What Does Body Positive Really Mean?

It’s a great question, and one that deserves a bit of exploring.

I believe that body positivity started out as a reaction to the under-representation and negative representations of non-thin and non-white women in the media. Women in particular had become sick and tired of not seeing themselves reflected in the pages of magazines or on television. It was really a grass roots effort to be seen and appreciated.

Having been a part of this disillusioned group, I got on the bandwagon almost seven years ago and created my own niche that includes discussing, fat acceptance, race, taking up space, feminism, chronic illness, accessible yoga, plus fashion, and more.

Of course there are lots of areas to explore underneath the BODY POSITIVITY umbrella. In fact, I’m hosting a teleclass this Saturday that’s all about starting your own body positive blog.

But as the years have gone on, body positivity has come to mean different things to different people.

  • For women of color it has become about becoming visible and being represented in a way that reflects our diversity and cultural richness.
  • For those with chronic illness or those who are differently-abled it is about showing our strengths despite a society that tries to limit us with negative descriptors.
  • For fat women it’s about so many things, including giving ourselves permission to wear what we want when we want. By now everyone knows what a fatkini is, right?!
  • For many it’s about anti-dieting and how this billion dollar industry shames people into believing that a very specific body type (ie. thin) is the only standard of beauty we should ascribe to.

What I understand is that body positivity is really a movement about being seen, heard, appreciated and having equitable access to resources and positive representation across the board. It is constantly changing to be as inclusive as possible, as any well-intentioned movement should. I know my views have changed over the years and I’ve learned so much about my own biases. I do my best to stay open and learn from others who have different experiences than I do.

If you’ve ever wanted to blog about body positivity, join me this Saturday for a super fun class on BoPo Blogging 101. Early Bird tickets are just $15 and available through this Wednesday.

 

3 Things You Must Do to Be Happy

To be happy you must-

It turns out that the key to happiness is very simple.

But it’s not easy.

I’m going through a period of huge transformation, and it’s really tough. I have been stumbling along the way, but with the best support team in place, I have felt encouraged.

I saw this quote somewhere and resonated deeply with it.

 

Letting go is a huge challenge for most of us. Letting go of toxic people, limiting beliefs, and situations that no longer serve you,  all have the great potential to make room for what you desire most in your life.

PROOF:

I had to let go of my job in non-profit so I could:

  1. Empower people to love their bodies and find deep self-love;
  2. Teach kids about civic and social responsibility through art;
  3. Use improv to help children become better citizens;
  4. Partner with people to help them achieve transformation through an exploration of their values and deepest desires; 
  5. Encourage people to become more self-confident through facilitated improvisation games; and
  6. Be a mother.

As far as I know, this is what I am meant to do in the world. I know that when I finally made the decision to leave, opportunities began coming my way out of seemingly nowhere.

What I know to be true is that it took me letting go of what was gone, to be ready for what was to come next. And I was grateful for what remained when I left my job:  great memories, new tools and skills, and amazing friendships!

There’s no big secret here–I simply made space for all the things I longed for.

And now I look forward to what else is coming next. Whether it’s a lesson I need to learn, meeting a big goal, or stopping to celebrate my successes, it’s all possible because I let go.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am working hard for this. To whom much is given, much is required. But my Black ass is in alignment with Universe! 

No time for dress rehearsals, folks. This is it. And remember, tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

This journey requires a bit of courage, a lot of commitment, and the right support.

Never give up!xo

 

 

The Only Resolution You Need For 2017

The only resolution you need for 2017 is to love more. That’s it. It’s simple and we can all do it. I promise!

Love More Resolution

The easiest way for me to think about loving, is to define the opposites of love, and they are numerous. My list below is just a beginning.

The opposites of love are:

  • fear,
  • hate,
  • self-doubt,
  • judgment,
  • apathy,
  • jealousy,
  • contempt, and
  • resentment

As you can see, the only resolution you need for 2017 is to love more. Love requires you to trust that you are enough, you have enough, and you do enough. While it’s not always easy, it can be done. So, when you are not coming from a place of love, you are probably in some form or fear.

