Rock Your Ugly: Dubai-Based Photographer Waleed Shah’s Exploration of Body Insecurities

The world is on a mission to alter beauty standards. Dubai-based photographer, Waleed Shah, decided to share his physical insecurities along with many others as a means of group therapy.

“I was pretty uncomfortable with my belly, I took self-portrait and posted it on Instagram but didn’t really do anything about till the summer,” the artist explained in his blog. 

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Today's my birthday and I though I'd address something that's been bothering me about myself. Lets rewind a number of years. Back in high school I was sportsman of the year for 4 years in a row. I was on the football, basketball, cross country, softball and swimming teams. Outside of school I was 4th in the UAE’s under 16 tennis rankings. But now, this is what my body looks like. Fast forward to college, I had a body builder’s body. Doing the “Mass Gain” routines, downing 1000+ calorie protein shakes, eating 6 eggs for breakfast and a meal every 3 hours. But now, this is what my body looks like. You know they used to call me the bouncer when we went clubs. I used to wear tight shirts to show of the pecks and guns so when some sleaze ball tries to mess with any of the girls that were with us all I had to do was stand tall and give him the “look”. But now, this is what my body looks like. What happened? Well, I can blame a number of external factors. The most obvious one would be my herniated disk. I popped it in 2010 while working out. I was out of commission for about a year and would be in pain every time I tried to get back to the gym. I tried a whole bunch of other activities nothing ever stuck. I could also blame starting a business. That took a hell of a lot of time out of my day. But lets be frank, we’ve all the seen the motivational videos of someone severely injured climbing mountains and setting world records. We’ve all read the articles about the most successful people in the world taking care of their bodies first. So really, there’s no one to blame but me. This is what my body looked like on January 6th 2017. I turn 31 today and I haven't done anything about it. I now have a broken arm that will take another 6-9 months to fully heal. I think I'll skip this year and touch base with my body in 2019. Happy birthday to me….

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“I read a book called “The Obesity Code”, applied it and dropped 10kg in 3 months. I had wanted to explore other people’s body insecurities since then but never got around to it until a few weeks ago when I lost my best friend to cancer and wanted something, anything, to get my mental state back on track,” Shah went on.

The Rock Your Ugly movement soon turned from sharing physical insecurities to deeper mental health issues. During his mission to peel off layers of buried traumas, the artist found that one of the most common issues were related to parenting.

The fear of accepting that your child is overweight due to a health issue, the social pressure of admitting that your child needs therapy or not giving children enough space to express themselves left most of the people he met scarred till adulthood.

Take a look at some of his most powerful features:

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