Brave Woman Bares All. {Nudity}


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Warning: Adult.

If I saw Beth Whaanga at a cocktail party I would think, “Wow, there’s a pretty mom who’s got it all.”

Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

Whaanga is, in fact a pretty mom who’s got a lot (maybe “all”, depending on your definition), but who also has valiantly battled several kinds of cancer.

When she chose to reveal her scars in a nude photo shoot on Facebook, it ignited a predictable firestorm of controversy. People are notoriously uncomfortable with nudity, especially if it isn’t gratuitous or reflective of cultural beauty norms.

Whaanga, with the help of photographer Nadia Mascot, took part in the project “Under the Red Dress”, which was designed to bring awareness to breast cancer through photographs of women who have experienced it. After her photo session, she posted her pictures on Facebook.

She was promptly reported and de-friended by over 100 “friends”.

I struggle to imagine seeing these images and having a hostile reaction. Fortunately, Facebook took up Whaanga’s cause and assured her her posts will remain in place despite anyone’s discomfort, and Whaanga herself has maintained her equanimity saying that it’s okay if some people are offended as long as she gets just one individual to self check for cancer.

Well, she just got one.

Among the numerous effects of her illness which Whaanga has revealed are: hair loss, total bilateral mastectomy scars, tram flap for breast reconstruction, Bellovac drain scars, naval reconstruction, bilateral tram flap for reconstruction, sagging skin from rapid weight loss and a total hysterectomy scars.

No, hers is not the kind of body we see in Yoga Journal or in any major magazine—it is not the body of a “beautiful person”—but she is beautiful.

This is a woman whose physical being became a battleground, who entered the battle and won, and these scars and her character are the spoils. She is no longer a simple woman—she is a Warrior Goddess.

It is women like Beth Whaanga who inspire me and shine a light on the path for all women who are aging, fighting, living passionately and refusing to be silenced or shunned.

Would that we could all be so brave.

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To see the full the story, click here.


“Cancer Took My Breasts But Will Never Take My Dignity.” {Nudity}

The Cancer Family.

An Open Letter to Cancer. 


Bonus: Detoxing our Bodies to Prevent Cancer. 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise


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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her website.


69 Responses to “Brave Woman Bares All. {Nudity}”

  1. Holly White says:

    I see nothing but pure beauty when I look at this photo! Just gorgeous…my grandfather passed away in May 2013 with cancer and it's awful the change it makes to the persons body. I really admire her for doing this. Keep staying strong Beth!!!

  2. Sherri Rosen says:

    This article I believe was originally in an article in a newspaper in Australia. This gorgeous woman decided to brave it all and show photos of her naked after all of the surgeries
    she has had with Cancer. If you saw her in a dress or just her face, your first instinct would be to say "she's so pretty". But when you scroll down and see her naked she is
    challenging you to take all of your preconceived judgements of women's bodies to tell you life doesn't work that way. We all don't have these perfecto bodies, and life can hit us hard even when we are young and have to deal with Cancer. It's not only women that constantly get hit with the perfect body image but men as well, and it sucks. It sucks for all of us. Because it takes us away from dealing with reality, and doesn't help us to have meaningful relationships with one another and our bodies.

    With all of the photoshopping and our worship of movie stars, musicians, we lose sight of what is real and then we as men and women look in the mirror and say "why don't I look
    like that?" (whomever you worship that's famous.) Yeah, there are some people on the outside looking in that seem like they have it all like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but do we really know, because they just look beautiful-they and their rainbow family. Ironically enough Angelina Jolie just recently went through the removal of her 2 breasts and having breast augmentation surgery.