Deciding that you want to love more calls on you to practice — a lot. Being in fear is the default for many of us.  So, if we can work toward making love the default, we’re in for a wonderful ride.

Practical ways to implement your resolution:

  • Be a kinder, gentler driver
  • Smile at a stranger just because
  • Pay it forward any way you want (buy coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks)
  • Be genuinely happy for the success of others
  • Trust in your talents and abilities
  • Forgive someone
  • Write a list of 10 things you’re grateful for each day
  • Show empathy even when your reflexes want you to do otherwise
  • Give lots of hugs to the people in your life
  • Say “I love you” at least once a day, even if it’s to yourself

In conclusion, I hope you will take steps each day to ground yourself in love as you keep your resolution. Let me know what your resolutions are for 2017!

Wishing you a wonderful 2017, filled with love, light and passion!

P.S. Stay tuned for some exciting new ventures I have planned for this year!

 

Style: Falling Out of Summer and Into Fall with Neutrals

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Summer isn’t officially over just yet. Yes, Labor Day has come and gone. But, it’s still warm enough in SoCal to don tanks and sandals. Which is exactly what I wore in the photo above. As much as I love color, I’ve found that building the foundation of my wardrobe with neutrals is the key to always having something to wear.

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My leopard print pants from Forever 21 (3 seasons ago) are one of my wardrobe staples. They are stretchy, have pockets, and can be worn high-waisted or with a low crotch. They are the definition of versatile since I can wear them all year long!

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Here I’ve paired my favorite pants with a grayish mauve camisole from Nordstrom Rack, and a kick ass army green vest from Daniel Rainn (purchased at TJ Maxxsimilar here). The vest has pockets and a hood! It’s lightweight, so it’s very easy to layer with lighter pieces like the cami, or with a long sleeve tee as the days get cooler.

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The sandals I also got from TJ Maxx and they’re Marc Fisher in a lovely metallic leather finish. I’m in love with these sandals. I swear they go with everything!

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Other details:

 

Never be afraid to mix colors and patterns together. And if you stick with neutrals, it will be a no brainer!

xo

3 Ways to Deal with the Fat & Body Shamers in Your Family Right Now!

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Most of you reading this right now have been body-shamed at some point in your life. It was likely a relative who first made you feel like shit about your body. The first person who body-shamed me was my father. At age 14, standing 5′-7″ tall and weighing 145 pounds, he thought I needed to go on a diet. And it hurt like hell.

I don’t think most of our family members intend to hurt us with their opinions, but it stings like a motherfucker anyway. And unless you have the unusually high self-esteem of say, Donald Trump, it’s likely to leave an impression on you. In my case, the impression was felt for the better part of 20 years.

Up until the last few years, any comments about my weight from my family cut me deeply. I didn’t understand why my body needed policing, regardless of whether it was thin or fat. I just wanted to be left alone — to just be in my body without having to account for my worth based on its size.

We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.

Today, I am mostly free from the abuse of body-shaming from my family. But it took learning some lessons before I could stand up for myself and realize that I had a lot more control over the situation than I realized. Here are three ways that I’ve found helpful to get through the pain of body-shaming from relatives and friends:

1

I know it seems counter intuitive, but having compassion for your body-shamer is very healing. It’s not about you. It’s about them. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the damn truth. After having observed the way my parents had fat-shamed me and others over the years, it occurred to me that they had their own set of insecurities which plagued them. Their insults were just a reflexive response to hating some part about themselves. We’ve all read stories about how a bully was once the object of a bullier. Well, same idea here.

We are exposed to so much pain and judgement in this world. None of us are free from it. We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.  Yes, I just invented that word. You’re welcome.

When we realize that negative comments are really reflections of how others feel about themselves, it easier to forgive and let go. Don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of practice. But it does work.

*Side note: they do still fat shame other people, but I call it out when they do it every time!

