend of mine at work told me about a photographer who is working on
a book about pregnant nude women and she’d like to shoot some pictures of me. What
do you think?" Of course, the fork went down and the brow went up, but after
sharing with him all that the photographer had shared with me, he felt
comfortable, and he said the decision was really up to me.

It was almost a
month before I called her back. Should I or shouldn’t I? Ultimately, I knew
that years from now I would be angry with my self if I didn’t. And although she
could never fully capture the beauty that I felt, I knew that a picture of me
in all my pregnant glory would always evoke a sweet memory that would linger
for the rest of my life. Just like a smell years later, my dad’s pipe tobacco,
for instance, can evoke memories of childhood, so, too, could a picture, a
visual image, conjure up the powerful way that I felt during pregnancy.

After scouting
several locations with meticulous details in mind, we selected an old train
station with a historic ticket house near my home. Hundreds, maybe thousands of
residents, pass through that station every day on their way to work in New York City. The plan
was for me to pose early in the morning standing on the train tracks…I was
ready.

It was a
blistering cold November day when I woke at the crack of dawn. It was such a
strange feeling to shower, smooth moisturizer over my body, and then cover
myself with only a winter coat. My heart was not pounding. I was not nervous. I
was so calm, and so sure that this was what I wanted to do.

As I stood on
those tracks and removed my coat, I remember a rush of cold air swept over my
body. There were those few moments of self-consciousness when I wondered if any
early morning commuters were watching. Then came a few deep breaths, and as the
shutter clicked away, a sheer feeling of liberation.

What she captured
in her lens, and what ultimately became the photo that we selected, still
brings tears to my eyes. It is a portrait of calm, beauty and grace that I will
never forget. Every once in a while, I take a look at my picture. When I look
at it, I am that pregnant woman again, full of optimism and hope for my
children, feeling whole, at peace with my life and myself. One day, I will show
my picture to my children, with the hope that they, too, will feel the beauty
that I felt as they grew inside of me. Just as my mother taught me about the
beauty that is pregnancy, I hope the picture speaks volumes to my children as
well.

 

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