“Sometimes I wake up after days like yesterday & I think “how is this my life?” How did I get so incredibly lucky to not only speak on panels about body positivity & being a boss with some of the strongest women I know, who happen to be my friends and who are ACTUALLY CHANGING THE WORLD?! I know the answer, I got here from really hard work, privilege & never taking no for an answer. Not listening to people who said I was too short, too fat, too tattooed, too outspoken, too much, myself. I was reminded yesterday that there is still so much work to do, and that we ALL have to keep showing up for not only ourselves but marginalized bodies & people. Thank you to @createcultivate for having me & to @jessbeegood from @livestrong_com for moderating the best & most diverse panel I’ve been a part of to date.”
So wrote Tess Holliday on her Instagram following Create & Cultivate Los Angeles this past Saturday. Joining her on panel, were @ihartericka, @mamacaxx, @mynameisjessamyn, and @danikabrysha. The group of women went in on everything from the “body positive” movement and whether they believe in it to how they identify.
Below are some of the amazing highlights from the panel.
Yoga teacher, body positive advocate, and writer
On panel, Jessamyn said she’s interested in disrupting the industry beyond visibility. She not only wants to be seen but to be heard and understood.
“I came to body-positivity to really understand myself in a more whole way. I am attached to the understanding for all human beings that who we are on the inside dictates who we are on the outside.”
“I have so much conflict, thinking about where we are with body positivity and actually cracking the mainstream. I am one of very few fat, black, queer, yoga teachers. Or that’s what people think. It’s patently false. There are so many people who look so many different ways. The fact that anyone would find my presence anywhere surprising is frustrating on a deep level.”
Though she says she never intended to be the face of a movement, and still doesn’t think of herself in that way, she’s not mad at it. “If there is going to be a cracking of the mainstream, I’m not upset to be in that space. Visibility is critical. Living my truth and just existing can have an accidental purpose.”
She continued, “I think we need to get to a place beyond television, advertising and movies to be our ‘goals’ for life."
Eff the rules she said. Do what you do. Love who you are. That’s the only plan."
Cancer warrior, activist and sexuality educator
Ericka Identifies as a black, queer and femme woman. She spoke on the importance of being clear with how she identifies because it holds weight in a room. She mentioned that when people feel uncomfortable with her being queer, it’s a reflection of a problem they are facing internally. “If someone has a problem with me being queer, they really just have a problem with themselves,” she told the room.
“I’m used to not seeing myself,” said Ericka. “But I’m really interested in disrupting beyond viability. So yes, I walked topless at New York Fashion week, and that felt amazing. But what I’m interested in is the fact that W Magazine just released at stat that said 0.4% of [fashion] shows this year were diverse. I don’t know how many shows exist at New York Fashion week, but there are many. If you look at the Fashion industry it’s not interested in being diverse and it’s not interested in giving it back to the black and queer and trans people who invented it. I’m interested in actually making the institution different— the system different. We have to be critical about diversity and inclusion. It’s so much more than visibility.”
Model, Author, Momma & Feminist Founder of @EffYourBeautyStandards
“We all should just do whatever the fuck we wanna do. And whatever feels good for us,” the model said to a cheering crowd.
“I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. I wanted to be the person that I didn’t see. I started putting myself out there on social media. I’ve been doing it now for eight years.” As a US size 22 Tess told that crowd that she is still the only model for her height and size signed to a major agency. But she is committed to seeing that change. “I’ve accomplished what everyone said was impossible, and I’m hoping to help other people do the same.”
Tess also spoke on how she had to break away from waiting on other people to reassure her on things. She used to be stuck in a place where she needed her decisions validated by those around her, but she’s not interested in that anymore. She now knows that she has the power to reassure herself.
"My best piece of advice would be to be yourself and be authentic. Do something that you love, and don’t be afraid to not do what you love. Just go for it!"
Plus size model and founder of @ModelMeals
When Danika started her modeling career she was faced with tons of negative criticism around her size and her curves.
She said, “I heard from people, ‘You have such a pretty face,' but they were just insinuating the rest of me wasn’t up to par, and that just wasn’t true.”
“I spent my whole life feeling like not enough. To get into the plus-size industry and recreate my normal of what beautiful looks like is incredibly powerful.”
Survivor and Role Model
“Body positivity is really embracing marginalized bodies,” shared MamaCaxx.
“In college I used to have a cover prosthetic. My goal was to hide and conceal. The very first time I decided to take off that cover, I remember it took me two weeks to actually leave my house. I had so much anxiety.” When she did leave the house and subsequently decided to have a photoshoot with a metal leg, Caxx explained that the recurring comments surprised her. “People were commenting that they’d never seen a black girl with a prosthetic,” which she said, is not her world. “What you think of disability is not what it is at all. It’s only one identity. And it crosses all people. Black, white, queer, women, men.”
She continued, “In the fashion industry I don’t see a lot of people with visible disabilities. But what you gain from fair representation goes such a long way.”
What brands do you think are succeeding at fair representation? Let us know in the comments!