2

Please stop expecting other people to change. You can’t. You can only change yourself. Once I decided that I was done with dieting and that I was comfortable with the way I looked, the comments completely stopped. I literally stood with my head held high. I wore what wanted and ate whatever I wanted in front of whoever was there. I am still in awe of how powerful self-love is. When we stop giving away our power, life is so much better.

12-Step programs and therapy  were instrumental in helping me to get to this point. For so long I hoped my parents would change their tune and simply stop commenting on my body. But this misguided hope was the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Probably not gonna happen in this lifetime. So stop. Right now! Stop it!!!

Instead, I want you to focus on finding ways to love your body more. If you’re reading this, chances are you are on social media and have access to a myriad of resources that DO celebrate your body. Just search for hashtags like #iamenough#bodypositive, and #effyourbeautystandards,  to fill your feed with inspiring images. It really does work!

3Be willing to create boundaries. You have the right to choose not to be around people who make you feel bad about yourself. And you also don’t need to explain your decision. Self-care and self-preservation are your God(ess) given right. So claim it!

You can still love your family and choose not to be around them. They might not understand. They might get angry. But would you rather be angry, or let them be angry? I know what I would do. And if they do confront you about your absence, it’s okay to tell the truth. Again, they may not get it. In fact, they may get defensive (my family certainly does) Simply go back to tips #1 and #2: have compassion and don’t expect them to behave differently.

And then get the hell out! LOL

Look, I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share what has worked for me. I hope these tips are useful and that you find more ways to release yourself from the grip of the body-shamers in your life. Until then, I wish you self-love and light!

xo

 

 

Fat, Black, Muslim, and Stylish as Hell: An Interview with Fashion Blogger Leah Vernon

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Photo by Reel Clever Films

I discovered Leah Vernon’s Instagram a few weeks ago and was wowed by her style. Her vibrant and bold approach to fashion struck a chord with me immediately. She is a fat, Black, Muslim woman with a strong voice in a society obsessed with thinness, whiteness, and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Talk about facing multiple forms of oppression! Vernon is always covered from head to toe, as required by her religion. She wears a hijab daily, which she sometimes substitutes for a fabulous head wrap or turban. But that doesn’t stop her from experimenting with fashion. I adore her creativity and personal style. The truth is, this fashion femme fatale just can’t be ignored!

Leah is the creator behind the blogs Beauty and the Muse and LeahVDaily. She is a 20-something style/fashion blogger, plus model, freelance writer, novelist, and body-positive activist from Detroit. She was inspired to start blogging in 2013 because there wasn’t enough diverse representation of real beauty in the media. Her goals are to continue to spread style and self-love to underrepresented groups, and to spark a fashion revolution!

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Photo by Remy Roman

MFC: When and why did you start blogging? What inspired the name Beauty and the Muse?

LV: I started blogging in the early 2000’s, three separate times actually, and didn’t know what I was doing and failed miserably. Haha. On the fourth try, I started blogging in 2013. My friends had forced me to create an Instagram account and after telling them ‘hell nah’, I finally caved in. I was feeling depressed because I had injured myself pretty badly at work. The sun was shining through my window when I woke up one day. I began scrolling through my IG timeline and saw Essie Golden looking bad as fuck in an army fatigue inspired getup. At that moment, I was like I can do that, too. I wanna slay!

In the next moment, the name Beauty and the Muse came out of nowhere. “That’s my blog name,” I said to myself. In my world, I have a split personality. There’s the beauty part, where it’s slayage and Gaga glam all the time. Then there’s the muse part, where I’m quiet, thoughtful, educated, and always seeking some answer to the world’s secrets.

Basically, I started blogging because I needed a creative outlet to express myself. As a fat, Black, Muslim woman, we are often times hidden from mainstream media and even within our very communities. I was tired of being overlooked and stuffed into a square. So, I made a conscious decision to bust out.

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Photo by Reel Clever Films

MFC: Do you consider yourself a feminist? How does that tie into your religious beliefs, if at all?

