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.

body love

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.

mushroom queen

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.

math is rad

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.

gabi fresh

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.

unicorn babe

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.

summerfun

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

Why Do We Have to Be Pretty All the Fucking Time?

pretty

When I wake up in the morning, one of the first things I do before getting out of bed is to decide what I’m going to wear that day. I scan my overflowing closet in my mind’s eye, carefully matching (or in my case, not matching) the pieces I think will work together. Next, my thoughts wander to the perfect lipstick color and how best to style my unwieldy mane.

Yes, admittedly my first few thoughts upon waking are about how I look. And I’m kinda over it.

So why do I do it?

The simple answer — habit. The complicated answer — I have been brainwashed by a media that is largely influenced by making a business out of ugly-shaming me. Like so many of you reading this, I get frustrated by the constant pressure that I have to be pretty just to go to the grocery store, or to work, or to socialize.

And let me also say that I love having fun in fashion. But in my heart of hearts, I know that sometimes I’m doing it so I can feel like I’m enough.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve been sold a heaping load of stinking bullshit.

As a society, we have intentionally decided that pretty is the thing you should be, but you can never really get. It’s a total setup. And it absolutely requires you to be vigilant about the kinds of messages you allow yourself to hear. I know, you’re probably thinking, well, Pia, tell us how to do that so we can go and fucking do it.”

First, a teeny bit about my experience. My rocky road to healing only really started when I began making the kinds of environmental changes that created a safe space in which I could begin to experience worth beyond my appearance. And as I always say, I have not yet arrived. The journey is in the healing, and the healing is in the journey.

body  positive affirmations

Social media was the turning point in my recovery. All of a sudden I had access to resources and support for how to move past my eating disorder and begin accepting my exhausted self. I met fierce activists, proud fatties, plus size designers, chubby bloggers, thin allies, and now dear friends, all of whom have had an impact on my healing.

And I let myself be raw. I told my truth so that the collective energy  from these relationships began to kindle my spirit. I summoned a strength I never knew I had. I allowed my  thick, light-deprived thighs to bask in the sun’s warmth, aware that no one at all gave me a second glance.

Instead of reading mainstream magazines, I began to read blogs that celebrated larger bodies. Rather than hold onto old jeans that no longer fit me, I embraced the amazing options in plus size clothing and found a style that took into account my fluffy proportions AND my personal style.  I made a conscious choice to surround myself with images, words, and relationships that supported my work towards self-acceptance.

I became part of a revolution to take back my life, my choices, and my dignity. And in the process I became me — a mixed fat chick who fights for justice whilst eating gluten-free donuts. Because I’m allergic to gluten. Not because I give a fuck about carbs.

Ya know, I really want to not be writing about this in five years. I hope there won’t be a need.

In the meantime, bombard yourself  with positive messages with the same energy you were using to beat yourself up. It takes effort and planning to make fundamental changes in your thinking and your behaviors. Don’t worry, there is no race to the finish line. Take all the time you need, and celebrate the victories — big and small — along the way.

Sending much love, light, and healing to you!

xo

 

P.S. I have an amazing E-Course coming later this summer. Stay tuned!!

The Vilification of Fat Bodies: How Society Disses Us

 bacchus

Centuries  ago, being fat meant you were wealthy. You had more than enough food to go around.  And if you were poor, food was not plentiful and so you were thin.  Body size was one of many ways to assess class.

Today, we gauge people’s personal worth and right to respect by the size of their body. Thin bodies having superior privilege to fat ones.  I could dissect the various reasons we got here, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. And I want to talk about other shit.

 thin = goodfat=bad

I will, however, break down the reasons I think society has vilified fat.

We can’t always identify people’s socioeconomic status by looking at them. Rich people wear t-shirts and jeans just like the rest of us.  As a regular person walking down the street, I have no idea if they’re carrying an Amex Gold card in their wallet or an EBT card.  I can’t tell a real Gucci from Cucci.  And if we lived in a utopia where shit like that didn’t matter, then I wouldn’t have to write this article.

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But it does matter. Because we’ve decided it does.

Just like we’ve arbitrarily decided that thin is good and fat is bad. It could just have easily been the other way around.  If instead of diets being forced onto women 50 + years ago, we decided that having rolls of gorgeous fat was aspirational, then right now I’d be writing an article about the plight of thin people.

