If there's one thing I'm working toward as a person actively engaged in body positivity, it's eliminating mass body hate. There are plenty of outside sources telling us as fat people how we should feel about our bodies — the media, our family members, the diet industry, partners who we've rejected, other fat women, plus size retail brands; the list goes on. And these voices can become so loud that we can easily lose track of how we actually feel about our own bodies.
Two weeks ago, I released a holiday collection and I was inundated about what is considered acceptable attire for my fat body. But as the person who both designed and modeled the dress, it was personally more difficult for me to have my fat arms on display than break the so-called fashion rules defined by others. I've shown my arms countless of times, but it can still feel like an act of personal bravery: A direct challenge to my old way of thinking, and a sign of the love I now have for my body.
When I started requesting photos of fat babes embracing parts of their bodies they'd typically deemed "flaws" for this story via social media, I saw how many of the supposed flaws listed were the same, and yet how beautifully different the images were from one another. Some women struggled with the same body part, yet experienced completely opposite reactions, proving just how subjective body hate actually is. Loving your body despite a sea of outside voices telling you that you shouldn't is a powerful act. And the folks who do it, like these 48 beauties, are worth celebrating.
Blogger Marcy of Fearlessly Just Me sent this message to me along with her photo: “For years, I have worn super long tops and baggy pants to cover my lumpy thighs. I realized one day as I was passing up a full length mirror and glancing at my reflection that the styles I was wearing to cover up my flaws were actually making me look worse! My legs looked shorter and the baggy clothes hid my wonderful curves and small waist. I realized that my lumpy thighs are mine, and how can I truly love myself if I can't love them as much as I loved the rest of my body? I take it one day at a time and I refuse to give up until I fully accept them. Who cares what anyone else thinks? My body is my body and no one else's.”
When I received this image from blogger Michsi of EatStylePlay, what she had to say about her "flaws" was refreshing: “I finally started embracing my skinny legs, which people always made fun of for not matching the rest of my bigger body.”
Plus size fashion blogger Corissa of Fat Girl Flow once posted a video on YouTube that was then censored because it showed her belly. She talked about the experience in another video, and continues to show off her tummy as much as possible, whenever possible.
Model Alexa Danger says the flaws that she embraces are her "VBO, fat arms, and thick thighs," and it's all perfect to me.
Fatshion blogger Christina from KITKEEN penned this post about learning to embrace her arms. She wrote, "The more I get them out in the public, the more I learn to appreciate them, how good they look, and how much they can do."
Liz Black of the blog P.S. It's Fashion wrote an inspiring post in praise of her thighs. My favorite part: "They're flawed. They're flawless."
Ali of the blog Ok2BeFat sent me this image by photographer Mike Allebach and the corresponding powerful message of self love: "I was a little uncomfortable with this photo at first because it's pretty mega double chin and I'm looking totally round. But I looked at it more and I decided I really like it because it captures me doing something that I do all the time with my (now) husband — try to make silly faces to make him laugh. It's a great photo of the two of us."
UK fashion blogger Lottie L'amour shared this image and describes it as her favorite picture of herself ever, adding, "Double chin and belly out like a FUCKING PRINCESS."
Sabrina from the Lifetime show Big Women Big Love tells me, "All my thigh meat out on display." Personally, images of thighs with visible cellulite and thickness are something I never get tired of seeing.
Model Kat Stroud says, "I've always apologized for my big butt — seems I'm always bumping something with it! I usually never shoot this angle or wear garments that show it off. So when I saw this image and how fabulous my booty looked I decided it was time to stop apologizing for it."
The caption I got from freelance writer Ama Scriver was simple and awesome: "Double-chin power, represent."
Catherine sent me this adorable photo of all of her sequin and glittery goodness with the message, "VBO count?" But, of course! To adorn your VBO in glitter sequins is the actual definition of flawless.
Model April Raquel tells me that this image is one that in the past would've made her uncomfortable because of her arms. But the caption says it all: "Perfectly imperfect."
Plus size YouTuber Terr Cacilia took VBO to the next level of glamour on this one.
Dawn tells me, "My cellulite! I've got dimples for days and it's a little awkward for me when I wear leggings because you can usually see it all, but I embrace them."
Blogger Amanda Apparel shared this flawless image, saying, “Letting it ALL hang out. Embracing big boobs, VBO, and more!” I salute you, Amanda!
Stephanie of the blog Nerd About Town wanted to highlight this amazing image, and writes that her flaws were "the large amount of stretch marks on my shoulders and arms; I kept them covered up in long sleeved pieces and cardigans for years (especially in summer) because I was so scared of what people would say if I showed them in public; but as I've grown to love my body, I've learned that these marks are a part of who I am and they do not define me!" I co-sign that.
When model Megan Kimberling tells me about her flaws, she notes, "My double chin. My small boobs. My big belly. My huge thighs and calves. My big arms. But I don't give a shit."
Natalie of the blog NatalieMeansNice tells me that learning to embrace her belly from the side was something that took her a long time to do. She adds, "It's part of me and me is wonderful."
Plus size boutique owner and blogger Stefanie of Sassy Plus sent me a beach selfie to show her love for her cellulite.
Plus model Danielle wrote that her flaws were her "small boobs and double chin and big arms... But I love them!"
Photographer and plus size blogger Kitty Rambles A Lot tells me, “Here's me with my fat arms out looking goddamn adorable!” #Adorbs is right.
This image of Rachel by photographer Rachel Joy Baransi is like my dream fat girl photo shoot aesthetic. Rachel describes this image as "embracing her VBO" and I think most of us can agree that there's a lot of fat-powerment in this image.
