No more hiding tampons up sleeves, pretending to be sick once a month, or retreating to the "red tent" to avoid society while on our periods - now is the time to be period proud. Artists, activists and feminist powerhouses Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis have been annihilating taboos since they met at art school in NYC, building the successful creative collective/fashion brand, Me & You. From the "Don't Touch" sweatshirts they designed to the many editorial shoots they've produced featuring models that actually look like real people, the duo has given the fashion world the authenticity we all crave. So, naturally, these girls aren't afraid of a little blood.
Using a cast of young and unique models, LENA collaborated with Mayan and Julia to show what real periods looks like, using real women, while (really) on their period. Get to know the two creatives behind the camera and sneak a peek at our period proud photo shoot that embraces what it means to be the real you.
Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis; Photo by by Jody Rogac | LENA x Me and You Photo Shoot
How did Me and You get its start?
We met in fashion school and bonded over the frustrating confines of the industry. We started Me and You as a creative escape for ourselves.
How would you describe the Me and You mission in 3 words?
Strong, Inclusive, Feminist.
LENA x Me and You Photo Shoot
How do you find the models that you use for your shoots?
Mostly through Instagram, but also through our community of friends. The best shoots are the ones where everyone knows each other, and everyone is dancing, laughing, being silly. So many fashion shoots are forced and rigid, we try to create the opposite of that.
You represent many faces that are not what we might usually see in the fashion/beauty world. How do you hope to push the concept of "normal" through your work?
It's more about pushing the idea that we need to see "normal" all the time. I think what is so interesting is that all the girls we have shot from the beginning are now becoming HUGE models. It's like our babies have grown up. And in a lot of ways, these girls are not normal...the ones who are in the pages of boring magazines are. These girls are SPECIAL - inspiring, smart, activists changing the world. They are redefining beauty inside and out.
LENA x Me and You Photo Shoot
What were your main inspirations for the LENA cup shoot?
It was mostly about the casting, we tried to bring together a strong and diverse group of girls who inspire us and took it from there. We wanted to really focus on the girls, and show different faces and aspects of femininity and identity. We also wanted to shoot in an intimate environment to emphasize how important home and coziness is when you're on your period. It was cool because some of the girls were on their period at the time so we had some actually bloody props! :)
What advice would you give to young artists and women about creating meaningful work today?
Be nice! Support your friends and other women.
Do you have any rituals, habits, comforting activities or secret things you do when you are on your period or PMSing? Things we like to call Monthly Behavior.
Bathing and showers are so important. Water is very therapeutic! But we both think dialogue is such an important thing when on your period and to de-stigmatize the entire conversation around menstruation. If we are open about when we are PMSing, not freaking out if we have a stain, or need to. Being on your period is NORMAL, and healthy and should be celebrated! It's especially important to talk about periods around men, so they understand what's going on during that time of the month.