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.

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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

The Right to Bare Arms

fat arms

My ample arms!

My arms are fleshy, plump, and have cellulite on them. They are fat. And they are also beautiful.

Before I evolved into the body-loving woman I am today, I NEVER wore tank tops, even on the hottest summer days. Showing off my arms was the totally off limits. I would wear a sweater or something with sleeves that covered me to at least mid-upper arm. And let me tell you, being hot as fuck is not comfortable.

But one day, about 3 years ago, I decided it was time to conduct a social experiment. My theory was that if I wore a sleeveless garment, that people would stare at me in disgust, which would derail my journey toward self-acceptance. So, in an effort to break free from societal judgement, I did the unthinkable. I wore a tanktop in public.

I wanted to have Gabby's confidence!

I wanted to have Gabby’s confidence!

At first I found myself having a panic attack, wishing I’d brought a sweater with me just in case I chickened out. But then something weird happened. I saw another fat woman in a sleeveless blouse strutting down the street, her meaty arms undulating in rhythm with her steps. I saw in her what I had not been able to see in myself. I witnessed a woman taking up space and wearing a weather-appropriate garment with gusto! And no one batted an eye. Except for me of course.

That was a pivotal moment for me. I decided that the only solution to loving my arms was to show them off more often. Though I knew I wasn’t going to feel sure of myself right away,  I could certainly fake it for the time being. And that’s what I did.

with sonya and kim

With Sonya Renee Taylor and Kimberly Nichole at the Body Love Conference 2014.

That experience made me realize that most people aren’t looking at me and they don’t give a rat’s ass what I’m wearing. After a summer of donning tanks and halter tops, I no longer had to fake my comfort. I was comfortable.

For me the lesson is that I’m my own worst critic. When I can abandon perfectionism, even just for an hour, my whole world opens up. I become free. Free to love my arms and to free wear whatever the fuck I want.

I hope you’ll tune in for my upcoming post on plus swimwear, where you’ll see not just my ample arms, but my thunder thighs too!

  xo

3 Reasons to Stop Body Shaming Celebrities

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Jessica Simpson being body- policed by the media.  Photo courtesy of Hollyzood.com

I occasionally find myself silently, and sometimes not to silently,  judging and policing the bodies of celebrities. Perhaps the barrage of perfectly polished images of celebs in the media has brainwashed me successfully. But I bear some of the responsibility too.  I can consciously choose not read rag mags and look for cellulite on Jessica Simpson’s upper thighs.  I can walk away when my co-worker wants to gossip about Beyonce’s boobs. And sometimes I do. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I want to judge the way I’ve been judged. I want to inflict pain where I’ve been injured.  I just for once, want a pretty, thin woman to feel the shame  and insecurity I’ve felt. And so, on occasion, I indulge in the kind of exchanges that afterwards make me feel dirty.

I admit it. This body-positive activist and speaker fucks up now and again.

 

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It’s important for me have this awareness and to expose it. When we hide behind our dirty secrets, we live in fear and resentment. And then it becomes easier and easier to be complacent. We get comfortable in our negativity and reproach for others. And we think to ourselves, everyone else is doing it, so it’s no big deal. As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT’S A BIG FUCKING DEAL. And here’s why:

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Celebrities are people too. We think that money and fame dilute a person’s humanness, making them immune to hurt feeling and humiliation. But it doesn’t. It does the opposite. It tests humanness and then sells it for public consumption. And boy do we eat it up. As someone who has the tiniest bit of visibility in the body-positive movement, I’ve experienced my fair share of push back from internet trolls. As much as we know that a 16-year old bored teenager is behind most of the fanfare, it still stings. Because it triggers something painful that happened to us in the past. It may have been your brother calling you ‘thunder thighs,’ or your dad offering helpful diet tips when you were 12. It doesn’t matter. The point is, if we want things to be really different, if we want to raise our daughters to not worry about their pot bellies, then the buck stops with us. Gossip magazines exist because you buy them. Stop buying them. Please. It takes action to create change. Be a warrior.

 

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Pot bellies are beautiful!

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We need more diversity in the media. This is not new information, and yet it needs to be said. People of size are rarely depicted in positive ways in film and television. They are often the butt of stupid jokes, the fat best friend, or perhaps even the pretty chubby girl who loses weight and gets the guy. BORING! We must take some radical action to make sure that fat folks, and even non-thin folks, have the opportunity to take roles that don’t revolve around their body size. Because guess what? We have talent too. And the world is missing out on some seriously gifted people because of our obsession with thinness as perfection. Let us be bold and try something new. Let’s put big bodies on screen and watch the world change.

 

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Celebrities have power. They do. They have influence, which is the stuff of revolution. Imagine if a fat actress had the support of millions of viewers. They wrote letters letting the network know just how much they love her. They create fan pages and create buzz. Imagine her dimpled arms highlighted on the cover of Vogue. All of a sudden she’s breaking down barriers and is the star of her own show, where she wears crop tops and body hugging dresses in bright shades. She begins to normalize large bodies on TV. We see her over and over, and after a while, we forget she is fat. We see a talented actress, who moves us. We see her inner beauty AND her outer beauty. We see ourselves in her. And then…who knows?

 

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Photo courtesy of Daily Venus Diva.

 

In solidarity,

xo

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.

