I’m Fucking Overwhelmed

 

I know I’m not alone in this.  I have so much going on in my life right now, and at times it feels completely unmanageable.  I have a full time job which is extremely stressful;  I have a marriage that requires time and commitment; I’m an activist, blogger, model and writer too.  Many of the things that are happening are wonderful, and my hard work is paying off in all sorts of amazing ways.  But I feel the need to slow down and say “no” more often.  
  
Many of you know I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic illness I’m learning more about since my diagnosis last year.  For me that means I can’t do everything I want, because my body simply won’t let me.  

It’s very frustrating, but at the same time it feels good to slow down and make time to take care of myself. My doctor told me, “you need to really pamper yourself.”  I don’t think any medical professional has ever said that to me.  But it was just what I needed to hear. 

I know intellectually that getting massages regularly, and going to bed early are not only good for my body, but also for my mental health.  But strangely enough, I find relaxing really hard to do.  Even when I’m not technically working, I’m on social media late at night, or doing chores, or running errands, or thinking about what’s next. I’m always running!

It’s rare that I’m still.

What does all this mean, anyway?  

I think it means that I have to trust the Universe/God/Goddess/Higher Power to guide me during this tough adjustment period.  I’m a spiritual person who has lost her way a bit.  I’m a tough broad, but I’m not impermeable.  I’m human and I have limits.  

As a feminist I often feel like I have to do more just to prove that I’m down with the cause — that I’m always hustling.  But an exhausted Pia cannot be of service, she cannot give her best if she is not caring for herself first.  It feels selfish to say no and to take a nap instead, even if that’s what I really need.  

So, if you see less of me on social media, it’s not because I’ve abandoned this important piece of my life, it’s because I need a break from time to time. I’m still here. I’m just taking extra special care of myself.

In solidarity,
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 Pageantry & The Feminist Who Had It All Wrong

I was a judge for the California Plus America Pageant over the weekend. Pageant Director, Danielle Zavala, asked me come on board and I’m still trying to figure out why she chose me. I’m a body positive lipstick feminist with a penchant for colorful mumus and comfy flats I can wear all day. And I had serious doubts about how my politics would align with judging women based on their beauty. I loved watching Miss America when I was a little girl, but as I got older, I began to see the whole thing as a patriarchal construct meant to keep women focused on seeing beauty as their only source of worth. 

But I also wanted to challenge my preconceived notions about the pageant business because I know a couple of women who have competed and I respect them very much. So I emailed Danielle and told her I would be honored to be a judge, and it was the truth. I was committed to keeping an open mind.

On Saturday morning I showed up at the Embassy Suites hotel and met my five fellow judges, including 15-year old Smile Juneja, the reigning Miss America Outstanding Teen. Smile is a bright and well-spoken young woman who impressed me with her poise and self-confidence.

Judges from left to right: Michael Anthony Hermogeno, Maryam

 Ahmadinia, Smile Suneja, Sherry Lee Meredith, Me, Gio  Messale



I also had the privilege of meeting one of the winners from last year’s pageant, Charlet InthavongxayShe and my friend, Melissa Rose (who was also a winner last year), are two of the kindest, and most service oriented people I’ve ever met. They were so open and positive about their experiences, using their titles to do good in the community. Reconnecting with Melissa and meeting Charlet was yet another step in challenging my views over the weekend. 
 

Charlet on the left & Melissa on the right.

Danielle explained all the rules to the judges, most importantly that we were not allowed to fraternize with the delegates. The delegates are the pageant contestants.  I didn’t know that’s what they were called. I like it. It sounds very official!The individual interviews took place soon after. As I read the delegates’ bios, my thinking shifted even more. The contestants included PhD candidates, single mothers who took in foster kids, a school teacher and a poised teenager with great ambitions! This is NOT what I was expecting. I honestly thought the delegates were going to be ditzy girls who spent hours at the tanning salon and used the word “like” five times in a sentence. But I was dead wrong.  

Perhaps my narrow thinking needed to be checked. I mean, how different was plus size pageantry from plus size modeling?  I know plenty of plus models, including myself, who also have other careers in industries like engineering, social justice and medicine. So, discovering that the delegates were bright and ambitious shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did — in the best possible way.

As the delegates sat before us, answering all sorts of interesting questions, I found myself having a lot of fun.  One of my favorite questions from judge Maryam Ahmadinia, was “How would you describe the color red to a blind person?”  It was such a good question, I wish I’d thought of it myself! I think I asked something corny like, “If you were banished to a deserted island for life, which person would you take with you?”  I’m new at this. Be nice.

