Minnesota magazine shows adoptees in their own skin

Gazillion Voices, the Minnesota-based online magazine for adoptees, is letting its subjects bare it all.

To celebrate its first anniversary, the magazine  today  launched “The Skin Issue,” a play on ESPN’s “Body.” But instead of having professional athletes undress to perfect form, the camera focuses on adoptees in all of their vulnerability.

Thirteen have stripped down to some degree, and five remain fully clothed. Each model answers the question: Have you always felt comfortable in your own skin?

“I’ve been thinking about this cover story for about six months,” said co-editor Kevin Vollmers, who said he was influenced by discussions with adoptees, the LGBT community, immigrants, and people of color. “So much of what they say revolves around being comfortable with their identity, geography, socio-economics, ‘migration,’ ‘displacement,’ and so on.”

The images are intended to be provocative, said Vollmers, himself an adoptee living in Minneapolis. And he hopes they inspire more honest talk — something Vollmers doesn’t shy away from.

You can also check out the images next month at Boneshaker Books in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. A reception to kick off the two-week exhibit is at 7 p.m. Aug. 14.


Jennifer Schupp (Photo by Denis Jeong/Gazillion Voices)

Name: Jennifer Schupp
Age: 36
Gender: Female
Identify as: Asian American, Korean American, Korean, Adopted, etc.
Have you always felt comfortable in your skin? No, but I don’t know many who have. I assume my experience is similar to other non-white adoptees who grew up in small-ish towns peopled mostly by Caucasians with small-town mentalities. In short, I stood out when I didn’t always want to.

In addition, I don’t have the lean-hipped, birdlike frame and diminutive stature of many Korean women, so I felt I didn’t fit that mold either. I remember being in Korea when I was a teenager and towering over women and men alike. It will be as close as I’ll ever come to feeling like a WNBA player, but at the time it made me feel out of place. Fortunately, I learned to embrace my size and have been proud of being a “tall Asian” for a long time now.

Luke Bengston

Name: Luke Bengston
Age: 28
Gender: Male
Identify as: Korean
Have you always felt comfortable in your skin? I haven’t ever really felt comfortable in my own skin. Feel most at home and most comfortable with myself amongst other Koreans and in my natural habitat – Korea. Always felt like an alien here in Minnesota my whole life. Though making friends in the KAD community has helped me become more at peace with myself and who I am.

Christopher Cross (Photo by Denis Jeong)

Name: Christopher Cross
Age: 45
Gender: Male
Identify as: White, Cyclist, Dude
Have you always felt comfortable in your skin? Mostly, but it has been a long challenge. I got my first tattoo at 19, which is the time and age that I began to know my own story, unfiltered through those who had something to lose. It’s only now, in middle age, that I can truly say I love myself.