LV: Interesting question. I’m not going to lie. Over the past few years my views of feminism have changed greatly. At first, I didn’t get it. I thought that all feminism equated to was women having the right to show off their boobs in public and be sexually free. But as I started to actually learn and meet other feminists in real life, my views started to sway.

At this moment, I think that feminism is whatever a woman wants it to be, but it’s mainly compromised of wanting and deserving equality and inclusion. And sometimes feminism is in the eye of the beholder when we start getting down to the smaller details. It’d be a little different fundamentally from an atheist feminist point of view versus a Muslim or a Hindu feminist point of view. I don’t claim to be a ‘feminist’. But if wanting inclusion across the board equates to being one, then yes, I am. Lol.

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MFC: Do you think feminism and fashion can exist simultaneously?

LV: I’m a fat, Black , Muslim from Detroit who models… Anything is possible. Haha. I feel like in this time and age fashion is used to express so many different movements. So feminism and fashion can exist. Religion and fashion can exist. Culture and fashion can exist.

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Photo by Brooklyn Cashmere

MFC: You have great style, and you take big risks. Do you ever feel limited knowing that you need to cover your body? And is that challenging during the hot summer months?

LV: When I was younger and didn’t know myself or my fashion capabilities, I used to think that covering my body was an issue. That I could never mix the two: fashionable and covered! They didn’t show that in the media. If I wasn’t out there wearing booty shorts, then I could never be confident and cute.

When you truly start to be comfortable with who you are and what you’re doing in life, and not caring what others think, things become a lot easier. When I started being creative with my head scarves/turbans and my makeup and my ridiculous outfits, I had people from all walks of life coming up to me, a fat Muslim, asking me how they can do it, too. So, now, I’m never limited. When you have true style and imagination, nothing can limit you. Nothing.

And as for dressing in the summer for a Muslim girl, you get used to the heat. But you dress accordingly. Lighter fabrics and less layering.

MFC: What does body positivity mean to you as a Black, Muslim woman of size?

LV: I rep the body positivity movement because to me, it means inclusion of all sized bodies regardless of whether they are naked, covered, lumpy, thin, pale, or Black. It means freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it, unapologetically.

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MFC: What do you want the people who are reading this right now to know about you?

LV: I want the readers to stop being afraid of failure, of looking stupid in front of people who really don’t matter, of speaking out on human injustices. I want them to wear what they feel like with confidence and poise. I want them to embrace their perfections as well as their imperfections  — inside and out. I want them to stop believing what the media says or shows all the time, because most of the time its skewed.

MFC: Where can we find you on social media/web?

http://www.beautyandthemuse.net
FB: http://www.facebook.com/Beautyandthemuse
Youtube: Leahvdaily
IG: @Lvernon2000 (www.instagram.com/Lvernon2000)
Email: Lvernon20@yahoo.com

 

Thank you, Leah. You are a body-positive Queen, who slays and slays and slays!

xo

The Fat and the Skinny on Body Positive Comic Artist & Illustrator Tatiana Gill

I first saw the fat illustrations of Tatiana Gill on instagram some time last year. The undulating bellies, textured stretchmarks, and hairy legs of the fat super sheroes she draws jumped off the screen at me, delighting me with their unabashed sass and sparkle.

When this past June, my husband gifted me one of Tatiana’s comic books (and had it autographed),  I was ecstatic! Her quirky style and positive representation of diverse women is intoxicating. I set out to discover more about the Seattle-based badass behind the fabulous drawings. Specifically, I was interested in her journey toward body positivity and what inspires her to draw women of color as the subjects of some of her work.

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Olympian, Michelle Carter

Pia: Were you ever a dieter or body-obsessor?

Tatiana: Yes I was, in fact it was my self hate and obsessive dieting in my teens and 20’s that led me to attempt body acceptance. If I’d been able to diet in moderation, perhaps I’d still do it like so many of my friends. But every time I started weighing myself and counting calories, I immediately went into obsessive thinking and wound up engaging in self-harm like eating disorders and drugs. It was healthier for me to try not to think about any of it and accept the way I was. But until I discovered the body positive movement, I never truly accepted the way I am.