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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

Why I’m OK at 200+ Pounds

I wondered whether or not I wanted to tell the world (or at least the people who read my blog) how much I weigh.  I’ve ranted on and on about tossing your scales and that the number doesn’t define you in any relevant way.  But in truth, there is a part of me that feels exposed and vulnerable at the thought of highlighting it for public consumption.  I have no idea whether people will be inspired, appalled or just not give a rat’s ass.  I’ve started this journey, and I keep moving forward in hopes of encouraging other folks to be at peace with their bodies.  I post photos and encouraging quotes on my FB page, and get lots of LIKES and lovely comments.  But I can’t talk the talk and not walk the walk.  



You’ve seen me in a bathing suit and cheered me on when I posted a blog on why I love my thighs.  So why is it so scary that I should tell you that I weigh over 200 pounds? Perhaps it’s because it is a further act of defiance that will set me free.  And to be set free from something  that you have known intimately for years (even if it’s painful) can be scary shit because it’s uncharted territory. It’s like being in an abusive relationship where you convince yourself that you don’t deserve better.  Who would you be outside the realm of that familiar, yet hurtfuul relationship?  Same idea.

So declaring my number to the world is a way for me to be an activist in the struggle toward size acceptance.  I must do my part if what I want is a broader cultural definition of beauty.  I cannot sit on the sidelines and whine about why I detest advertisements for cellulite cream and anti-aging potions without actually backing it up with some kind of action.


I think the other reason I want to share it is that there are so many of you whose daily moods are based on what the number on the scale reads.  And I get it, because I’ve been there too.  If the number was low, that meant I was a good girl, and worthy of love and success.  If the number was high (in my distorted opinion) then I was useless, lazy, fat and ugly.  It was a terrible way to live. In fact, it wasn’t living at all.  Being a slave to that number kept me from living the life of my dreams. I missed out on so many incredible experiences that I can never get back.  


Do I have regret?  Yes and no.  

I wish today’s Pia could go back and tell Pia of 20 years ago that she was amazing, lovely, smart and perfectly imperfect. But then I realize that this journey is mine, and the painful experiences I’ve had around my self-image are part of what make me who I am today: A mostly confident, kind, compassionate, attractive and intelligent woman, who wants to help others transform their self-hatred into self-acceptance and eventually love.  


If you’re feeling brave, or just want to shout from the rooftops how much you weigh, join the movement by leaving a comment here and/or on my Facebook page for the world to see.  Help break down the myths around traditional beauty standards and say ‘fuck you’ to the media for feeding us bullshit.  Claim your space in this world and take no prisoners!

Ciao for Niao,
Pia

www.curvysexychic.com
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4 Reasons I Love My Thighs

I have always had big thighs. Even when I weighed 140 pounds and wore a size 8 in high school, my thighs were big.  I can remember thinking how dreadfully ugly they were and wishing they were small, elegant and waif-like.  I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror without bottoms on. And being seen in a swimsuit was the most mortifying thing I could think of.  Pool parties were out of the question. And when I did swim, it was with a very long t-shirt that covered my everything.

  
My thick thighs!

When I look at photos from when I was 14 and 15, I realize that my body was beautiful. My thighs were long and strong.  They fit my body.  I had an athletic build. I wish I had know how lovely I was back then. I would have saved myself a lot of anguish and let myself experience more of life.  It’s been a long time coming, but I am arriving at a place of self-acceptance with my body today.  This past weekend, while I was relaxing at home in a colorful mu-mu, I crossed my thick legs and stared at them for a while.  They are still lovely after all these years, and I weigh much more than I did then. There are plenty of great reasons to admire these gams, and here are just a few:

1.  They are strong!  My legs carry me all day long, and for the most part they don’t complain.


2.  They are soft and cuddly–just ask my hubby.

3.  My thighs look damn good in jeans, especially skinny  jeans.  

4.  I don’t have hair on my thighs–it simply doesn’t grow there.  So I don’t have to shave them–EVER.  Lucky me!

Feel free to share this. I think it’s awesome!

Name a part of your body that you’ve had trouble loving and claim it as perfect.  Your body is a gift. Speak well of it and and treat it with respect.  Love it and it will love you back!

Ciao for Niao,
Pia

It’s FATKINI Season Ya’ll!

Admittedly, I am obsessed with the idea of fatkinis. I even love the name. FATKINI!  I want to scream “fatkiniiiii” at the top of my lungs while wearing a fatkini in skinny Malibu.  I’m not even sure who coined the term fatkini, but it’s effing brilliant.  I have spent so many summers not swimming because I was terrified you would see my wobbly bits.  Turns out, like 98% of us have wobbly bits.  Woo-hoo!

So, Summer 2013 is all about breaking down barriers and getting real comfy with myself.  I plan to buy a fatkini very soon.  My only problem is choosing one.  Monif C. has some bad ass ones.  But then again so does Gabi Greg’s new line with Swim Suits for All–though it’s virtually sold out due to popular demand for…. FATKINIS!!! Oh, and Forever 21 has great silhouettes too.  Surprisingly there are loads of choices. Is it me or this an amazing evolution of plus size design and the fat acceptance movement?  So glad to be a part of it all!


FLIRTY AND FUN

I LIVE FOR LEOPARD!

PRETTY IN PURPLE

MY GIRL GABI, ROCKIN IT.

FLUVIA LACERDA INSPIRES!

PATRIOTIC FATKINI

GABI’S NEW SWIMSUIT LINE

WERK THOSE MINI FATKINIS!!!


TESS MUNSTER AND PAL
What will YOU be wearing–or not wearing this summer?  

XOXO
pia