People feel really strongly about fat women who refuse to hide and who—gasp—think of themselves as attractive. Personally, I think it’s great when people own what and who they are. For example, I’m this giant nerd who essentially lives on the Internet, is addicted to movies and still (after 20 years) follows her favorite band around the country like a fanatical teen. I know I'm not cool to most folks, but the thing is, I give less than zero fucks what anyone else thinks of how I choose to live my life and I gotta be honest, it feels better than great, it’s fantastic. With that said, I admire anyone else who can lead their own life as they see fit without much regard for what others think. Tess Holliday is a great example of that. If you're unfamiliar with Tess, you likely won't be for long.
Holliday is a model, a rather large one at that, and she’s gorgeous. This woman exudes confidence, sexiness and beauty in every one of her professional photos. It’s fairly evident that she’s got something that makes others want to look her way. If she didn't, she wouldn't have been offered a modeling contract.
Nevertheless, to be completely upfront with you, the first time I saw Tess I was a little shocked. I’d never seen a model her size before and I wasn't sure how to process what I was looking at. Until Tess happened, most plus-size models I’d seen looked like this:
They don’t look too plus-sized do they? I know, but I also know a thing or two about fashion and I understand that regular-size models are much thinner than normal folks. I once heard a fashion designer explain that runway models were meant to be super skinny because they are supposed to be something akin to human hangers, used only to display the clothes and not distract from them. “They must be thin because the clothes need to drape properly,” she said “and that just isn’t possible with larger models.” I can never remember which designer said this, but I’ll never forget her words because boy did I feel like a cow after I heard them.
Plus-size models start at about a size 6. Yep, that’s right, most of us are plus-sized in the eyes of high fashion. I'll let that sink in for a moment. Accept and embrace this knowledge for it will allow you to give less fucks about those tiny numbers sewn into your clothes. Now that we're all aware that most of us are plus-sized in the eyes of the fashion industry, let’s get back to Tess.
When I first saw her pictures on Instagram it took me a while to get past her size. “Yes, she’s got a face that could inspire poetry,” I thought, “but a fashion model?” I wasn't sure how to deal with her size, which is weird because I'm all for diversity because diversity is, in fact, my jam. My initial inability to accept Tess as a model was alarming. At first I thought, “seriously?” Then I was like, “good for her, but seriously?” Then finally I thought to myself, “Dammit, Jane. Turns out you're nothing more than a pathetic, hypocritical bitch.”
Disappointed in myself, I quickly clicked away from that article about Ms. Holliday, so I didn't have to think about how I was letting myself down. A few days later, I saw another news post about her. Ever the glutton for punishment, I clicked and went to read. This time however, I wasn't shocked. I knew Tess was a size 22 going in and I knew full well what she looked like. There were new pictures of her in this article and I examined each one carefully.
The second time I saw Tess I didn't focus so much on her size, but her confidence, sensuality and her luxurious hair. This time I thought, “wow, she really is all kinds of stunning. I'm such an asshole for not seeing this right away.” The third time I saw Tess, her weight barely registered, but I couldn't take my eyes off her flawless face. The fourth, fifth and sixth times I saw her all I saw was a model, the very first of her kind, and she was simply beautiful.
I’d finally accepted that models, just like people, come in many shapes and sizes. I’d won back my soul and all felt right in the world. Then, two days ago, I clicked on a Huffington Post link that had found its way into my Facebook news feed. I’d been following Tess for some time now and I was curious to see how the pictures from her first official agency shoot had turned out. I was hoping they would be impeccable and I was not let down.
Delighted that Holliday had delivered, I scrolled down to the comments to see what the people of the Internet had to say about her great success. I should have known better, but being the glutton for punishment that I am, to the comments section I went.
I knew I’d see a bunch of posts from assholes calling her a whale, a fattie, ugly, gross, etc. That stuff is always present because miserable Internet dwellers (i.e. trolls) love nothing more than to shart all over a good time, so others end up feeling as inadequate as they do. It’s sad, it’s pathetic and it’s easy to spot and avoid.
The regular trolls didn't make much of an impact. The concern trolls, on the other hand, lit my rage fire.
In this instance, the concern trolls were worried about Tess’ health. They were worried that she was setting a bad example for kids. They were worried she was creating yet another unattainable standard of beauty for women. They were worried, y'all. They were concerned for the youth, the state of our nation and the future of the human race.
Against my better judgment I kept reading. Being the loud-mouthed defender of justice and supporter of diversity that I am, I wanted to respond to each and every one, but I didn’t. Instead, I responded to only two comments. The first was from a man who declared that being Tess’ size was simply “unhealthy and should not be encouraged as a positive body image.”
My eyes rolled so hard when I read that comment that I sprained an extraocular muscle. I wanted to click away, but it was no use. Before I knew it, I was typing a response. I had written out this long diatribe about how a positive body image is not about achieving some ideal weight, shape, or fitness level, but accepting what you've got and appreciating all of it. When I finished, I realized everything I'd written would be lost on this guy and every other concern troll in his wake, so I deleted it and replaced it with:
“Thanks Doc, but no one is telling anyone she is the new standard of beauty. The message here is to embrace diversity.”
I figured those two sentences conveyed everything I had initially intended on saying. In case this part is still unclear to some of you, here’s something from Medical News Today that might help.
And so you see, Tess Holliday is not encouraging others to achieve her body type. She’s simply reveling in the beauty that she already possesses. She’s making people like me look twice, think, absorb and accept that beauty comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. She’s broadening our spectrum of beauty and we should be thanking her, not feigning concern for her health or the health of others who might see her and attempt to emulate her shape.
Make no mistake; the world still wants you to be thin (Yes all of you, even those of you with dadbods.) The world still wants you to be rich. The world still wants you to dream of unattainable luxury and beauty because the people who finance this world make lots and lots of money off those dreams.
Tess Holliday isn't telling you to be like her, she’s telling you to be you and to own that shit, which is why I told the aforementioned troll the following, after he responded to my first comment with a personal attack:
“…Opinions are great, hell, make that grand, but when you hide them behind statements like "this looks unhealthy" when you're either not a doctor or a doctor so horrid he'd be willing to asses someone's health based simply on an image, they lose all validity. It's fine if you can't appreciate this particular woman's beauty. It's clear (judging by all the nasty comments) that you're not alone in this. However, if you're going to have an opinion, don't hide it behind health. If you don't like it, just say so and leave the health aspect out of it, Doc.”
In closing, get out there and own it, y'all. Live a Photoshop-free existence and make no apologies. Own every last thing about how you look and try not to sprain your eye muscles when you run into misinformed folks who can't help but run their mouths about stuff they clearly don't understand. Show them that embracing diversity isn't a trend, it's a goddamn lifestyle choice.