This whole deal is about money, oppression, and class.

The private sector is concerned with making money at any cost. And if that means oppressing an entire group of people, then so be it.  The health industry in conjunction with the diet industry, have created a powerful monopoly on people’s self-worth. They’ve capitalized on people’s egos. Most of us want to feel like we’re on top of the world — beautiful, smart, worthy.  So what happens when you start selling the idea that worth can be bought?  You make a shit ton of money.

I can do it

I’ve spent my fair share of money on diet programs, pills, shakes, and books meant to inspire me into action and hopefully, thinspired bliss.  I searched long and hard for the route to my “goal weight” and hoped for an esteemed place in my thin-centric culture. I would regularly visualize what my head would look like on a thin body, and what that meant for my life.  I can tell you that wearing expensive clothes, traveling first class, and having hot men fawn all over me was part of the dream. But when I did get thin, I still had to go to my crappy job, travel economy, and meet disenchanting male suitors.

My head on J Lo's body.

My head on J Lo’s body.

What had gone wrong? Why didn’t my life magically change? I was pissed.  This couldn’t possibly have anything to do with my shitty self-esteem.

Years of therapy later, I know that my shitty self-esteem stemmed from over exposure to media that blatantly told me and others in as many ways as possible, that my body was undesirable, lazy, and in need of change. Those messages were supported by family members and peers who had also been exposed to the hateful propaganda.

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As a result of this negative messaging, generations of people, particularly women, are now trying to either recover from the damage that years of self-hatred have had on them, or they still believe in The Big Lie — that attaining a thin body will transform both your internal and external circumstances for the better.

And we’ve rewarded thin people with access to exclusive clubs, clothing, and experiences that validate their hard work.

Having been medically classified as fat for a good part of my life gives me license to say that fat is normal. Lots of people are fat. They are also accomplished, funny, sexy, successful, hard-working, athletic, and happy.

love-your-fat

What do non-fat people get out of hating fat people? What is the fear of seeing our bodies represented in media in a positive way? Is the fear that fatties will destroy the status quo by affirming that our bodies are just as valuable as thinner ones? I fucking hope so.

And I hope that as a result, the billion dollar diet industry will lose its stronghold on desperate consumers, willing to buy the next great thing in order to just be fucking accepted.

And that would be fine with me.

Fat is descriptor, not a life sentence. I am fat and my life is fucking great. I see my beauty and my relevance in the world.

I'm on the far right. Fat and happy and sexy as fuck.

I’m on the far right. Fat and happy and sexy as fuck.

I hope we can change hearts and minds so that we can focus on eradicating things that matter, like poverty, hunger, racism, classism, homophobia, diseases, and pointless wars.

That’s about all I have to say on the matter — for now.

In solidarity,

Pia

Learning to Love My Totally Imperfect Ass

I’m a Black woman who yearns for a better ass.  It wasn’t always flat.  It used to be high and round and lovely.  But about 11 years ago I had a nasty fall on some steps, and my butt literally landed where the tread meets the risers.  It was incredibly painful, but I never went to see a doctor because I figured the pain would eventually go away. And it did. At least for a while.

But years later I began to notice that the shape of my butt was different, disfigured — there was a deep indentation that spanned the width of it, creating four quadrants, if you will.  I finally went to see a doctor who told me that scar tissue had formed under the skin to protect the area when I injured it.

That made sense to me.  So, I asked how it could be removed. I wanted my round ass back ASAP.  Apparently, it can’t.  I was upset, but not deterred.

My next stop was to see a plastic surgeon. I explained the problem to him and he began to tell me about all the other things that were “wrong” with my body.  And he too, said there was no way to get my ass back to it’s former loveliness.  I was humiliated and defeated.

In the years that followed, I visited massage therapists that specialized in myofascial release.  But the treatments were painful and yielded no results. Just more pain and more shame.

In addition to the shame I felt about my ass, the scar tissue was also painful and had begun to impact  the function of other parts of my body.  I was truly devastated.

I think the other part of the shame is cultural. In our society, Black women are often expected to have round, shapely asses, which are supposed to somehow validate their Blackness and attractiveness.  Which is why I feel like an anomaly.  My mom and sister both have amazing asses (and my mom is 72).  In truth, I have girlfriends of all colors and ethnicities who have amazing bootys, and I secretly wish I had one too.

