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Sunday, March 29, 2009

The article

On May 1, Terri Jean, an activist and photographer with a studio in Nelsonville, will begin a year-long project celebrating the beauty in all women as it challenges the “ideal” size-2 Hollywood star image.

Jean said her project, “Marilyn Monroe and Me: an exhibit celebrating the eternal goddess within every woman,” will recreate 84 iconic photos of Monroe using “real women with real bodies, of all ages, nationalities, sizes and personal styles.” The exhibit will open on June 1, 2010, Monroe’s 84th birthday.

“Marilyn Monroe is the epitome of beauty and sexuality,” Jean said. “My goal (is) to show that every woman, no matter who they are, has that beauty and sexuality inside them. I believe, in this time of super-thin actresses and multi-million-dollar diet industries, it’s important for women to feel good in their own skin and to be proud of the individuality, their bodies and their style. (The project) is open to all women, from 18 to 84, from 0 to 28-plus, from bald to dreadlocked and so forth.”

The 84 photos will be included in the exhibit, along with a collage mosaic created by Jean that merges the 84 photos to represent one Monroe photo.

The project has been in the planning stages for several months and Jean has recruited some models, but she still needs area women to participate. Most of the women volunteering so far are younger women, so she’s especially encouraging older women to participate. Each participant will receive a makeover, a free Marilyn-inspired photo shoot and a print of their photo.

“I want to illustrate that every woman is sexy and beautiful, and all women should embrace what makes them unique.” She said.

She said Monroe was voted the Sexiest Woman of the Century by People magazine, ranked eighth in Empire Magazine’s Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time and was voted fourth Greatest Movie Star of All Time by Entertainment Weekly.

“But if she were a Hollywood starlet today, she would be labeled ‘plus size’ by today’s standards,” she said. Beyonce and Jennifer Love Hewitt have been called overweight, but both are healthy and beautiful and closer to the average American woman’s size.”

In 2008, Jean launched the precursor of the Marilyn and Me Project, The Eye Candy Girls Project. It’s a retro pinup model troupe with the motto, “Every woman should feel delicious.” The troupe appears at local events such as Boogie on the Bricks, and is planning new ventures, such as candy-grams and singing telegrams.

Jean’s goal for both projects is to promote positive body images and self-acceptance with classic pinup shots.
She said, like most of Monroe’s photos, the Marilyn and Me photos won’t be risqué.

“Most of Marilyn Monroe’s photos were fully clothed,” she said. “Most showed her doing regular things, like reading a book, singing, reading a script. Only a few were risqué.”

As a way to reassure potential models that there will be no X-rated posing, Jean said she has a 6-year-old son and she wants him to be able to see the exhibit.

A self-taught photographer, Jean discovered she has a unique ability to bring out the beauty of her subjects. She specializes in “Old Hollywood” glamor, pinup and band photography.

“I can make everyone look good for themselves,” she said. “It’s easy for me. I can find the beauty in anyone.”

The Marilyn and Me project is especially important to Jean, she said, because she overcame bulimia.
I don’t require any of my models to be super-thin because I know what it is like to starve yourself,” she said. 

“It’s important to me. I work with lots of young girls, and I would never want them to all look the same.  Plus-size, boyish, petite – none of that matters to me. I want them to be happy in their own skin.”

She’s in the process of moving her studio from Athens to Nelsonville. Her new studio, The Sul Galleria, is on the Nelsonville Public Square and has 4,800 square feet of space. She has many plans for the space and is offering rental space to female artists and photographers. An open house will be held from noon to 6pm May 1.

“I want to share this wonderful space,” she said. “I want to surround myself with other artists. I want to invite people to have fun with me, and turn this into a community of artists. The first year I want to share it with other female artists. Eventually, I’ll open it to men.”

Jean said she hopes many area women will consider joining the Marilyn and Me Project.

This is a huge adventure for me, and I want to pull in as many woman as I can,” she said. “Come on. Enjoy the ride.”

This is not a photo of myself, by the way. This is a photo I did for a local pizza place - with my Eye Candy models and my little granddaughter. But thanks for the compliment!

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