The morning I realized I had created an alter ego started a little something like this: "Wait!" I adjusted my bikini top, bent over, rustled my hair, and snapped back up, letting a mane of highlighted locks fly around my face.
“I think we got the shot,” I told hubby. He shrugged because he had no idea what I was talking about. Fashion blogging is a foreign world to him, after all. I scurried over to the camera, still hanging from his neck, and eagerly swiped through hundreds of photos. This was the sixth swimsuit we had shot, and it was only 8 a.m. on a crisp March morning.
For a fleeting moment, I didn't care that I was in a public area at my apartment complex, turning my partner into an Instagram husband while I posed like a supermodel — a half-naked supermodel at that. I didn't give a second thought to the early bird gym-goers who'd see my size 18 body through the window; lumps and rolls on display.
As I slung my robe over my shoulders, I couldn't help but laugh to myself. Sarah-Jane of 2014 would have never been OK with this. But I felt oddly empowered. That was the day I realized that this — whoever I was now — wasn’t Sarah-Jane. This was something different.
Sarah-Jane Urbane was here. Where simple Sarah-Jane was riddled with anxiety and constantly picked at self-appointed flaws, Sarah-Jane Urbane — the alter ego I created after starting my blog — was the opposite. She was unapologetic. She was a queen. And her warrior cry — keep slayin’ — was just as much a reminder to the regular old me as it was a message of empowerment for women everywhere. By creating an alter ego — and by that I mean, adopting a new name and the confidence to go with it — I was able to forge new territory on my personal journey towards self-love and body positivism.
Of course, I’m not the first person to adopt one of these psuedo-personas. Beyoncé became Sasha Fierce back in 2008. The diva who graced the stage then, with her stilettos and sexy attitude, was something separate from the seemingly shy Beyoncé of yesteryear.
When Onika Maraj, better known as Nicki Minaj, hit the scene, she also reinvented herself in order to truly develop her craft. Through Nicki Minaj, Roman Zolanski, Harajuku Barbie, and several more manufactured identities, Maraj has seemingly felt free to explore controversial and personal topics through a new lens.
But what if alter egos were fair game for everyone, not just the elite? What if you could create an alter ego, or several, without risking being called fake? From my experiences, Sarah-Jane Urbane is not disingenuous. By telling myself that I am her, she simply allows me to unlock extensions of my inner self that I never knew existed.
I’m not a celebrity, but as a plus size blogger, I am in the public eye. People dissect my existence constantly. An alter ego, however, protects me when people say or do hurtful things. That said, it's important to be cautious: To not conflate your alter ego's existence with the disappearance of your true self. But simultaneously, to recognize when it's best to embrace your alter ego, and when it's best to stick to good old you. I learned this the hard way.
A few months after my realization of Sarah-Jane Urbane's existence, Torrid, my favorite plus size store, hosted a model search. I found myself driving to Dallas to compete, and I felt vicious. Sarah-Jane Urbane was ready to slay.
I’ll admit it: I walked in believing I had already won. I wore a knockout dress — brand new and custom tailored. My hair was teased and curled to perfection, and I had applied the sassiest of fake eyelashes. I thought everyone could sense my radiating confidence.
As I walked up to the sign-in desk, a gorgeous manager who I knew from Instagram greeted me by name. It felt good to be recognized in a sea of beautiful women. I waited in line, hearing many other ladies passive-aggressively intimidate each other (“yeah, I’m not really a model... I’ve only done a couple of shoots in Milan and Los Angeles"). But the shade rolled right off. No one scared Sarah-Jane Urbane. Little did I know, Sarah-Jane was unraveling at the seams.
I walked into my audition with a woman who looked like a professional model. Tall, curvy, with bronzed skin and fierce braids, she was a social worker devoted to helping children in need. The selfish part of me thought her story was so good that perhaps it was made up. But it wasn’t. She was just a goodhearted human who also happened to be gorgeous. Damn.
The first question I was asked was, “What are three of your hobbies?” I paused. I had planned to talk about body positivity, fashion, and feminism. However, I panicked instead. Sarah-Jane Urbane didn’t really have hobbies or favorite TV shows. She was just an essence of sorts: An embodiment of fearless attitudes and bold behavior. So I did the interview as Sarah-Jane; the real Sarah-Jane. The one who loved Jeopardy and road trips. When I left, I felt vulnerable.
Letting Sarah-Jane enter this hyper-competitive world was a mistake. Whether through a modeling competition, a job interview, or a first date, putting yourself out there isn’t easy. It can require a bit of ego; a bit of arrogance. At my core, I’m just not that girl.
I am humble and cautious. I'm the type to put my own ambitions on hold for the sake of helping someone else realize theirs. I had a gut feeling there would be consequences for my slip-up, and there were.
I obsessed over the Torrid competition for weeks. On the outside, I was business as usual. Sarah-Jane Urbane continued pushing the boundaries of plus size fashion by rocking bodycon dresses, horizontal stripes, crop tops, and leggings as pants.
Beneath the surface, however, I was disoriented. Sarah-Jane had fractured, and I lost sight of myself. The next few months came and went. Torrid’s official contest page had stated that finalists would be notified in the fall. I tried to rationalize why I hadn’t heard from them. I mean, 14 thousand was a lot of entries. Fall could mean early December, right?
In January of the next year, the brand finally announced the new face of Torrid. Of course, it wasn’t me.
For a while, I was in a dark place. I stopped blogging. I buried Sarah-Jane Urbane in my mind. When the time came, I ignored domain renewal emails and let my website expire. I didn’t update Instagram anymore. The confusion over what was me and what was my alter ego blurred to the point where I couldn’t separate the two.
These past few weeks, however, I’ve caught myself missing Sarah-Jane Urbane. The outfits, the invitations to movie screenings, the interviews: It was a world so different from my own.
We all wear many hats, of course. When businesses talk about leaving your baggage at the door, I believe they’re encouraging a workplace alter ego. If you’re a well-read, eloquent academic in class, but your idea of fun consists of catching The Bachelor while you eat peanut butter straight from the jar, I'd wager you've taken on a scholarly alter ego as well.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Sarah-Jane Urbane isn’t just an alter ego. She’s an extension of my actual personality. The girl who binge watches entire seasons of Mad Men in a day? Sarah-Jane, 100 percent. The girl who fearlessly belts Whitney Houston to a room full of strangers at karaoke? Sarah-Jane Urbane.
I lost sight of the two's ability to coexist because I wasn’t ready to have an honest conversation with myself about where the divide between myself and my alter ego was. So as I revive Sarah-Jane Urbane now, I’m going to be more careful. With a healthy dose of self-reflection, I believe alter egos can serve a purpose in our day-to-day. They might help us land the job. They might help us get the second date. They might help us be a role model for others. Ultimately, they help us see ourselves in a new light — and that can never be a bad thing.
Images: Sarah-Jane Morales/SarahJaneUrbane (4)