You must feel very lost right now. Being at school will always feel like that. You’ll feel weird, different and you will tell yourself you take up too much space every day for a long time.
You will persevere and realise that what you love to do is right in front of you. Keep taking pictures, keep documenting every moment of beauty that you witness over the years. It will be your way of telling people how you feel, what you’re thinking and how much you love them.
I know you spent many days hoping you weren’t queer. Praying that a boy would eventually love you so you could start loving yourself. Soon you will discover a word for how you feel and people like you who feel that way too.
You will find there is beauty in otherness, in being fat and in loving different people.
You will learn to love your Indian accent even though you spent your life hoping that once you left it would disappear.
You will wear a bikini for the first time in your life and show your stretch marks to the world. Not going to lie, it’s still a struggle. You will be able to do it though and realise that your beach body is ready exactly as it is.
Your whole support system will crumble. You will lose everything you thought was important and the people you trust will disappoint you.
You’ll move to London from India on your own, it will not be an easy transition but you will do it. It will teach you a world of lessons that begin with loving yourself.
Soon, you will come full circle and dream about the Indian sun shining on your face and the smell of the first monsoon that hits the dry earth. You will miss eating ajji’s dosas every Sunday morning and mango season.
You will meet other queer Desis and your whole world will turn around. They will teach you how to love yourself and make you feel valid.
You will call yourself a photographer even though you still don’t really believe it.
One day you will feel you deserve love, to take up space, and be proud of where you come from and who you are.
I remember a time when you were little, dreaming of one day having your own work in a gallery. We are getting there, Slowly but surely.
Finally, dear Alia, keep being kind. Keep smiling. Keep believing in what you are doing even if those around you don’t understand it. You will find the people who do, and they will stick by you.
I hope you will eventually feel like you have the room to grow and express yourself without holding anything back. You will find happiness in the places you never anticipated. Trust in these processes and let the universe do its thing.
Lots of love,
Alia Romagnoli’s work will feature in ‘Chosen Family’ – a exhibition created by Queer Britain and Levi’s that celebrates the diversity and uniqueness of the LGBTQ+ experience. The exhibition is free entry and runs from 25th June to 1st July at Mercer Street Studios, 9 Mercer St, London, WC2H 9QJ. For more details: https://queerbritain.org.uk/