The ass of my dreams.

A few years ago I began seeing a chiropractor to help me with my back, and I shared with her my “ass story.”  She reiterated what the other doctors had said, but was hopeful that she could help decrease the pain for me. I visit her once a week and my pain has been reduced significantly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the pain relief. But I still struggle with accepting the shape of my highly irregular, 38-year old, dented ass!  No amount of stair-stepping or squats will ever make the scar tissue disappear.  This is the ass I have and I need to find a way to love it.

Wearing fitted clothing on the lower party of my body is difficult for me without feeling insecure.  In the last year or so, I’ve tried to love my ass for what it is. I’m simply not there yet.

I know I’m not unique in struggling to love parts of my body. My hope is that having the courage to share my story with you, will allow you to do the same thing. And perhaps even inspire me to accept myself more fully.

My healing will be a journey that will last my whole lifetime.  However, I vow to all of you that I will be more consistent in speaking kindly of my body, because she deserves it.  I will caress my ass, look at her in the mirror, and declare her perfect!

In solidarity,
Pia

The Fat Girl Diet Debate & How I Fucked Up

So, here’s the thing.  I’ve spent at least 20 years of my life on a diet and I’m not sure I ever want to be on one again.  That’s why you will see me posting cute memes like the one below.  And my point is that if you don’t want to lose weight or ever be on a diet again, you don’t have to.  You don’t have to let the media and our culture force you into believing that your life will be awesome when you get to a size 2, when you are perfectly happy and free as a size 22.

But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of plus size women posting photos of themselves working out and sharing their weight loss stories on social media. I admit it irritated me initially because I felt like my fellow fatties were quitting the “team” and going over to the dark side along with Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah. It was as though they’d all been sucked into the dieting vortex, never to show off their their round bellies again.

Jhud before & after

I felt, well, abandoned.

But then I began reading the nasty messages (traitor, hater, you think you’re hot, etc.) that my fellow chubsters were writing on the weight loss posts, and that made me angry.

Why?  Because we have choices.  And yours are not the same as mine. They are also not better or worse than mine.  And what you do with your body is none of my fucking business.

I think I can feel my hypocrisy lifting just a little bit as I write this.  Yes, I do feel lighter. Aaaaahhh…

Women’s bodies are constantly being policed, and I certainly don’t want to be a part of that oppression. Hell, I’ve been a victim of it.  I cannot, in good conscience, criticize another woman because she is making decisions based on what she feels is best for her body. Especially if it in no way negatively impacts others. 

Not to mention, that one day I may decide that I want to lose some weight or begin an exercise regimen again.  And I should be able to do that without comment at all. I don’t need to be glorified or denounced for what I choose to do with my body.  

This is an official apology to anyone who has ever felt that I made them feel less than part of the body positive movement because they choose to lose weight.  My bad.  I get it.  You do you and ‘Imma do me! We can all be a part of this very important movement, no matter what we look like or what choices we make for ourselves.  All our voices count.

Ciao for niao,
Pia

How Posing in a Swimsuit Changed Me Forever

I want to thank Jessica Peterson, designer of Sorella Swim for the opportunity to be a part of the Sisters of All Sizes campaign.  I’ve done many photo shoots, but this one was by far the most challenging and empowering.  



As a fat woman of color, my body is far from society’s ideal of beauty. For years I struggled with my weight and above all my self-esteem.  I really thought that having a thin body would dissolve all my problems, but I was wrong.  I’ve been thin more than a few times in my 38 years, and it only ever lasted for a few months because the real problem was that I still didn’t love myself and I still had the same life problems.

About 3 years ago I began a journey toward self-acceptance that has materialized into seeing my body in a very different way. I did lots of research on fat-acceptance, body diversity and feminism and eventually started my own website and blog to help other women like me begin to embrace themselves fully.

Since then I have met some amazing women and men who have supported me and pushed me to get outside of my comfort zone.  And I’m so grateful to all of them. 

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go through with the Sorella Swim shoot.  I was already hesitant, but when I walked onto the set and realized that I was the largest model, I began to panic.  If I had been fully dressed, I probably would have been at ease.  But stripping down to what felt like near nakedness was altogether different.  


