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#MySkyeBody Conversations - Ashley Jacklyn

Tertiary education is no joke. It can undoubtedly, be the most emotionally taxing period of anyone’s life, let alone, someone suffering from a mental health disorder. Ashley Jacklyn, is one of those young women who experienced this but found her strength through social media to persevere. Take a look to find out how a simple, everyday routine that one would typically take for granted, saved her from depression as well as fuel her vision behind the lens to empower women, particularly of the Latin community.

SKYE: Tell us about yourself (short bio you'd like us to include)

Ashley: My name is Ashley Jacklyn and I am a twenty-seven year old Latina photographer, mental health warrior and micro influencer. When I graduated from college in 2014 with my degree in Anthropology, I hit an all-time low with my mental illnesses, Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I didn’t know what else to do with my life after college and finding a job in my field of study was one of the hardest things. I became extremely depressed and needed a way to save myself from the darkness I knew I would keep falling into. I was on Instagram already in 2012 but took a break from it to focus on school and decided to go back to it and create an account where I would hold myself accountable. I would wake up in the morning and rather than wanting to stay in bed and hide from the world, I got dressed, did my makeup and took a photo of my outfit. I did that almost every day to create a routine to get out of my depression. After that, I started to fall back in love with photography and decided to use both fashion and photography to help educate, inspire and make it easy for people to see someone with mental illness. I want to show the world that even though I have these illnesses, I am still human and capable of many things. I want to give people a different view of mental illness and show that living life with mental illness is possible.


SKYE: What inspires your style of photography and what drives the creative concept for each shoot?

Ashley: I get this question a lot and honestly I guess what inspires me is my pain of living with a mental illness. I want to capture the essence of what a person is in each image and throw it back at them so they can see how I view them. People who know me know that I can be extremely meticulous with my concepts and try to give a lot of information to the models. I want us all to be on the same page and feel the same vibes.


SKYE: Your message is all about self acceptance and embracing womanhood. How do you choose your subjects and how do you get them to open up to you in such a way that you're able to capture the overall essence of confidence and "loving the skin you're in" vibe? 

Ashley: Sometimes the subjects are women I know personally who are not models but deserve to feel like the Goddesses that they are. We are force fed this marginalized idea of what a beautiful women represents and thankfully we’re viewing a movement that is turning that idea on its head. When I work with someone I know isn’t a model, the first thing I want to do is let them know that they are safe in my space. I want to give them also, a part of who I am so I talk about my own struggles with them because it’s imperative to let them know that we are all in this together.


SKYE: What has been the most rewarding aspect of this endeavour?

ASHLEY: For most of my life, I connected more with guys. Guys weren’t as mean to me as the ladies I met in my life were so I always, still even to this day, would have a barrier up when I meet new women. Now that I am aware of it, I force myself out of that state of mind and find that there are awesome and kind women. I think that is what has been so rewarding about this, finding a sisterhood and feeling safe within it.


SKYE: What do you hope to achieve with your photography in the body positive movement?

Ashley: Honestly, I just want my photography to help women see the beauty that resides within them. I hope that whenever I photograph someone, they can see the love and effort I also have put into an image. It’s a collaboration of both spirit and mind.


SKYE: How did your personal experiences help shape your vision for your shoots?

Ashley: Living with mental illnesses and being a Latina has made the world very frightening for me. I always tend to view the ugly parts of the world but with photography, it forces me to view this scary world in a beautiful way. I see things much more differently when I’m shooting and that has honestly saved me.


SKYE: It would appear that most of your female subjects are of the Hispanic persuasion. Is that by chance or are you deliberately aiming to convey a message to and about women in the Latin community?

Ashley: Most of my friends are Latina or women of color and it is totally by chance. I never noticed that I am so focused on these faces and body types that are not viewed in the media as beautiful, but I will continue to photograph them and whoever wishes to connect with me through this art.


SKYE: As a Latina woman yourself, what do you think is the biggest misconception women of this community face and how do you think the social media BoPo movement can help change it?

Ashley: Latina women have their own traditions that have been carried down through generations and some of these traditions are detrimental to the way we view ourselves as women. We’re instantly sexualized and then belittled for being sexual beings. If you’re a darker skinned Latina, you are told to stay out of the sun and so many other negative ways of making us feel about our bodies. With the BoPo movement, it can help change this ideology that Latinas are spitfire, that we too can be emotional and loving; that we’re multifaceted with many different complexions, religious beliefs, body types and so on. The BoPo movement might be about the physical body but we can make it so much more than that, because when you are mentally right within your body, you also need to focus on your mental and spiritual health.


SKYE: On your personal Instagram account, you often discuss your struggles with anxiety. As a social media influencer, how do you cope or balance being in front of the camera while being afflicted with this mental health illness?

Ashley: Instagram is one of the tools that saved me from my Depression in 2014. I don’t force myself to do anything I don’t want to do on my account. I always keep it 100% honest with my emotions and I’m never afraid to speak what’s on my mind. A lot of people think they can tell you how to be a mental health advocate or how to be an influencer but I’m doing what I want to do. There are days where I don’t want to shoot an outfit or post at all, so I don’t force myself. It’s all about knowing yourself and how you are feeling. I am actively staying aware and accountable for my feelings/emotions and actions.


SKYE: Do you have a daily affirmation?

Ashley: I have two tattoos that are daily reminders for myself. One is “always do what you fear the most” and the other is “ataraxia” which means tranquility of mind in Latin.


SKYE: If you could be remembered by the world for one thing, what would it be?

Ashley: Man this is a tough question but I think I want the world to remember me as the powerful Latina who fought for herself to be heard and seen with a mental illness, who never gave up on herself when the world did and who used her pain to spread knowledge and help others through her Instagram account and photography.


Check out Ashley's Instagram to follow her journey!