Leah of the blog Beauty And The Muse surprised me in a very good way with her message, because it spoke to my own experiences with the outrage over the cupcake dress I designed. She says, "When I wore that faux fur vest, I loved it, but thought I looked too wide to rock it. It didn't have that 'hourglass' shape so I was a bit self-conscious." Destroying the fat-girls-must-have-an-hourglass-shape narrative is something that is so important.
Burlesque dancer Noella Deville has modeled for my own line. What she tells me about embracing her flaws resonates hard. Sometimes, insecurities can arise not just over one particular image, but about being uncomfortable with the thought of that image being viewed over and over again. "I'm really self conscious about my legs, and always have been. The shoots with you and burlesque have both been challenging for me."
This mirror selfie from La'Shaunae is one that she says is all about her embracing her "super chunky thighs!" The aesthetic equals flawless.
Plus size blogger and model Dana wrote a message of conviction about embracing her "front pouch and legs." She tells me, "People harass me about showing them all the time. My biggest thing is if you don't like it, don't look at it. I lost a massive amount of weight and was in no control on where my skin went. I'm proud of myself and will continue to wear what I want; how I want."
Makeup artist and personal style blogger Lucia of U Can't Wear That sent this image of her arms to me. Since this is the area of my body that took the most time to learn to love, the more fat arms I see, the better. Power to you, Lucia!
The caption on this photo from Zelmia is worth a read and the expression on her face says it all, too. She wrote that she is learning to embrace her belly and neck area, which she became self conscious of after thyroid cancer surgery. This comment struck me deep.
When YouTuber Brittney messaged me with this photo, she didn't say what flaw she was embracing. But she did lend another important message of why fat visibility is so important: “All of the pics on this thread are so beautiful and inspiring to me.” My thoughts exactly.
Activist Ariel, or Kiddotrue as most of us who follow her tweets for daily inspiration and motivation to push for change know her as, says this about embracing her flaws: "I am very big into my stretch-marked boobs, TBH. It's mostly all my Instagram is. Alternately, my stomach (complete with weight loss surgery scars) in a crop top is A+."
Designer Courtney Noelle makes some pretty amazing clothing for plus size women and when she's keeping it casual like in this mirror selfie, she tells me she's all about embracing her arms. "They shake and jiggle!"
Makeup artist Alex directed me to this image and the corresponding caption, and when I read it, I could see why. She wrote, "I want to see images that are real. Why? Because I feel that representation is so so so important. You don't need Photoshop, filters, or any of that shit to be beautiful. I promise." I couldn't agree more!
The approach that Chardline of the blog Plus Size Beausion takes regarding other people's views of her so-called flaws is so important. She tells me, "While at a popular beach in Cali, the amount of stares I received for wearing a two-piece was ridiculous. I didn't make a big deal about it because I've had pictures of me disseminated on the web that hurt me. Today, everything that society deems as 'flaws,' I see as character points!"
Plus size blogger Nicole of Curves On A Budget is always slaying, so when she shared this moment from her self love journey, it was inspiring to read. "Only this summer did I take and publicly post my FIRST full body bikini photo. I've continuously struggled with my legs and tummy since I was a little girl. When I started the blog in March, my goal was to inspire others, but I 100 percent believe I inspired me too. I feel like a new person and I made this summer my bitch."
One look at Karina's Instagram and it's like the brightest, cheeriest rainbow that Lisa Frank would want for us all. About their flaws, Karina writes that they were embracing their "fat, floppy, arms!"
There are a lot of good things happening in this fat unicorn image sent to me by Natalie. She writes that this image was all about "tummy love."
Nicole of The Hefty Hideaway tells me, "This illustrates my growth (mentally and physically haha). Years ago, I would have NEVER posted a picture from this angle. I would have deleted it, shamed myself, and probably starved myself. Now, I am like, that is me. And I like this picture because that is who I am and I am very comfortable in my body at this point. It is a great feeling!" Being comfortable in your body really is a great feeling.
Model and blogger Emerald of How To Be Dope submitted this image in which she is embracing what she called "big upper arm flab," and looking like a goddamn goddess on a rock while doing it.
Aussie plus blogger Bessie Pledger shares this image to celebrate what she refers to as her "big lush belly!" Rock on, Bessie!
In The Thick Of It blogger Amanda writes that this image is all about her embracing her arms and butt. All I see is heart eyes!
Kathryn is an artist and illustrator responsible for turning so many important fatshion moments into art. Here she's embracing her "chubby thighs," which she tells me she has no desire to hide. Same here!
Model and singer Christina embraced her VBO on-stage, and all I can say is GOALS.
Erin sent this message along with her image, and it's something I can fully relate to: "My stretch-marked armpit and saggy breasts always bummed me out so much. Add a little double chin into the mix and putting this picture up was definitely bound to make me anxious. But it turned out OK. I'm still alive, no one went blind, and my armpits and me are getting along better."
When Bree submitted this image, she tells me, "CAPTION." Give it a read, because it's important. She wrote, "I'm a work in progress, but I want to encourage you ALL (this message is extremely inclusive) to take all the time you need to love every inch of who you are."
This image of writer Rachel of Wear Your Voice Magazine is so striking. As for what she's embracing, she writes, "My arms, thighs, and every bit of goddess goodness in between!"
Burlesque dancer Lillian Bustle is no stranger to having her fat body censored, and it's something that she tackles through her performances, which I think is so powerful. Of her flaws, she writes, "My muffin top and my upper arms used to really get me down. Now I love 'em."
If these images make you uncomfortable as you scroll through, please ask yourself why and start that honest conversation with yourself. Someone else's love for their body is not a threat to yours. In fact, it's precisely what is going to change this world.