Interview of Ellie Sedgewick by Haylee Penfold
Ellie Sedgewick is a 31-year-old from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, who runs the Instagram account @comfortableinmyskin_. Created to celebrate self-love and diversity, her account now has over 32k followers.
Ellie’s own journey to self-love “was long, I was the same as everyone else. I think we all have that one thing we are concerned about and for me, it was my vulva”. By creating Comfortable in My Skin, Ellie is learning more about self-love and acceptance in the most vulnerable way and captivating her growing audience along the way.
In her bio on Instagram Ellie states that labiaplasty is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the world. When I asked her about this she said “people are obsessed with perfection, and these days if something isn’t perfect we can change it, and labiaplasty is accessible, it’s a lot cheaper than a boob job. The thing is though, labia aren’t symmetrical, and we do have these dangly bits that protrude outside our outer labia, but we aren’t seeing those kinds of vulvas everywhere, we are seeing the “barbie doll” kind of vagina, so that has become what people define as the standard”.
Ellie created a gallery of raw pictures of hundreds of people sharing their vulva pictures called “Flip Through My Flaps”. She wanted to create this for a lot of young people going through the same insecurity she experienced. Being able to look through the images and be exposed to a variety of vulvas and see just how different each is, will hopefully allow individuals to conclude that there is no “right way” to look.
“When you feel good about your body it ripples into everything you do, and it can change your whole life”.
Seeing the transformation of confidence in those who come in and shoot their labia with Ellie is a huge reason for her work. Obviously, the majority of people find the thought of having a stranger take a photo of their genitals nerve wracking, however, Ellie makes a conscious effort to create a safe space for these people to become truly vulnerable. “To have someone open their legs is one thing, but for them to talk to me about why they are in the shoot – that’s what is always so moving for me” Ellie says. She explains that it is impossible to miss the confidence these people leave the shoot with, “they have this bounce in their step from the weight of shame that seems to have been lifted through participating in experience.
Ellie’s perspective on the reasoning behind a lot of people’s insecurity of their vulvas isn’t just the “porn star” vagina a lot of society reference to when speaking about cis female’s anatomy. She agrees that back in the day a lot of women were cast in adult films because of the way their vulva looked, however, now with more independent amateur porn on the rise, society is being exposed to a lot more labia diversity.
A huge contributor to the way a lot of us view our vulva is the way others speak about them. The way the people you sleep with talk about your genitals can stick with you, especially if it’s negative. Ellie keeps a diary of the reason individuals come to her shoots and some of them are heartbreaking. A few shared that the reasoning behind their insecurity surrounding their vulva was caused by comments made by previous sexual partners. Ellie agrees sex education in schools is a huge thing that needs to change, particularly the way vulvas are shown and the explanation that there isn’t just one way one should look, and same said about penises. Something that also should be discussed is the language used surrounding genitals. Especially how derogatory and shameful language can affect an individual’s outlook on themselves. Avoiding this is needed to further break the stigma surrounding these parts of our bodies. It can also be a tool in educating youth to prevent name calling and other shame inducing terms from being used in the future.
A goal for Ellie with her work surrounding vulvas, is to create a coffee table book for people to flick through in doctor’s offices and cosmetic surgery waiting rooms. She would hope that within the book people would be able to spot a photo that looks like them and this would allow them to feel more “normal” and maybe even prevent some from feeling that level of insecurity and shame that a lot of individuals carry. Furthermore, Ellie would love to travel Australia and grow her pictures and one day open a gallery of her work to share with the world.
I cannot wait to see what Ellie does, I truly believe she is deserving of every good thing that comes her way. The work she is doing is so important and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for her.
Or via her website.