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Author:
Rae Rodriguez

From the girl in front of the camera.

Beauty
Nature
Photography
NFT
From the girl in front of the camera.
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Vulnerability, self-worth, and courage to accept who you are.

These are some words from a girl who is always seen, not heard. My name is Rae and I’ve worked as an international model for seven years now. When my partner came to me with the idea of creating a NFT collection to challenge modern beauty ideals, I thought that’s not going to work since my job is fitting into those skewed beauty ideals. Then I realised it was deeper than that, and I was all in. 365 Days of Rae is a collection of 100 raw portraits of me, taken throughout our relationship, reflecting all of the honest moods we go through during our days together. All throughout my career, I’ve always had confidence in front of the camera, I’ve worked on my craft enough to know that I can work my angles and be happy with what images come out of a shoot. Working on 365DoR was about to change all of that…

Photo from Instagram @raerodriguez

That bubble was now gone

As a model I (and this isn’t true for everyone) work in a bubble of security on a shoot, there are agents who believe in me, a client who wants me as the face of their brand, hair and make up artists to make sure I look my best, movement direction, and the retouching team who can correct any flaws they see fit. 365DoR was nothing like that - and I have never been as out of my depth, even though it was shooting with my loving boyfriend. That bubble was now gone, and I had to face our shoots without a team, all on my own, and try to still look my best. But the camera never lies as they say.

Photo from Instagram @raerodriguez

Even though I am viewed as this successful model, it doesn’t mean I feel that way about myself. We all have our personal issues regarding our bodies, it’s something that should be normalised more. Mine are often kept personal and are only shared in safe spaces with people I feel comfortable with. Things I would cringe at in the bathroom mirror, when trying on new clothes, or a new pimple appearing overnight. I was about to learn that vulnerability is feeling safe while being seen, and I was about to share this with the world.

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have a problem

The first step in solving a problem is admitting you have a problem, and I had many problems with shooting 365DoR. Over the course of our shoots Matthew and I faced roadblocks ending with tears and frustration because of certain outcomes of our shots.

One of our first shoots together Matthew used a lens that (in my eyes) completely distorted my face and I was so confronted to have been shot where I hate the way I look. It shook me to my core to have felt so insecure in myself. I felt unsafe since I felt all my flaws were being highlighted. The exact opposite of what I was used to for the last seven years.

In these moments of self-hate Matthew would come to my side, ask me what was wrong, and reassure me that I in fact, am not ugly or fat, and that my hair looks fine. These were hard conversations - not being happy with how I looked and consequently not liking the photo, Matthew thought I didn’t believe in his photography.

On a journey to self-love it’s helpful to have people outside your family and relationship to believe in you too, for when you don’t believe in yourself. As our project continued to grow, I gained confidence from our partner and friend Jonah who loved the progress we were making, who provided words of affirmation for me. He seemed to be liking the shots and the progress we had been making. We were doing something right. When we opened up our Discord community I started to have some more fun. Here were all of these people who wanted to see our project, regardless of what any of the photos looked like. They simply believed in our vision and wanted to be a part of the community. This really helped change my internal narrative, and just maybe, I amount to more worth than how I look.

I have never been particularly kind to myself

There are only so many reassuring and loving words Matthew could provide me when I would point out the latest flaw in our portraits. The change would have to come from within. I had to open up my heart to feel safe being seen, work on my communication, and challenge my own personal negative beliefs. I have never been particularly kind to myself, and have fallen into the bad habit of finding self worth in how many modelling jobs I book or how many likes I get on Instagram. If other people like me then I must be doing something right. But anytime work would be quiet or a post would underperform, I would fall into a slump. The most important step I took in building enough courage to continue with 365DoR was to let go of my inhibitions - so if my hair looked flat, or I had a pimple, it was okay. By going ahead with shooting on days I didn’t feel my best, I taught myself to continue on with my life, it wasn’t the end of the world, it wouldn’t get the best of me. I knew that somebody else who saw this photo would resonate and find some solace in their flat days too.

And while I may not have found an everyday self love yet, I have confidence in the fact that I’m improving and will continue to do so.

Explore my journey of self love in our 365 Days of Rae NFT collection and continue the conversation on our Discord.

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