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Jenna Rose Simon: “Why corporations should stop all of the editing and photoshopping of models”

I would say individuals who have struggled with this problem and can share insight from the other side are key to helping end stigma and enlighten current sufferers on the debilitating effects of EDs. Corporations, depending upon their market, of course, could stop all of the editing and photoshopping in magazines. Stop running stories on […]

I would say individuals who have struggled with this problem and can share insight from the other side are key to helping end stigma and enlighten current sufferers on the debilitating effects of EDs. Corporations, depending upon their market, of course, could stop all of the editing and photoshopping in magazines. Stop running stories on unrealistic things, or creating shame around the struggle of any kind. I’m not sure what communities can do outside of raising awareness. There are groups for family and friends of alcoholics. Creating these places for other mental health fields might help educate our population more on the issue. We could all then be more aware both for ourselves and for the young people around us who depend on our care.


As a part of my interview series with public figures who struggled with and coped with an eating disorder, I had the pleasure to interview Jenna Rose Simon. She is no stranger in making an impact with her art which over the years and is the talented young artist behind the viral graphite pencil sketches that depict to the harsh realities and powerful emotions of a wide range of issues such as sexual assault, eating disorders and verbal abuse. Born in New Jersey, Jenna grew up as an avid dancer with dreams of going professional. When an injury took her dream away, the self-taught artist decided to put a portfolio together for submission into a fine arts program. She was quickly accepted at Parsons and Arcadia University, and attended the latter as a fine arts/art therapy major, before graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. After struggling with an eating disorder for ten years and seeking treatment in 2014, Jenna began to draw concepts that she felt people weren’t understanding in her therapy, starting with her first self-portrait with the message, “#IAmEmpoweredBecause I’ve started to put down weapons of destruction and realize I am worth more. I’m worth more than anything that has happened to me, and I’m definitely worth more than a number on a scale.” With the help of her therapist, Jenna discovered that drawing was therapeutic for her, and her drawings could potentially help others too. Soon after, Jenna’s sketch depicting verbal abuse went viral and was shared more than 300K times on Facebook and her art has since been exhibited in art galleries and reported on in outlets such as CNN and CheddarTV. Jenna continues to impact others through her Instagram account @gentletouchofart where she shares many of her sketches, including concept art and celebrity pieces.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?

I’m thankful to be a part of this! For a while, I was pursuing an acting and modeling career while I cared for children on the side. At the moment, I’m focused mostly on my recovery, drawing, and caring for the best 3-year-old around…. and I’m happy with that.

Are you able to tell our readers the story of how you struggled with an eating disorder?

It’s hard to condense. It started when I was a teenager and was a ballet dancer. There was a lot of restricting and over-exercising. I got injured, which systematically ended my potential dance career. That’s when I started experimenting with laxatives. Over the following 6–7 years, my laxative abuse took over my entire life. It dictated when and where I would go. It put me in physical agony multiple times every day. It literally controlled every aspect of my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a subconscious way of trying to shed all of my bad feelings….to feel empty.

What was the final straw that made you decide that you were going to do all you can to get better?

I kind of didn’t have a choice. I was living away from home and the woman I lived with called my family and made them come and get me. It was then that they told me I had to get treatment. I didn’t really feel like I had any other option. It was when I actually got into the inpatient unit at the hospital that I realized I needed to do all I could to help myself get better. There were girls there who had abused laxatives far less badly than I had and for a lot less time, who had gastric pacemakers or were in wheelchairs. That terrified me. I considered myself lucky to not be in their shoes and decided I never wanted to find myself walking in them.

And how are things going for you today?

Things are a lot better than they were. I recently went through something that was very triggering and set me back a few paces, but I’m getting back on track again. And even when I felt myself reverting back to old mindsets, I never let myself get anywhere near the point I had before.

Based on your own experience are you able to share 5 things with our readers about how to support a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder? If you can, can you share an example from your own experience?

Yes! I’d say the most important, and really most basic thing to do is say “I’m here” or “I care.” It sounds so simple but some people never hear that. For me, I met someone recently who really did a great job reminding me that she was there and cared even when I didn’t believe it or doubted it.

The second thing I would say is try not to act as the doctor, especially if your loved one isn’t a child. If the person you’re supporting is in treatment and is an adult, it’s best to not say things like “eat more” or try to push them. It’s better to say something like “I know this is hard for you and I’m proud of you for doing it.” Eating disorders are so much about control that I have personally felt even MORE a need for control when others tell me what to eat.

