Olivia Campbell Just Embraced The Word Fat In A New StyleLikeU Video
Radical self-love platform StyleLikeU recently took its video series abroad. With current filming taking place in the UK, the What's Underneath Project featured Olivia Campbell in its latest episode. The aptly named "I'm Not Curvy, I'm Fat" episode follows the series' usual formula: The subject slowly removes her clothes as she reveals more about herself and how her experiences relate to the given topic.
In this case, plus size British model Olivia Campbell took her time removing layers of garments while dissecting the terminology often used to describe plus size people. Campbell's approach was an angry one, but rightfully so when we conceptualize the abuse she has suffered throughout her life for her size. Campbell took the word "fat" — one so often used against her growing up — and chose to embrace it instead of letting her damage her further.
Through this, she found empowerment and self love. Instead of using synonyms like "curvy" or "thick," the model chose to love her body for how it naturally wanted to be, and in turn accepted the words that most accurately describe it. As she put it in the video, "I describe myself to people as fat and they say, 'You're not fat, your curvy.' I think: 'No... I'm fat.' Why is it such a bad word?"
Campbell's decision to be called fat, instead of curvy, ties in perfectly with the recent debate around terms like plus size, curvy and fat. From fellow model Ashley Graham preferring to be called "curvysexalicious" to Tess Holliday embracing the term "plus size" as a moniker not just for herself, but for an entire community, knowing which words are the most appropriate ones to use can become incredibly conflicting.
Campbell's story is emotional and powerful. She discussed everything from sexual assault to bullying to coming to terms with her mom and step mom's cancer. The strength that Campbell channelled to tackle these debilitating issues is the same that she seemingly uses to embrace the body that facilitates her strength. And the term that was so often used against her.
Campbell's point is one that I believe in completely: We need to reclaim words like fat and plus size for ourselves and turn them into neutral, if not positive, descriptors. Otherwise, the negativity and hatred surrounding being fat or plus size will only grow worse.
Her journey with accepting her weight and size is heartbreaking to hear, but not one unheard of in the plus size community. Bullying and sexualization often go hand in hand, after all. But hopefully more women will be able to find empowerment in their fatness as Campbell has done.
"When I was 11, this boy I used to love got all of his friends to call me water buffalo. In the projects in London, we have these staircases with bins underneath, and it's dark, so boys used to push me in there and try and take off my clothes. Honestly, I thought about killing myself," she revealed. "So, at 15, I told my mom that I wasn't going back to school. I don't remember when I stopped caring about my weight, but, when I was about 17, I just said: Fuck you and your pre-existing ideas of how I should look. I can't change and I'm not going to spend the rest of my life upset about that."
Although developing more positive body image can take a long, long time for some, remaining close to impossible for others, Campbell's self-love turnaround went down pretty quickly. She added, "Suddenly, I went from being this insecure little bird to being this ferocious eagle of confidence. When it comes to my personal appearance, the only person's opinion I really care about is myself. Now, when I walk in front of the mirror, I think: 'I look amazing... look at that roll.'"
Campbell's story is inspiring not only for plus size people, but for all of us. What others perceive as our weaknesses may often become our biggest strength. Hey, you might even make a career out of those qualities.
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Images: Courtesy StyleLikeU