During those interviews, the women were nervous but witty, shy but eloquent. They were funny and snarky and intelligent. And their platforms were impressive too. From autism awareness to domestic violence prevention, the causes were noble and their champions passionate. Many of them had been active in their causes long before they’d considered being in pageants. I know. Pretty cool, huh?

Later that night, we witnessed the delegates having fun at the red carpet event and fundraiser.  As I watched them do the “Wobble” and laugh with one another, it helped me see yet another side to them.  They were women of all ages, ethnicities and plus size body types, bonding with one another and letting the stress of the interviews wash away. I so wanted to dance with them and tell them how awesome I thought they all were, but we weren’t allowed to fraternize until the pageant was over. 

The next night was the evening wear competition and the crowning ceremony at the LA Convention Center. This was an opportunity for the delegates to impress us with their style and personality as they sashayed down the runway, their fleshy arms undulating in perfect rhythm. Their smiles were big, their fashion choices bold, and their personalities very evident. It was such fun and I found myself cheering them all on, wishing they could all win!  I was proud of them for loving their bodies and wearing dresses that said “Fuck you world.  I’ll wear whatever the fuck I want!” I saw many of them empowered and confident. I witnessed such beauty and grace.  I wish plus size pageants had existed when I was struggling with my body image as a teenager and young woman. These women proved me wrong and I’ve never felt better about not being right.  


As plus size women, we are all breaking barriers when we participate in activities that let the world know we are not ashamed of our bodies and that we are capable of so much more than the media gives us credit for. Contrary to popular belief, we are not lazy and unmotivated. We are smart, savvy role models who can recite the Greek alphabet while feeding the homeless and kicking ass.  So there.  

I think the biggest lesson I learned through this journey is that feminism has many faces. The way we choose to lift up women is not singular in nature. There are as many ways to express it as there are women in the world. The plus size delegates were a brand of feminism that I had yet to encounter. But now I can store it in my cadre of experiences, and recall it when I find myself judging something which I know nothing about.

And I would be remiss if I did not congratulate this year’s deserving winners:

                  Queanna Moore – Mrs California Plus America 2014
Chera Lenise – Ms California Plus America 2014

Lia Freeman – Miss California Plus America 2014

Emily Grace Fluke -Teen California Plus America 2014


Left to right: Emily, Lia, host Marcy Guevara, Queanna, Chera



And finally, thank you Danielle, for asking me to be a part of this wonderfully eye-opening occasion. Your hard work paid off in so many ways. I am forever changed. XOXO

In solidarity,
Pia

43 Grey Hairs And Counting. Rude.

Just when did it become okay for grey hair to just show up unannounced on my glorious afro? I mean, they’ve fucking packed serious luggage — this is not a weekend visit.  My grey hair has a lazy-boy, ESPN Deluxe cable package and fucking PBR’s on ice.  

Uh. Rude.

I doth protest.

Just when I’m getting comfortable with my fat, Winter arrives earlier than expected, in all it’s white splendor.  Er, grey dreariness.  
I have been plucking my grey hair.  There.  I said it.  I can feel my fellow feminists shaking their heads in dismay.  I feel like a soldier who’s deserted. Here I am, encouraging all of you to embrace yourselves no matter what, while I find a new patriarchal mandate to obsess about.  That’s just great.

This feminism thing, it’s kinda hard.  As in all things, I aim for perfection (one of my many vices, or virtues, or vices. I don’t know). So feeling like a C-average feminist is totally humiliating. But I figure honesty is still the best policy when it comes to my blog. So maybe my comrades will give me a pass on this one (fingers crossed).

These grey hairs, they aren’t ugly.  They’re just surprising.  And I know I can’t keep plucking them.  At this rate, and despite how much hair I have, I could be bald in a couple of years. And that, I am not ready for.   

Plus I always imagined I’d have a perfect grey fro, like model Renee Davis.  My coiffed curls framing my face in sophisticated style, making me look demure and cosmopolitan.  

This is how my grey hair DOESN’T look.

Yeah.  It hasn’t gone down like that.  It grows in disparate directions, staying close to the crown, and tries to hide behind the other hairs, so I can’t find it and pluck it.  Sometimes I win, and am washed over with the weird pleasure that only popping a pimple can rival. But other times I get frustrated,  give up and let them live another day.  

This dance, however, is getting laborious and dull.  I figure I have two options:

  1. Dye my hair, or
  2. Let it do what it do.
As tempting as it is to dye my hair, (and I’ve been thinking of doing it for a bold fashion statement), I don’t want to succumb to the pressure that accompanies women in their late 30’s and early 40’s, living in Los Angeles. The kind of pressure that would have me at the salon every 4-6 weeks for a $150 touch up.  Do you know what I could do with $150 dollars?  I can buy 2 pairs of designer leather flats at Nordstrom Rack.  

