After some brief encounters that could warrant her an episode of "Catfish," Taylor Giavasis turned her attention from her personal social media accounts to a new Instagram handle, one that had less to do with posting beach selfies and more about about her own photography. The Los Angeles-based teenager created her The Naked Diaries account to post a few selects from a new art project.
"I was with my friend, and I personally think she's beautiful, but I could tell how self-conscious she was about her body," Taylor explained to MTV News. "So, I was like, 'Let me just take pictures of you to show you,' and she let me, and she loved how they looked. She was so happy with them, so I was like, 'Why don't I do this for other girls?'"
And so, The Naked Diaries was born and with it, Taylor's newfound passion for illuminating the female form in its rawest element.
Taylor lined up a few more shoots with friends, then posted them to Instagram as part of her Naked Diaries, which at inception, was more of a gallery for her work than the community it has evolved into today. "I first started posting the pictures that I was taking, and then people started DMing me with their stories, and I was like, 'Well, why don't I make this Instagram for girls and women to feel better about themselves?'" Taylor said. "I didn't fully realize what I was doing, but so many girls wrote to me and were like, 'You've changed my life, I feel so confident with myself now.' It was an eye-opener because I never expected it to have this kind of impact."
Splattered with stretch marks, body hair, rolls, and scars, the photos Taylor posts to The Naked Diaries in its current incarnation are in stark contrast to the glossy, highly filtered images we're used to seeing through our Instagram feeds. There's no carefully curated color palette, no upping the saturation or sharpness -- the only reason Taylor might pass these images through other apps is to cover nipples with emojis, thanks to Instagram's much-disputed nudity policy.
Along with creating an enlightening and empowering space for women and girls, the entire Naked Diaries experience has had a profound effect on Taylor. "It's a vulnerable thing, but I just hang out with them and develop friendships with these girls," she says of the photos she takes herself. "We talk about just regular life stuff -- it's kind of like art plus therapy. During it sometimes I cry because they start telling their stories and I'm like 'How can you not see how beautiful you are?'"
Taylor's account has garnered more than 12,000 followers and continues to grow every day. Even as she was sitting down to speak with us, she was receiving new photo submissions and new stories. "I want to make a book, actually," she reveals. "Gather women's stories and have them say whatever they want to say to the world. The photos are powerful, but it's the stories that make it so much more real. Everyone can relate in some way."
In a culture where retouched photos have become the norm, The Naked Diaries is a refreshing jolt of imagery that gets much closer to reflecting the bodies we actually see in the mirror. At just 18, Taylor has realized earlier than most that the first step to being who you truly are and reaching your utmost potential is to be comfortable in your own skin. Not only is she finding that for herself, she's helping a generation of young women do the same.