Text by Kitchie Ohh, Copyright 2022
Photography by Tony Ward
Creative Director: KVaughn
Hair & Makeup: Michael Connor
Photography Assistant: Anthony Colagreco
STICKS AND STONES
My parents gave me a name when I came into this world. In the decades since, I have answered to that and many others. You can call me Kitchie; no that’s not the legal one, but it’s the nickname that has stuck with me the longest.
But who am I, really? At my very core, I would like to believe I’m a good person. A loving daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, friend. Kind and compassionate, seeking fairness and balance in all things. I’m fiercely independent, okay, borderline stubborn, and often jump into doing things myself rather than asking for help. I prefer small thoughtful gestures to grand and expensive gifts, both giving and receiving. I cook, bake, and/or knit for most gift-giving situations. I have spent the majority of my professional life working with organizations that take care of basic needs. I definitely skipped over a lot of the details, but that’s the “in a nutshell” version from my point of view. If you ask anyone else there could be thousands of variations, good, bad, indifferent. Perception is extremely personally filtered.
Someone recently remarked that just when they thought they knew me, I showed another side of myself and left them scratching their head. It was meant as a compliment. However, it didn’t change the fact that they saw me one way based on one situation and assumed that was all there was to me. I couldn’t possibly be anything else. It was a great lesson in not making assumptions, or judging a book by its cover. You never really know someone if you don’t look beneath the surface.
So, am I a vixen? Sure. In the spirit of one thing being many, I wholeheartedly accept the title and inclusion here. Like the word, itself, I am many things and can be all of them, genuinely and simultaneously. All of them are me and for me. I know who I am and act accordingly. Anyone else’s opinions of assumptions about me are none of my business.
Sticks and Stones
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Well, that’s a lie.
I have never been in a physical altercation, never hit or spanked as a child. But I endured years of abuse at the hands of my peers. Their near-daily taunts and insults left invisible scars that sometimes I still feel, decades later.
Anything repeated frequently enough begins to be believed. Does it matter what is said or who is speaking? The bullies started it, but I made it true. “You’re so fat,” they said. I began a constant diet. “You look like a buck-toothed beaver,” they jeered. I stopped smiling. “Is your hair ever not frizzy?,” they laughed. I ruined my hair with all the hairspray. “Oh look, she got another 100% on the test, what a nerd!,” they mocked. I stopped studying and participating in class. “They don’t actually like you, they just feel sorry for you,” they taunted. I gave up, and stopped talking to everyone. I tried my best to become invisible. I succeeded, and lost myself for years in the process.
One day, in the very recent past, something just clicked, or maybe I had enough and finally snapped. Either way, a revelation: who I am and how I live my life is my choice. Every day I let someone else determine my worth, choose my path, or prevent my happiness is a day wasted. I took back all of those things the bullies stole – my smile, my crazy hair, my pursuit of knowledge, my self-worth. It has not been an easy transition. I lost people, but they weren’t actually my people. I don’t miss them. Everything I said, did or didn’t do, made me visible again. Open for judgement; only this time I know… whatever they have to say it’s not actually about me.
For the fat, frizzy-haired, buck-toothed nerd of my past, my life today is surreal. I completed college while working full-time, bought my own home, have had a decades spanning career in non-profit fundraising for various worthy causes. I traveled solo to places near and far, meeting amazing people along the way. I have been photographed countless times, posed for art classes, been in magazines and on their covers. I put myself in the line of fire for everyone’s scrutiny and, surprisingly, have found acceptance. Most importantly, I found my voice to speak up and out against the unacceptable when it occurs. There will always be judgement, not everyone can keep comments to themselves – and I don’t have to agree with them or change anything to fit their view of who I should be.
I am so much happier, today. I forgave the cruelty of children who didn’t know any better; and let go that of adults who should. I strive to give every day meaning and find something beautiful in each. Who I am is because – not in spite – of all the awful, wonderful, and everything in between, experiences of life so far. I know and love myself.
This might sound like the end of the story, but I guarantee it’s only the beginning. There is no telling what the future holds for me, or anyone, really. But, I welcome it with open arms, mind and heart.
About The Author:
Kitchie Ohh is a full-time professional fundraiser who has worked with a number of health and human services nonprofits for over the last 20 years, currently with a food-related Philadelphia nonprofit. She found her passion for modeling after a pinup-style photoshoot in 2013. Since then she’s worked with many talented photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists in a variety of styles. She has been featured in -and on the covers of- multiple print and digital publications. Over the years she has branched out from pinup studio modeling to serve as a figure model for live sketching, walked a runway, and was part of two campaigns for local Philadelphia designer K. Vaughn.
In addition to her food insecurity-related work, she has also volunteered with art, historical, and community organizations, and even on the events team of a local brewery, pre-pandemic.
You’re just as likely to find her whipping up something deliciously plant-based in her kitchen or knitting a sweater as you are to find her on a photography set. Her motto is “be both.” The model and the homemaker, sultry and sweet, serious and silly. All the things, all at once.
To access additional articles by Kitchie Ohh, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/kitchie-ohh-beyond-the-playground/