Stella Boonshoft was not expecting Thursday, Oct. 18 to be a particularly eventful day.
But when the curvaceous Steinhardt freshman saw street photographer and creator of the popular blog Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton, on the street, she jumped at the chance to approach him. Although Boonshoft originally approached Stanton to take his picture, he took hers instead.
Boonshoft, who has her own blog, The Body Love Blog, then proceeded to share her interests with Stanton. Later that day, Stanton posted a picture of Boonshoft on Humans of New York. But the photo was not one of the serene street portraits he is known for. Instead, Stanton chose a black-and-white shot of Boonshoft cheerily posing in her underwear that Boonshoft had sent to Stanton after their encounter. On her own blog, the photo accompanies a powerful written message about body image, her self-acceptance and her rejection of the hurt bullies have inflicted in her past.
A typical photo on Humans of New York gets about 5,000 likes on Facebook. Boonshoft’s self-portrait has well over 700,000. Boonshoft has appeared on the “Today Show,” has guest-blogged for The Huffington Post and has been the subject of countless articles from outlets including The Daily Mail and People.
Boonshoft, a New York native, said she has always struggled with body image.
“Growing up in New York City was definitely intense for a little, chubby kid like me,” she said. “From a very young age, I ached for people to not only love me, but to constantly remind me that I was worthy.”
Her desire for acceptance stemmed from encounters with bullies.
“I seriously just thought something was wrong with me,” Boonshoft said. “Instead of rejecting bullies, or telling an adult, I constantly tried to be accepted by these kids. They were popular, afte
r all, and that was all I wanted to be. It took me until sophomore year of high school to realize that who I was wasn’t defined by who I hung out with.”
Boonshoft started The Body Love Blog shortly after arriving at NYU this fall. She originally intended for the blog to be an outlet to express herself and to help other girls struggling with self worth. The media attention she has received after being featured on Humans of New York has shifted her perspective.
“I’m not interested in doing talk shows and being some sort of weird, pseudo-celebrity who writes a blog about her life,” Boonshoft said. “So with the help of [Stanton], I’m rebranding and redesigning my blog to become a space where others can share their stories and a safe place for young people dealing with these issues.”
Boonshoft’s 17,000 followers are receptive to her message.
“I think this message is really good for our generation because we’re very up front about things, and we’re a very honest generation,” said Tisch freshman Joseph Giordano. “I think our society has become much more accepting in general. Her message represents a revolution.”
As a student poised on the cusp of major influence in the struggle against bullying and skewed body image, Boonshoft’s future seems incredibly bright. But she seems more concerned with offering advice to young people struggling with body image issues than her own personal success.
“We hold in so much fear, self-hatred and anxiety, and that’s counterproductive to the process,” she said. “Your feelings are totally valid and ok, however, they aren’t facts. You are beautiful, strong and worthy of love.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Nov. 8 print edition. Helen Holmes is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.