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P: What has your body positive journey been like?

T: It’s been a long road full of ups and downs. I have always liked bigger women aesthetically, but was ashamed of my own weight. I didn’t know anyone who was vocal about NOT being ashamed of their body. Then a few years ago I discovered the body positive movement, and immediately jumped on the bandwagon! It has been such a solace and inspiration for me. It’s also been an incredible boost to my mental health to realize I don’t have to be ashamed – I have lots of options from acceptance to pride.

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P: When and why did you begin drawing large bodies?

T: In my 20’s – the 1990’s – I began drawing larger bodies than what is in mainstream media, adding a belly or a fat roll here and there. I was motivated out of aesthetics for what I found beautiful. In 2013 I gained a lot of weight and felt very ashamed – but also angry that I was so ashamed, when I believe that all bodies are good bodies. I have always wanted to see people like me in the media, and in reaction to my shame, I was inspired to draw even larger bodies than before. I began really looking in the mirror and using reference photos to draw larger bodies, including visible belly outlines, cellulite, and double chins. I began taking the heroines I admire – TV stars and comic characters – and drawing them with larger bodies.

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I had been living in a bubble of white privilege and now that I realize how bad the problem is, representation seems more important than ever.

P: What inspired you to begin drawing fat women doing cool shit?

T: It felt like divine inspiration! I was creating the change I wanted to see in the world. My drawings have always been aspirational – I draw women I find beautiful, sexy, heroic, interesting. I was so tried of only one body type being presented in the mainstream media, and realized I could start to fill that hole with my own work.

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P: What motivates you to illustrate women of color? Was that a conscious decision?

T: I don’t think it started as a conscious decision, I was drawing people in my life and in the world around me. My sisters are of Korean descent and that helped me notice the lack of representation of people of color. It became more of a conscious decision when, thanks to social media and some high profile cases like Trayvon Martin, I started to realize how rampant racism is in our society. I had been living in a bubble of white privilege and now that I realize how bad the problem is, representation seems more important than ever.

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Gabi Fresh

P: What has the response been like from women of color who have seen or been the subject of your work?

T: It has been very positive – one friend sent me a video of her friend, a woman of color, reading my book and laughing with delight and saying ‘this is my favorite thing!’ And I was so excited when Gabi Fresh, one of my first body positive role models, wrote that she loved a drawing I made inspired by her. At comic cons where so many of the comics are of white people, occasionally a woman of color will zoom in on my ‘Plus’ book and stop to check it out. At times like that I really feel stoked that I can use my drawing skills in a positive way.

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P: Do you consider yourself an ally to fat women of color? If so, why?

TG: I do, and I aspire to be a better one. Thinking about this question shone a light on the ways I could be more politically active. I believe fat women of color are incredibly beautiful, valid, and should be cherished and celebrated. I think that all people are equals and should be treated as such. The fact that fat women of color rarely see themselves represented as heroines or stars in movies, TV, comics, and magazines sucks. We all deserve representation.

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P: Do you have any future projects the horizon?

TG: I don’t have long term plans currently, I tend to get struck by inspiration and follow my nose. I am currently drawing a comic about birth control, which I think is an important public health issue. I plan to keep making body-positive drawings of larger women, and I’d like to make more art embracing body positivity for all genders. I hope to make more art celebrating race equality, sexual orientation equality, gender equality, mental and physical health, self-care, and working through obstacles like trauma, anxiety, and addiction.

Where can people find you online?

My website is tatianagill.com
Facebook artist page https://www.facebook.com/tatianagill
Instagram @rupeegroupie
Twitter @tats_tweets
Tumblr http://tatianagill.tumblr.com/

I’m so thrilled to have an ally and a pal in Tatiana Gill. Keep up the great work — we need you!

xo