2011-2017: My Teens

The 2010s, the decade that just ended, can be called the “Teens”. Throughout the past decade many changes came along including globalization, the social media revolution, Youtubers, and the #MeToo movement. I spent most of the decade in my hometown, in my bedroom, online. In this series of images, I explore my teens as seen through rites of passage, the shoes and glasses I used to wear, and my own development. My bedroom continues to be the same as it was throughout my teenage years. It was in my teens that I began to become more aware of myself, my body and my face. My friends would follow YouTube makeup artists like Jeffree Star. I would read Nylon and Vogue magazine, watch reality TV, most notably, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. This series is about my self-perception and may serve as a portrait of my younger, naïve self. Looking back on my teens, I realize how part of my maturing has been unpacking gender norms and beauty standards I had embraced. These images show the girl I was from 2011 to 2017.


I realized looking back at photo-strips, I wore my hair straight often. However, all my student ID and passport pictures featured my naturally curly hair. I remember being annoyed when my curls would stick out. I believed in a bias that tidy, straight, sleek hair was professional, prettier.

To have clear skin was of utmost importance to me as a teenage girl. Now, I continue to inspect my face after showering, and apply Cetaphil moisturizer after. Once I apply my moisturizer, I no longer think about the clearness of my skin until the next time I shower, or I see an ad on Instagram about skincare.

Whiteheads, an oily nose, used to be something that made me feel insecure. This concerned me more than getting a pimple. Hormonal changes throughout adolescence influence skin’s appearance. I wish someone had told me that to some extent my skincare was out of my hands. The stress coming from having flawless skin would have been better placed on developing a healthy diet.

I remember when I first began shaving, I would always manage to miss a spot. If I were sitting at school and noticed I had missed my knees (the only visible spot between my knee-length skirt and high socks), I would feel embarrassed. I doubt anybody noticed but me. Hairlessness in women only came about in the early 20th century. I now see shaving as a choice, not an expectation.

Part of ‘coming of age’ is growing to accept oneself. I was confident in myself academically and with my family, but part of my maturing with time was becoming comfortable and confident around others. 

I never got the hang of makeup, but I tried my best. I regularly use blush, mascara, some lipstick. I still debate whether to wear my eyeglasses or not whenever I go out.

I never caught onto watching Youtube makeup artists. I got most of my makeup tips from my older sister. I never learned how to do eye-shadow, but eventually gained confidence with eyeliner. I began getting my eyebrows waxed when I was sixteen.

My high school experience consisted of attending lots of quinceañeras and formal dances. By the time I graduated, I could easily last all night in high heels. I now rarely find myself in heels. I either wear my Reebok sneakers or Birkenstock’s every day.

Coming out to society, going into the real world, these are portraits of me as I underwent rites of passage. The way my hair is done, the white versus the red gown, are stark differences in these two portraits. I also have braces in the graduation picture. It took a lot for me to smile with my teeth when I had braces.

I had not tried on my cotillion dress since my senior year of high school when I was asked to model it for the new class of debutantes as an example of a dress meeting all the cotillion committee’s guidelines. It no longer fits me. It is also very hard to move around in. I show it here as a weight no longer on my shoulder along with the gender norms that came with it.

The small green eyeglasses were my first pair of eyeglasses. I got those at my eye doctor’s office in the seventh grade. I rarely wore them; I felt insecure in them. Eventually, I had to wear them, especially if my seat was far from the board in the classrooms. I bought my own pair of eyeglasses, the clear ones, as a junior in high school, and since then, I have worn glasses every day.

The camera pictured here was my high school graduation present. My camera is a symbol of how my perspective has changed since high school. The perception I have of myself and my home changed as independence and college life provided me with a new lens to view my past through.

Submitted by Jimena Padilla