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Culture Activist Eleanor Ysabelle Roche On Spaces In-Between Where Diversity Can Be Found

  • IWB Post
  •  January 21, 2020


Starting off with a dream to become a veterinarian, an animal/plant whisperer, Eleanor slowly branched out into pouring her heart into colors and paper.

“I discovered that I had a brimming passion for creativity and tried a bunch of different ways to go about it. It slowly formed into a few versions of what I do now.  I moved to Melbourne a couple of months ago and I study Counselling, work on The Nude Abstract on the side (and another job on the side to pay the bills),” says Eleanor Ysabelle Roche, one of the founding members of the blog The Nude Abstract.

Her qualifications I ask? “Well, I was in the UAE for about 16 years, moved to India in 2013 and for two years chose Commerce as my field of study. It was quite boring and I knew I never belonged there. So soon after I graduated, I chose to study Psychology, Criminology, and Literature. Best decision of my life!”

So then Eleanor seems like a girl next door. Just any other, who is going about her life. But, Eleanor is much more and it wouldn’t take more than a few seconds to figure this out once you start reading her online blog. Eleanor hence is a gutsy girl, who has moved to different places, done different things, or shall we say still in the process of doing many and has a question for every ‘societal norm’ in place. Yet, under the questioning, thinking and opinionated mind lies artistic energy that is bumbling with expressions. A ‘passionate individual’, who has since ever been in ‘search of things to love, create and feel’.

In conversation with Eleanor who tells us about why it is important to break free, to speak out on subjects that are shunned away and to express in myriad, even if unconventional ways, the ideas of equality, feminism and happiness.

What pushes you to write on contemporary and to a certain extent taboo subjects? Is there any personal story that urged you to fight for social justice?

Eleanor: We’ve always grown up being told to do something or live a certain way without really explaining why we needed to follow it and how it came to be. As we grew into our own personalities and found our identities, there were some aspects that didn’t fit into the norm of what “should be”. The more we began questioning it, the more aspects to question were found. We knew we weren’t the only ones. We later discovered that the majority of the people don’t even fit into the ideal of what should be. That’s what motivated us to create a page where people could come, learn and feel belonged.

How much courage does it take to just be? Why is it a courageous act? Why do we need to amp ourselves up and prepare while all it takes is to let go? Why is it so hard to just be? Why does it take work to let go? Why isn’t it the norm? What is the norm? Why do we follow it? What do we confine ourselves by? How long do we take to build it? What takes more work, to be or to be something you’re truly not? Who are we fearful of? @eleanorysabelle photographed by @jackiemaz94 for @hara_thelabel

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Your writings are well complemented with pictures and images. The models are from diverse backgrounds. Was this a conscious decision? Also, how does the lack of diversity in the beauty you saw while growing up affected your perceptions?

Eleanor: We make sure to diversify it to a large extent intentionally because we want to normalize the fact that we’re all so, so different. And I’m not talking just different skin tones. That is massive progress seen over the years but is still far from reality. We want different skin types, different bodies, different ways of expression, different styles. We try to look into every nook and corner to find diversity that can be captured. We started off by taking pictures of our own friends and family. And that’s when we realized that there was more to diversity than skin colours and features.

When I was young, all I was told beauty was clear, smooth skin, hairless if you’re a woman, binary romance and a body of a praying mantis. Any different from that, and you were just left unnoticed. Tick all those boxes and you were the ideal star. I never fit into that. I was the darker sibling of the two, the hairiest one in the family and do not have an hourglass figure. I inherited a broad chest, a strong back and a good set of legs. I was never meant to fit into the delicate ideal of what society calls “female”. And it shattered my self-image for a while. Until I learned that there’s more to a woman than being a petal. That there was more to me than my physicality. I love my body, but it took a long time to get here. I have beautifully functional limbs, the ability to move, bend, breathe. My body is more than what it looks like. That recognition gave me freedom. That ability to recognize that there’s more to life than this little fleck of expectations that never belonged to you is beauty.

What if your body thought your hair was a threat and in order to protect you, it got rid of it all? What if it made you rethink and challenge the ideas of today’s beauty norms. What would you do? . . . . . “I was 10. I woke up to find a tuft of hair on my pillow. I tried to get ready for school. I ran a comb through my hair. I didn’t want to go to school anymore.” . . . . To know more about paromitas story and her battles, head over to our blog now. ⚠️ Link in bio ⚠️ . . . . . #alopeciaareata #strength #unthink #power #photooftheday #igdaily #conceptualart #thenudeabstract #photography #bold #loveyourself #beautiful #battle #mystory

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To what extent does internalized patriarchy limit our freedom and joy of being selves?

Eleanor: I think the main challenge is finding models who are bold enough to fight this. It isn’t just the idea of patriarchy that has made so many of us reluctant. It’s a range of factors that make us feel that standing up for the freedom to just be is wrong. And that’s what motivates us. To unravel each layer and display, discuss, and learn from what is going on. We don’t dig our heels in and say that our opinion is the ultimate opinion. The chances of being right and wrong are infinite. It’s really a platform to open a conversation about how we can possibly live a more liberating, compassionate life. Together.

How best would you describe your writing and visual style?

Eleanor:  It’s a team of four behind this stage of The Nude Abstract. It’s Deardre, Haneen, Daron, and I.

This was something we discussed for a while. How would we describe our niche? What are we? And as we hunted for a label, we found that we weren’t a label. We cannot be classified. We’re that space in-between categories. We’re just passionate creatives who love making art. Sometimes for a deep-rooted cause, and sometimes, just for the sake of creativity and expression.

Worship the freedom that flows between your legs.

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And what are your plans for 2020?

Eleanor: I envision The Nude Abstract being a wonderful organization of creativity, passion, and belonging. A space for so much love and encouragement to be ourselves. Over the years, I learned how simple it is to just be, but with all these notions looming around our heads, it’s made it incredibly tough to break out of the cycle. I look forward to my wonderful team and I creating so much more together. And breaking every barrier that ever stopped anyone. The possibilities are endless.

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