After hair and make-up, we had to get into our suits and I started to freak out. I pulled my dear friend and fellow model Melinda aside.

“I can’t do this. I cannot do this.  I’m so huge and everyone else is so small.” My voice wavered as I gripped her arm.

Melinda told me to relax.  She reminded me that I wasn’t just doing this to overcome my own fears, but to empower other women who look like me as well.  

I understood her point, but was still scared shitless.  I had to do a lot of positive self-talk that day.  I was going to have implement the “fake it til’ ya make it” strategy to get through the shoot.  So that’s what I did. 


I changed into the suit and stepped out of the bathroom for Jessica and Delia to see me.  My heart was pounding and I expected them to jump back, and wonder if they’d made the right decision.  But they both smiled and told me I looked great.  I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I just kept faking it.  

Before the group shots, we did individual photos and I was called first, of course. The Universe has a very twisted sense of humor!  Before I got in front of the camera, I got a quick pep talk from photographer Michael Anthony. I told him that I was afraid and that I was going to need a lot of support.  He was so kind and comforting, telling me that I was going to be great and he had my back. I trusted him, and off I went.  

Yes, I have cellulite and a tummy with multiple rolls, and I’m beautiful. 

The first minute was absolute torture.  The lights were bright, and the cellulite on my thighs was in plain view for the entire crew to see.  But Michael Anthony continued to put me at ease, encouraging me. I began to relax and eventually found myself getting more and more comfortable.  I started posing and channeling the the beauty that exists inside all of us.  I kept thinking of the women who would see this campaign and be grateful that I had the courage to represent them.  I was facing my fears head on and it felt good.  

From left to right: Melinda, Neidy, Lornalitz, Krista, Pia

I thought the group photos would be less scary, but then I realized that there were going to be small bodies next to my large one, and that my body would be under tremendous scrutiny when the photos were released to the public. But I channeled my energy in the same way as before, realizing that the ideas about body diversity that I write about were coming true, and I was an integral part of it. It was that thought which gave me the strength to continue and to model my ass off — pun intended.

Mid-shoot Delia pulled me aside to tell me that Jessica was so impressed with me. I was so touched by that. I think she must have sensed my trepidation. Thanks Jessica!

The Sorella Swim Sisters of All Sizes campaign has had a huge impact on the way I see my body.  I am grateful to Michael Anthony for releasing untouched photos of us so that people can see what real bodies look like. All the bodies in that shoot are beautiful, including mine. 

This experience made me put my money where my mouth is. All the positive body talk in the world is meaningless unless I truly believe it myself. Now when I tell other women to love their bodies — to set themselves free, I can speak from multiple experiences of having to walk the walk. 

I love how the suit looks great on all of us!

All bodies are good bodies and that’s the truth. When more clothing companies and designers realize that all women want to feel beautiful, regardless of their size, they will do what Jessica has done — create a garment that makes all of us feel included and special. Yes, big girls like to shop and be chic too!

Thank you to Jessica, Delia (DDH PR), Michael Anthony, Melinda, Krista, Neidy, Lornalitz, Rich Magana’s hair and make-up team and DTLA Studios for their commitment to making this happen. I am forever grateful and forever changed. 

In solidarity,
Pia

Plus Size Office Chic

Last week, or maybe it was 2 weeks ago–I can’t remember because I’m getting old–I promised I would feature my co-worker, whose style I very much admire. She has clued me into some really great plus size fashion sites that I had never heard of, or just hadn’t really explored quite yet.  My co-worker, we’ll call her M, is very chic and always has on something great. We talk shop in the afternoon (when most people are taking coffee breaks) to chat about what we’re wearing, why we like it, and most importantly, where it’s from.  It’s fun to have someone in the office who shares my passion for fashion and style, and doesn’t keep all the good info to herself!

M. workin’ it at the office!

Now of course you’re wondering where she got the fab gear. 
Don’t worry, all the info is below.
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GET THE LOOK!

ASOS CURVE Wrap Dress
Goes up to a size 22



Sahara Shoe from Shoe Dazzle
Up to size 11


These days dressing for work doesn’t have to be dull.  Spice things up with a dazzling shoe and wrap dress that does everything for your hot body.  Happy shopping!

Ciao for Niao,
Pia