Tess Holliday has more than ten years in the fashion game — and she has the resume to prove it: The model made history in 2015 as the first size 22 model to sign to a major agency, and she’s also the founder of the hashtag Eff Your Beauty Standards, a viral movement that’s since evolved into an Instagram account with 423,000 followers.
Now, the multi-hyphenate is taking on the metaverse. For its Metaverse Culture Series, Meta recently brought together leaders from underrepresented communities for a conversation about the future of technology for historically excluded people. Holliday joined the series in the metaverse’s Dream House for Pride Unbound, a panel with celebrity stylist Law Roach, ballroom legend Leiomy, WNBA champion Renee Montgomery, and Dr. David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition.
Ahead, Tess Holliday chats with Bustle about the future of fashion and her identity as a queer, fat, femme.
How do you see fashion developing in the metaverse, and what do you think is possible?
I’m really excited about fashion in the metaverse, considering that I’ve been in fashion for 13 years and I still can’t find anybody to dress me for events sometimes, despite my name and my stylist. It’s a new frontier for folks who live in larger bodies, especially. We have more options. I mean, look at my cute outfit — I didn’t have to worry about what size to get or how it would look.
How do you think this opens the door for luxury brands to start experimenting with more size ranges?
I hope that it’s accessible. Luxury high fashion is inaccessible for so many — obviously due to finances, but because of size as well. It would be really exciting if finally folks who never had access to these high-end designers got to wear them and experience them. I know some people write off fashion as vanity or not being important, but for me, fashion has changed my life — and has changed so many people’s lives who felt like they could never express themselves the way they felt on the inside.
How do you think the intersection between expressing yourself as a queer person and as a plus-size person will come to fruition in the metaverse?
What I think is exciting about the metaverse is you have the option for clothing and not having to worry about your body. You can just exist in your body and dress it how it feels good to you. You can do that in the real world, but there’s judgement or concerns about being safe, especially if you’re trans or a person of color. It’s really exciting to have a space where we can be fully expressive however we choose.
How do you personally navigate fashion as a queer fat woman, and how do you use fashion to express your identity?
There was never really representation for queer femme women. I’m a high femme, which means I love glamour, I live for it — so when people see folks like me, they automatically assume we’re straight. It’s kind of like what they do to bi people — there’s so much bi erasure. There isn’t as much representation of queer femmes, so because of that I didn’t really know that I was queer for a long time, because I thought I couldn’t be. It’s been really liberating to know I can express myself how I choose. I don’t have to express myself how society has labeled the LBGT community. It’s been really exciting that I can still exist and express myself, and not have to water down this version of me.
How do you choose to outwardly express that you are queer — flagging, if you will — what signals do you send?
I don’t know if I do it consciously, but someone recently told me that I never gave off the straight vibe. I think people just assume I’m not, but also, my long nails don’t do me any favors for letting people know. I do have a lot of women tattooed on me.