    A few years ago I was working with a photographer on creating a book of photos of nude women over 50 and the book was to be called "Ripe: Aging with Authenticity and Grace", and the photographer only wanted to work in black and white, which I said yes to. She also was what they call a "street photographer" spontaneously shooting experiences in the street as they happened. So this was a different experience for her. It had to be organized with each women, time and place, and working with each one indoors and working with some who had breast Cancer and had their breasts surgically removed or breast augmentation. She took many photos of many different women, and when she showed me the photos she took of the woman who had breast augmentation surgery after a mastectomy, I was shocked. Not because of the photo, but of the lack of talent this photographer had in taking indoor planned photos. She just made this woman who had the mastectomy look like she was in so much pain, and she wasn't. If you saw the black and white photo you would see the subect matter was totally proud of her body, but something was lacking from the eye of the photographer. It felt as though the photographer when shooting this subject was totally repulsed by what she was shooting. I hadn't been happy with any of the other photos of other women she had taken photos of, but when I saw this one I knew she was the wrong photographer for this project. She and I both spoke about it and she finally admitted to me that she wasn't happy with her work and no longer wanted to be involved.

    I still haven't found a photographer to work on this project. I still want to create the book, but now after seeing the photos of the woman who showed herself all dressed up with her beautiful face and nice figure, and then showed us what it looks like to go through Cancer surgeries and what it does to your body, I believe I want to create a book of women
    just like her. Again, life can hit you hard with unexpected challenges, and it's what we do with these challenges that can either help us or destroy us.

    So next time you admire a gorgeous man or woman with all of the perfect body parts, take a moment to look in the mirror at yourself and please love what you see or practice loving what you see, because it will eventually come true-you will love and appreciate what you see and be grateful. Please be grateful if you have good health. It's such a gift.

  3. Deborah Bountiful says:

    Thank you

  4. Eugene C. Buell says:

    I am proud of her as a human being. For being real, while the superficial airbrushing of our medical, medical, and physical selves, continues to stifle the consciousness the positive growth of so many people around us. Because life and evolvement are about what is real not about how it all seems. Life is not a dog show. If you look close the depth, quality and beauty of this person are all portrayed soulfully within the expression of her eyes. Nice job by the way, the photos and the article offer a profound message. Thank You

  5. Ann potaczek says:

    Beautiful woman! Wear your scars proudly. I do 🙂 you won the battle

  6. Will Grimm says:

    I lost my girlfriend to stage 4 lung, liver and bone cancer last May. she beat breast cancer before that. this woman is lovely and brave. To focus on body parts is a bit sad, but most men seem to need to have breasts that fit their ideal. Juvenile? sure. I for one love legs and pretty feet. I dated a woman who had mastectomy and reconstruction. I loved her. she was beautiful to me. She died of skin cancer. I admire the people who struggle against this and wish there was some way to detect out of control cells before they metastasize. I am at risk too. We all are, given the poisoning of our air and water and food chain. God help us all.

  7. Leslie says:

    That was so beautiful to read..Thank you

  8. Madam says:

    It really is an awesome and beautiful story of a warrior woman.

  9. Sunny says:

    I see strength. I see bravery. I see experience and wisdom. She is TRULY stunning. Thank you for this.

  10. Chris says:

    You are a beautiful woman. It is a real woman who embraces herself & knows the real meaning of beauty. I give you a standing ovation my dear!

  11. Victoria says:

    Gorgeous and gutsy. It shocks and saddens me that any of this lady's Facebook 'friends' would de-friend her because of her photos. Yes they are confronting but I think that was the whole point of why she did it. Cancer isn't pretty but raising awareness and early detection saves lives and, as she said, if she saves just one it will have been worth it. I hope the lovely Beth lives a long and – from this point – healthy life surrounded by supportive family and friends.

  12. Melody says:

    She is beautiful. Not because of her scars, but because she is a pretty human being. A tough one indeed. To me, scars just show how “magical” and strong a human body can be, they show our history, where we have failed and where we fixed those problems. But I can’t help thinking “poor lady, she has been butchered” 🙁

  13. Samantha says:

    Power to her for being such a strong woman. People are so quick to judge rather than looking at the bigger picture. Anyone who doesn’t see that should be ashamed of themselves. I admire this woman for her strength, beauty and bravery.

  14. LillahRadj says:

    she looks very spiritual. there is no vulgarity, but beauty. she has won the battle! god bless such great souls!!

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