The Faces Behind Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham Project

 

Mary-Berkley is a 25 year old full-blown feminist, activist, blogger, & model born and raised in Birmingham. She began blogging and modeling in 2014 and has had multiple editorials published internationally. Being the oldest of four, she is a natural caretaker and has spent most of her life watching over and taking care of children and the elderly. She attended Homewood High School and spent two years at The University of Montevallo and majored in Psychology. She came to the conclusion college wasn’t really for her, and she wished to find an outlet for her growing passions. 

Mary-Berkley has struggled with depression, anxiety, PCOS, and a binge-eating disorder. She has always been a full-bodied woman, which drew in unnecessary attention as well as harsh bullying throughout her school years. Her eating disorder developed after a close relative was incarcerated when she was young and the cruel realities of the world became ever more present in her young life. As she began to discover more of herself, she proudly came out as a bi-sexual woman in the Bible Belt. Through the adversity she still blossomed and had a strong urge to give back to her community and set a good example for her younger sister.

In 2011, Mary-Berkley discovered the body-positive movement through Jess Baker of The Militant Baker, Reading Volup2 Magazine (where she was featured years later), and by following her idols such as plus-size model Tess Munster. She began blogging about fashion as well as body positivity—something she noticed was becoming more and more of a focal point for her creative outlet. She saw a need in Birmingham for a central body-positive movement that offered resources, support, education, and information. She soon developed the idea for Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham and hosted the very first photoshoot. Months later when she met Allie, Mary-Berkley noticed that they had similar goals in life and represented opposite ends of the spectrum. Thus, Mary-Berkley asked Allie to combine their creative efforts to build and format Beautiful Bodies. 

                                              Allie Phifer: Communities Connections Coordinator

                                              Allie Phifer: Communities Connections Coordinator

Allie is a 22 year old model and writer native to Birmingham, Alabama. Although she is new to the concept of body positivity—she has held beliefs concurrent with the movement her entire life. As a model she has been published all over then continental United States as well as international websites. She has over 16 years of theatrical experience, 7 years of public speaking experience, and has been writing technically, artistically, and for literature her entire life. 

    She met Mary-Berkley through friends and social media where they clicked personally as well as professionally; after Allie told Mary-Berkley of her body positive story, Mary-Berkley asked Allie to help found Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham. As a young child and throughout adolescence Allie struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and anorexia. She went through the foster care system of Alabama and is quite familiar with the Department of Human Resources. Though she struggled, she managed to stay very active artistically and politically. She competed and won awards for her writing, debating, acting, and designing. Despite her accolades, she still struggled to love and accept herself.

    After the death of her best friend and little brother, Connor, in late June of 2015 to a violent heroin related crime, she has strived to give back to her community and empower and strengthen others. She is proud to say she is over 4 years self-harm free as well as having successfully managed her anxiety and depression. She is now a happy, healthy body-positive activist.