vi·ra·go | \ və-ˈrä-(ˌ)gō , -ˈrā- ; ˈvir-ə-ˌgō \
plural viragoes or viragos
Definition of virago
1: a loud overbearing woman : TERMAGANT
2: a woman of great stature, strength, and courage. Courtesy of Merriam-Webster
Photos below taken by Sam C. Long who payed homage to Douglas Kirkland’s iconic photo shoot with Marilyn Monore. Sam also had access and shot on the same camera, as Kirkland did, a 1959 Hasselblad 500c, provided by his friend, Christopher Saunders, the Hasselblad
When (Honeysuckle founder) Ronit Pinto asked me to be Honey Pot’s centerfold model, I was thrilled. The idea for this centerfold developed out of a conversation that Ronit and I had on New Hemp Times about women becoming invisible as we age. Although I have accomplished and overcome much in my life, I still deal with feelings of discomfort and inadequacy. It is difficult for me to accept praise. As a psychotherapist, I know that I’m not alone and many people also struggle from this kind of thinking. I am keenly aware of how my inner critic is my worst enemy and how it holds me back more than anything else. As a woman of a certain age, I wanted to explore that sense of vulnerability, especially as it relates to my body and sexuality. I wanted to start a conversation around every woman’s power, something she has no matter her age, body type, or general wear and tear from birthing and feeding children. But I didn’t realize just how much the choice to pose for the centerfold would impact me.
I am grateful to be a 51-year-old woman who has worked through trauma, abuse, harassment, and personal and professional devastation. Eventually, I transcended all of those issues and I now have the honor of using my position to help other women. My work is about empowering people to be the best version of themselves. In fact, that is one of the reasons why I dedicate a significant amount of my work to showing how cannabis, if used properly, can relieve certain mental health symptoms. To me, doing this centerfold was about owning all of my power (including my sexuality), while reminding readers that women are vibrant and worthy of so much, no matter their age.
Despite my excitement to break the mold, I wasn’t expecting to meet my own demons. The day of the shoot was such an exciting time. I was thrilled to be made up with hair and makeup. I felt special and pretty. It felt like a dream come true for my teenage self. I’ve always struggled with my insecurities and my body especially. But nothing could prepare me for the onslaught of my inner critic. As a clinician, I know that cannabis can lower one’s defense mechanisms. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to pretend to smoke and kept doing so gleefully until my anxiety and that inner critic appeared screaming her words of destruction.
“You’re fat. Your cellulite is showing. Look at the stretchmarks- blame those on your youngest!” The inner critic was permeating my intoxicated brain, winning its game of self-hatred. I have struggled with this voice most of my life, so I know the destruction it can cause. This voice was created out of trauma, fear, uncertainty, pain, and the need for survival. That day, I felt the panic of being vulnerable, exposed. I was afraid of being judged. What would people REALLY think of me when they saw me in this magazine? Fortunately, because of my work with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, my own personal growth, and my friends’ feedback, I was able to address and reframe those negative thoughts. I know that inner critic is never helpful and only causes problems. Once I realized that destructive pattern, it was able to avert the damage and move forward with helpful thoughts. It was easy to reconnect to the purpose of this decision and feel relief from the anguish spread by the inner critical voice.
Artisinal bongs provided by My Bud Vase
By the end of the day, we ventured out to the fire escape to finish the last round of photos. Covered in only a white bedsheet, I somehow managed to gather groups of onlookers. And as Sam Long, Honey Pot’s photographer and Creative Director, was finishing, I thought to myself, “Fuck it! Who gives a shit! Have fun!” Thanks to the music, the vibes, and working through those fearful thoughts, I felt a power that I’d lacked in a long time. I felt strong, decisive, and fierce— just like a Virago. Then the sheet came down and the shutter began clicking away.