Shoe shopping heaven. 

I guess it’s an easier decision that I thought. Thank God for my shoe obsession.

Ciao for Niao,
Pia

An Honest Letter to the Guy That Created #FatShamingWeek

Roosh Vorek, author of the blog Return of Kings (no, I will not provide a link to his site), is a self-proclaimed misogynist who couches his anti-feminist and fat-phobic rhetoric under the guise of concern that masculine superiority is losing its stronghold on Western culture. He also coined the hashtag #fatshamingweek which failed miserably when he launched it last week.  



If you don’t know who he is, then I’m incredibly happy for you.  

ROOSH BELIEVES (these are direct quotes from his website):

  1. A woman’s value is mainly determined by her fertility and beauty. A man’s value is mainly determined by his resources, intellect, and character.
  2. Women are sluts if they sleep around, but men are not. This fact is due to the biological differences between men and women.
  3. Ironically, the less you respect a woman’s intelligence, the more you will retain her interest long enough to get her into bed. You can’t turn a millenial chick into a philosopher, no matter how much you educate her. 
  4. Fat people are all self-absorbed assholes. Like an alcoholic, all they care about is the next slice of double stuffed crust pizza cruising down the conveyor belt. Instead of craving the high of drunkenness, they lust for the rush of harmful nutrition.
  5. Considering how self-absorbed feminists are, it only makes sense for them and fatties to unite. This often takes the form of “fat acceptance,” which is always couched in feminism, which means it is meaningless. It claims people are not responsible for their personal choices, that other people exist to validate them or mollify their self-hatred as it inevitably bubbles up when McDonald’s runs out of nuggets. Their feminism is simple extension—others exist to maintain their personal emotional state. And that state is never your responsibility. It was the gift of fatphobic patriarchy that privileges those who care about themselves over those who want to waste away in a fat-encased shell of a human body. 

Roosh states emphatically that women and homosexuals are prohibited from commenting on his site and that they will be immediately banned.  He has a right to say all these things-I believe in free speech.  However, I cannot support stupidity.  And so I write this letter to him.

Dear Roosh,

If only your parents hadn’t dropped you on your over-sized head as a child, I might not have needed to write this letter shaming you. In fact, I’ve started a new hashtag:  #RooshIsADouche. See, it even rhymes.  I know you don’t think I’m capable of this great feat (#rhyming) because I have a vagina, but you’re wrong. Let me break it down for you Douche. I mean, Roosh.  

Audre Lorde


See, feminism isn’t about devaluing men or what they offer. It is about lifting up women and recognizing that we are more than just baby-making machines that serve you up meatloaf and mashed potatoes whilst wearing corsets and stilettos.  We are people. And while we are capable of doing all of that, we also simultaneously get PhD’s, run for President, and masturbate, because men like you are incapable of getting us off.  We are not equals, you and I, because you are a blubbering fool. 


You say the term “fat acceptance” means that fat people are not responsible for their personal choices, and that feminism exists to make us feel better about ourselves.  Perhaps we can liken that to your use of Viagra which makes you feel better about being impotent.  But I didn’t start a hashtag called #impotenceshaming week because I’m not an asshole.  

It seems to me, Douche, that if feminism didn’t exist, that you would have absolutely nothing to talk about.  Is your masculinity so much in question that you must try to prove to the world that having a dick means you’re better than I am?  Prove it.  What do you offer the world that’s so fucking great? Yeah, I didn’t think so. 



I contemplated not writing to you about your failed attempts at shaming me and my people because I honestly thought it would give you bigger a platform for your bullshit.  But upon further reflection, I felt it was my duty to shine the light upon the sheer ignorance with which you pontificate on what most people agree is an archaic way of seeing the world.  And hopefully it will inform all types of people on what NOT to do when trying to be a decent human being.

And the thing is, your hashtag didn’t get much buzz because it was dumb and mean-spirited. Most sensible, decent people just aren’t going to jump on that bandwagon. Sorry Douche, but misogyny and fat hatred are the NOT the new black. 

Ya know, I don’t think you really hate women and fat people. I think you hate yourself for being feeble-minded and unoriginal. To spew your brand of hatred means you are in a dark and ugly place from which you may never return. Hell, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps a chunky female psychiatrist with a dual degree from Berkeley can help you through it, in between training for a marathon, raising her family, and feeding the homeless.

Wishing you radical change,
Pia
#MixedFatFeminist

P.S. Oh, and you spelled “millennial” wrong.