Laura Delarato photoshopped the body shaming comments she's received on social media over images of herself to create conversation-sparking art
“This project started a little over a year ago as a result of how men would message me on dating apps,” Delarato, 30, tells PEOPLE. “Instead of saying ‘hi,’ they would reduce me to a fetish or make wild accusations about my body — from a safe distance behind their computer screen.”
But Delarato, the video operations coordinator and producer at Refinery29, didn’t let their comments get to her.
“I was on my way to CrossFit when I got an unsavory message from a man on OkCupid. At that moment I realized that nothing I would say back would make it any better or make me feel safe. I just kept thinking, ‘This man is saying this about my body without any regard for who I am or what my body has been through,’ ” she says. “So, instead of internalizing it, I thought it would be incredibly visual to paste the caption over my body.”
That idea turned into what Delarato calls The Comments Project, and she’s posted about ten images so far. She now finds the process of putting them together “cathartic,” but admits that it was tough to do at first.
“When I first started, I realized I would have to look at the comment over and over just to get it cropped perfectly for each photo. And that was difficult to constantly be reminded that someone out there just hates you and what you stand for,” she says. “Then, as I kept going, I became less afraid of it. Now, I think they’re kind of simple and foolish and based on a lot of sad, misguided facts.”
And Delarato is getting praise for her work, though it worries her how many people hear similarly cruel comments.
“Aside from all the compliments and accolades, which are incredibly nice and lovely to read such a magnanimous display of support, it has also been upsetting to realize how many other women/womyn also experience the same situation,” she says. “This project started as a little thing I would do for myself, and now it’s about showing others that they’re not alone.”
Doing that, and improving the overall body image conversation, is what Delarato hopes people take away from her project.
“All bodies are good bodies,” she says. “We need to stop valuing and devaluing each other because we don’t fit into the standard. I’m not the standard, and I couldn’t be happier of that fact.”