You Look Beautiful

Updated: Mar 25

#ptsd #newyears #trauma #abuse #teen #ya #beach #kenya #metoo




In order to help empower trauma warriors into sharing their stories, the founders of Origin Papers have decided to share their stories with you.


I was 16 when I started clubbing. It was the norm back then, in Nairobi, Kenya. So long as you dressed the part and had enough cash to tip - you were in.


I ordered a martini the first time I had gone out; we had just read “The Great Gatsby” in English and I wanted so badly to feel like Daisy Buchanan. To be beautiful.


I wore a purple chiffon dress. It glowed under flashing lights and snagged on zippers and watches throughout the night. I threw the dress out after that.


I quickly dove into the deep abyss that is Kenyan nightlife. Never home at late hours from Thursday to Sunday night. It made me feel important, being out there with people twice my age; lives all figured out.


The first time I felt beautiful was at a rave later that same year. I was 17 then. I bought my first push up bra from Victoria Secret the summer before and wore it under a deep V denim dress with bright pink lip stick.


“Isn’t that lip color a little much?” My mother asked me.


“No.” I replied, walking out the door.


I remember feeling beautiful. I stood in the middle of a large white dance floor, being offered drinks I knew my body couldn’t tolerate. But I drank them anyways. The lights, sound, and faces around me blurred into a pandemonium of superficial validation. I was kissed by the new boy at school, the one with blue eyes and blonde hair and all the girls giggled after in class.


I was dizzy.


I’m not sure what happened after that, but I remember waking up to deep laughter, my body spread across a folding table. Underwear around my thighs. A pressure on my cheek.


I was dizzy.


I heard a crashing roar beneath the music. Suddenly I was a lone, and in an instant a boy from my math class had me in his arms.


I awoke again in a medical tent. Hearing his voice just outside the entrance, shakey.

“It’s Anisa.” he said. “I found her behind the bar, get your ass to medical, she’s not okay.”

I spent some time laying on a cot in a white tent. Boys from my math class stood around me, smoking cigarettes and pacing back and forth. One of them took my hand.


“You look beautiful” he said.


Months went by, I spent weekends with the boys, drinking Tuskers and smoking weed out of makeshift water bottle bongs. I found safety in numbers and numbness.


My friend was a DJ then. He was 17 too. I danced in front of the stage at a packed bar on a school night. He pointed to me, lit a cigarette. I smiled. I felt beautiful. Desired.


His set was done. He slipped back behind the stage and onto a balcony. The moment I had lost sight of him I realized that I was surrounded by cold and strange faces in a packed bar on a school night.


Someone hugged me from behind. And for a moment I thought it could have been him. But these arms were large and strong. They squeezed around my waist and chest, forcing the air from my lungs.


I was dizzy.


A hand on my mouth, another pressing into my crotch.


And then he was gone.


When I was a Senior in High School I spent New Years at the beach with 3 girls and my boyfriend. A boy from my math class who had slowly learned with each inch that my hair grew longer that I was beautiful.


There are pieces of a night that haunt me.


Hands in hair, screaming empty words into the ocean breeze.


A circle of dark faces and sinister smiles.


Sand and broken shells etched down the right side of my body.


Red thighs.


Thick breath.


My high school boyfriend carried me over his shoulder to a taxi. He locked me in a hotel room before he went back out to his friends because I’m “safer that way.”


I remember sitting on the floor of a stone shower. The hot water running down my back. Face pressed into my knees, I tell myself it’s okay, because he saved me.


My first year in college I moved to a small town in Virginia. Surrounded by new faces who had never left their state. They are blind to any thing of otherness.


“Africa?” they say. “You came from Africa?”


My second weekend in, I stood in a room at a Fraternity house, the door locked, my roommate nowhere to be found. They had told me it was the bathroom.


“I love your accent.” A boy says.


“You’re beautiful.” says another.


“She’s so pretty” echoes from one set of lips to another.


When I left the room, the only thing I wore that wasn’t broken was my shoes. I still threw them away.


I stopped wearing makeup for a while after that. I had no longer had interest in being beautiful. For a while, I blamed myself. I thought, if only I was more confident. If only I had always known I was beautiful, if only I never needed validation. If only I had loved myself a little more.


Even now, as I write this, there is so much I regret, and so much I wish I would have done differently. But we can’t change our pasts, no. We can only take the pieces of lessons that we remember and build a better stronger version of ourselves. I know now that it is these things that have brought me here, to this moment. Had I never lost myself, I may have never found my voice.





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