Written By: Jill Hopkins
Photography By: @KarloGomez
“Don't try to compete with other girls - Be your own kind of beautiful,” Crystal McBootay, an inspiring, body positive activist and plus size model, tells herself this every morning. “It’s what keeps me going,” she says. But it hasn’t always been easy. Trapped in a long, dark and controlling relationship, Crystal was forced to find the light that was within her-- the talent and beauty that was being suffocated and hidden inside, and she found it all on her own.
“In the beginning, my ex thought [modeling] was cool, but when I started to get a fan base and my popularity grew, he wanted it to end-he wanted it gone.” It was 2010 in Long Beach, California. A woman approached Crystal at a car show and told her she should start modeling. Never in her wildest dreams did Crystal believe that she was model material. Crystal considered herself the “bigger, funnier” girl in high school and had lacked confidence ever since she could remember.
“I never thought of myself as beautiful,” she says. Although Crystal couldn’t see it, others did. With her curves, spunk and overall look, Crystal’s potential and unique spark was impossible to ignore.
Although her developing modeling career was chipping away at her marriage, slowly dismantling the foundation of her relationship, Crystal knew she was doing what she was meant to do. “I didn’t feel like myself when I was with him.” Crystal was faced with the decision. “It was me or him,” she says, “and I chose me.”
Crystal describes her divorce as a roller-coaster with its ups and downs, but she says the experience was ultimately an empowering one. “I knew I needed to focus on me, and he wanted me to focus on him.” Crystal knew what she deserved out of life - to know who she truly was, to know what made her heart full and to reach and conquer what she always thought was impossible.
When Crystal first decided to start contacting photographers, she was terrified and unsure of what people would think of her. As a plus size woman trying to break the barriers and standards of the pinup community, what obstacles was she going to face? When she won 2nd place in a pinup contest and snagged the title of being the first plus size lady to be on stage for “Ink n Iron” in 2011, she tasted the first bite of success and knew there was more to be had.
As negative comments and disapproval from others trundled in, Crystal’s drive and determination was put to the test. Through days filled with tears, doubt and wanting to give up, Crystal looked deep inside of herself to realize that these people didn’t matter. Crystal was giving a piece of herself to the ever-growing movement to change how society defines beauty and she wasn’t going to let anyone get in her way.
Today, Crystal’s self-confidence radiates from within. She has journeyed to love her body and be proud of who she is; she wants women with curves to know that they are just as beautiful as women of smaller sizes. She wants to continue to encourage women to love themselves and follow their dreams, however wild or unlikely they may appear. Appreciating her best assets while also recognizing her flaws, she knows that it all comes down to this; in order to find happiness, you must make yourself happy first. Crystal’s positive demeanor and refusal to feed into negativity propels her to make a difference in today’s world of what is considered beautiful.
Using the hashtag, #ImMyOwnBeautyStandards, Crystal wants others to know she doesn’t need to meet anyone’s standards but her own. With her new fiancé by her side, Crystal believes “We live, we learn and we grow,” and every day brings a new lesson and opportunity to be better.
If you want to see more of Crystal, follow her on Instagram @crystal_mcbootay