Third, don’t make comparative statements. If someone gains weight, don’t say “you look so much better now.” They will (I know from experience) immediately take that as “they can tell I’ve gained weight” and that could be triggering or upsetting. I’ve found it feels better to hear “you look so pretty” or something that doesn’t contain a comparison to the way I was before.

Four, don’t talk about calories. Calories weren’t really a trigger for me, but numbers have a huge impact on many with ED’s. Don’t even let it enter a conversation even if you’re talking about what you, yourself are eating.

And last, I’d say give the person space sometimes. There are times I really don’t want to talk about how I feel, especially with certain people, and if that privacy isn’t respected, it makes me even more anxious.

Is there a message you would like to tell someone who may be reading this, who is currently struggling with an eating disorder?

I’d like to tell you that I NEVER saw a world without laxatives until I entered into one. I had no idea it was even possible to live a life different than the one I was already living. So if you’re someone thinking about getting treatment saying “it’ll never work for me,” just know that I felt that way too. Sometimes we can’t see where we are going to end up simply because we’ve never been there, not because the place doesn’t exist.

According to this study cited by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30 million people in the U.S. of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. Can you suggest 3–5 reasons why this has become such a critical issue recently?

I’m not an expert, but I imagine that the stress of being thin in the media plays a part in it, especially with younger individuals. For me, it was more about having to have control over something in my life when I had none in abusive situations I was in. I think we all want a sense of control. To feel like we are in charge of what happens to us. When we feel like we lose that, we look to control whatever little thing we can and food seems like a simple thing to control.

Based on your insight, what can concrete steps can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to address the core issues that are leading to this problem?

I would say individuals who have struggled with this problem and can share insight from the other side are key to helping end stigma and enlighten current sufferers on the debilitating effects of EDs. Corporations, depending upon their market, of course, could stop all of the editing and photoshopping in magazines. Stop running stories on unrealistic things, or creating shame around the struggle of any kind. I’m not sure what communities can do outside of raising awareness. There are groups for family and friends of alcoholics. Creating these places for other mental health fields might help educate our population more on the issue. We could all then be more aware both for ourselves and for the young people around us who depend on our care.

As you know, one of the challenges of an eating disorder is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just control yourself”. What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that an eating disorder is an illness just like heart disease or schizophrenia?

That’s such a tough one. It starts out from having a need to control SOMETHING and ends up with that same something controlling YOU. I can tell you that a friend could invite me out at night and I’d turn it down because I didn’t want to give up taking my laxatives for even one night. That’s how out of control the situation was. It comes down to the fact that if you haven’t lived it, you won’t perfectly understand it, so it’s your responsibility if you know someone is suffering to learn as much as you can and trust what the professionals are saying. If a professional says “your child feels out of control,” the better answer is “how can I help her feel IN control” rather than “why can’t she just control something else.” Admit that you are dealing with something you don’t understand and just take advice from those who DO understand it.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have helped you with your struggle? Can you explain why you like them?

One of them isn’t really specific to eating disorders, but it helped me due to my trauma. It’s called The Courage to Heal, and I also did the accompanying workbook. I liked it because there were survivor stories and I related a lot to so much of what I read. The only other ED related publication I have experience with is the book Wasted. It was a true story memoir and it chilled me to my core. I read it before I got treatment and it made me feel nervous to hurt my body.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Can I call a lyric a life lesson quote? Haha. My favorite quote ever is from an Evanescence song. “Don’t bother breaking the door down… I found my way out.” For a child who was a victim of sexual trauma, this quote stuck with me. It reminded me that you don’t just “lock the door” and hope for the best. You look for an alternative. With my eating disorder, there was a long time where every time I went to CVS I had to purposely not walk down the laxative aisle. This quote says, hey, that isn’t a permanent solution. What if you need an anti-acid? They’re in the same aisle. You need to find another way out of this feeling.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My current focus is on a battle I can’t really discuss yet. My hope is that it will help others who have been victimized know that they have a voice and they can fight back.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the largest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, I started this thing years ago that I wanted to grow and just haven’t done enough with it yet. It was called the #IAmEmpoweredBecause campaign. In it, I drew public figures in an artistic way depicting something difficult they have overcome, and they posted the drawing starting with that hashtag and then explaining their story, but in a positive light. The reason for that is I wanted the focus to be on the “I overcame this!” Rather than just what happened. I’m still trying to think of ways to make this a “thing” so that more people going through difficult things can see that others not only went through them, but they came out on the other side.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: Jenna Rose Simon

Instagram: @AGentleTouchOfArt (art account) and @JennaRoseSimon (personal)

Twitter: @JennaRoseSimon

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