In Support Of: “32-21-33: The Real Woman Project” (2 of 2)

Editor’s Note: “In Support Of” will be a new, irregularly occurring feature in Steel City Retro. Read on to see what it’s all about!

Niche fashion blogging wouldn’t be possible without the willingness of hard-working professionals to do trades with me: the photographers that photograph the models and edit the images, the make-up artists and hairstylists that make them camera-ready, the small businesses owners willing to give me their precious time. While writing Steel City Retro, I’ve had the privilege to work with some amazingly talented people, and meet many of the movers and shakers that make the Lehigh Valley an artful, environmentally- and ethically-minded place to call home. In doing so, I get exposed to many of these people’s personal projects – just as SCR is my “baby” and labor of love, they have their own, in addition to grueling professional schedules.

An image by Emily from our first shoot together.

An image by Emily from our first shoot together.

Emily McGonigle of Emily McGonigle Photography (whose work and interview are also a part of WINK’s January issue) is a prime example of the sort of person I described above. Emily and I met about a year and a half ago on a trade shoot – she photographed me to broaden professional body of work, and I got to use her exemplary images in my portfolio as a hobbyist & promotional model. We got along so well and lived so close to each other that it only made sense to hang out apart from ‘work.’ Our relationship developed into one of those easy, silly, yet deeply-rooted friendships that are the stuff of sitcoms.

Photo 11

“Muppet-smiling.” Wine was probably involved at this point.

When Em told me about 32-21-33: The Real Woman Project, I jumped on the chance to be a part of it. Very simply put, 32-21-33 is a photographic series whose goal is to celebrate women of all shapes and sizes, rather than subscribing to media-driven catch-phrases and ideals (Examples: “REAL women have CURVES!,” or conversely, the subliminal message that “Your size determines your worth.”). In Emily’s words:

This [project] is about you.  This is about me.  This is about…making a public statement that ALL women are REAL women, that ALL of us should be comfortable with who we are,

and ALL of us should be making choices based on what’s HEALTHY for ourselves,rather than trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t meant for us. 

It’s about the fact that size does not determine what makes a woman.It’s about being proud of who you are as a person, being proud of your choice to have or not to have a career,

about being proud of your body and feeling beautiful in it, and about being different… having your own interests and unique talents that make you who you are. 

It’s about acceptance.It’s about healing the wound that we have created for ourselves because of this, what I like to call, “size war”.

It’s about realizing that it’s OKAY to be bigger or smaller than someone else.  That it DOESN’T make you ANY less beautiful. 

It’s about celebrating and accepting our differences and rejoicing in the fact that WE ARE ALL REAL WOMEN.

Emily began photographing for 32-21-33 over the summer, and continues to document women who filled out and sent back the questionaries she had drawn up in order to become acquainted with those interested in volunteering. In each segment, women from different walks and stages of life give Emily a glimpse into their lives, and tell how body imagery has affected them, in the past and in the present. The women do their own hair and makeup (or not), and each pose in the same attire: a plain black bra and plain black boyshorts. Emily does NOT Photoshop the images upon completion of the segment, sticking with the theme of natural beauty and acceptance of oneself.


Emily, myself, and Greg, Emily’s right-hand man and videographer, shot my segment in October (and of course, Steel City Retro was mentioned). My full segment can be read on the 32-12-33 tab on, and Greg’s Behind-the-Scenes video with additional commentary can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here. Though she still has much ground to cover, Emily plans to compile all of her segments into a coffee table book in the future.

I love the mission Emily has embarked on with The Real Woman Project, and encourage everyone to follow the links scattered throughout the article to experience more of Emily’s perspective, in her own words – that is the best way to truly understand the passion she has for her work on this subject! It’s one many share with her. To get involved, check out the Volunteer tab on Emily’s Official Page. You can also follow 32-21-33 on Facebook.


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