When I started making videos last year showing my belly rolls, being honest about my insecurities, and embracing my body as she is—I never thought I would end up becoming a role model for young people in the “body positive” sphere. I started sharing those things because it felt authentic to me, not because I had plans of captivating an audience with it.
A year later, I’ve had the absolute privilege of fielding messages from people of all kinds telling me how I have helped them accept themselves. I’ve also appeared in Elle Mexico, Vogue and Cosmopolitan (three absolute dream publications) for my impact in creating a more open conversation surrounding body image, self acceptance, and mental health.
The funny thing about recognition is that it is usually matched by equal parts scrutiny. A lot of messages I receive on a daily basis highlight the fact that I’m “not plus size,” (which I have never claimed to be) or that I “have a dream body,” (each body is perfect the way it is); many others comment about my weight fluctuations, and question my credibility in the “body positive” space. More about that in a minute.
Body positivity is a powerful movement, and we can’t fully appreciate it without recognizing its origins. The movement was founded largely by and for Black women. Women who were not traditionally celebrated in our society, but who stood at the forefront and declared their undeniable beauty and self acceptance in a totally radical way. I am grateful for their pioneering and for the work they’ve done. As a creator who has become associated with this movement, it’s important to me that I promote and educate myself on the ways this movement was intended for women who are further marginalized than I, and remain reverent of that fact. I am so grateful for the women who have come before me, such as Gabourey Sidibe, Stephanie Yeboah, and Queen Latifah. I am happy that the movement has since expanded to include women of other shapes, sizes, and colors championing “body confidence”, with icons like Tess Holiday and (my role model for life) Ashley Graham who have worked on social media and in the fashion industry to create a more inclusive space (her 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover is still iconic and my favorite ever).
People online have acknowledged that I don’t fit the body type typically associated with the body positive movement, and they’re right. I’m not plus sized, nor have I ever claimed to be. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled with my body image, like so many others, based on what the world around me told me I should look like to be “beautiful.” The truth is that lots of us struggle with that, regardless of what we look like, because most of the images we see online are distorted, photo shopped, unattainable standards of beauty.
The work done by the amazing women I mention above — and women of color whose body types have been further marginalized than mine — has definitely made a difference. But I still see a major problem: because of the focus on what our bodies look like, so many of us have developed mental health issues surrounding our body image. Me included.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Looking at your body in the mirror and believing it is not deserving of food, love, care, and health has everything to do with your mental health and almost nothing to do with the number on the scale or the shape of your body. Body dysmorphia doesn’t care if you’re a size 12 or a size 2. Eating disorders don’t discriminate based on your jeans size—they are triggered by our brain. The acts of hate we commit against our own bodies happen because our minds aren’t right. Which is why I am so passionate about speaking about self acceptance, especially as it pertains to body image.
Millions of people see my posts on social media. Thousands of them continuously comment in public forums about my body, as if that’s the sum of who I am (actual comments are written in the photos below). Lately there have been entire comment threads liked by tens of thousands of people talking about my weight loss, and why — because I lost a few pounds — I no longer have the right to talk about body image and the mental struggles associated with it. Why is any of this okay?
Personally, my weight shifts depending on a multitude of things; my hormonal cycle (I am a young woman, hello), whether or not I’ve been traveling, if I am feeling extra tired from work and don’t have time to make it to my workouts, and my emotions. The last five or so months have been really hard on me mentally, and during that time I experienced a loss of appetite due to stress (which I have since learned to combat with intuitive eating, incorporating more proteins, and snacking to regulate my metabolism). I also recently found a gym I love going to, the community there makes me feel empowered and happy. The truth is that every day I have to work on loving myself and am still learning how to properly care for my body. I have also had to learn that weight is not an indicator of the value we bring to the world, nor does it dictate happiness. Luckily I have a family that supports and encourages my journey and has made caring for myself and others, and believing in the beauty of my soul, priorities.
So despite what size I am (because I am sure there will be many iterations of my size over the years) and despite what people do or don’t think I’m qualified to talk about on my own platform, I will always encourage my community to acknowledge and try to love the parts of themselves they feel insecure about, and to keep learning too. It’s a continual process.
If you are reading this, I hope you know that no size is indicative of worth, and that we are stronger together. The next time you see one of my TikToks, or anyone else’s, know that we have a chance to create a community that really cares about one another, rather than condemns one another. Instead of commenting on someone’s size or weight — or judging them for what they look like on the outside — let’s start asking each other how we are feeling and recognizing what’s on the inside. Let’s work on helping each other be confident in all that we are – our bodies, minds and souls. It’s our shot at changing the world and I hope we can give each other grace as we navigate a new world where everyone feels like they belong. <3