A few weeks ago I was honored that a high school girl emailed me to ask if she could interview me about body positivity for a school project. Her teacher assigned a paper on social media and its affect on activism — how cool is that?
I was humbled to get to be involved in such a cool school project, so after I answered her questions — which I found very insightful — I asked if I could share them, and my answers, with my readers.
I hope you will think about how you would’ve responded to these questions and leave your thoughts with me in the comments or via the Facebook post with this link!
Do you think social media model accounts like insta models give a good portrayal of body image? Or do they give growing girls and boys an unachievable body image to strive for? An example accounts is Alexisren.
I do think some social media accounts can perpetuate a negative body image if we constantly compare our own bodies to those we see on Instagram. We need to remember that they are showing us their best — they have hair and makeup, lighting and training to pose in certain angles. So we are always seeing their best side, whereas we all have our normal, everyday appearance without all that professional help. I try to limit the number of accounts I follow that project a certain body image and mix in models who inspire me who have different body shapes and different ethnic backgrounds.
Do you feel that body shaming is still a huge issue in the news media today and how they give their opinion about celebrities bodies?
I definitely do. I think we are becoming more conscious of women and men of all sizes, who can be fashionable and great-looking despite not having what society usually deems as an “acceptable” body type. But we still see all kinds of shows that criticize what people wear, that comment on women’s post-baby weight and hold people to standards that most people without personal chefs and trainers could never attain. And even for celebrities who can afford that kind of help, it’s not good emotionally/mentally to have that pressure that you’re supposed to be “perfect” all the time.
Do you think that the modeling industry gives plus-sized models an equal chance at modeling? And do you feel that these models are a good representation of the plus-sized community?
I think we are seeing more and more curvier models in runway shows than ever before; this past New York Fashion Week, Michael Kors used a plus-size model in one of his shows (Ashley Graham). But Christian Siriano used multiple women with curvier figures, and also paid close attention to having models of different ethnicities. More designers need to follow Christian’s example. And we are finally seeing some stores, like Lane Bryant, use models who are bigger — who aren’t just “curvy” but truly plus-size and not the “hourglass” shape. It’s nice to see more of those women being represented, but we still have a long way to go.
In your own words, can you explain what body positivity means to you and can you explain what the media can do better to incorporate it?
Body positivity to me is finding what makes you happy about your body — you may want to lose a little weight or gain some muscle or you may be just happy the way you are. It’s about defining that for yourself and not allowing societal pressures or peer pressure make you feel like you have to look a certain way to be accepted. I think media needs to address how this affects us emotionally and mentally. I think our confidence helps every aspect of our lives — whether we’re trying to do well at school, get into a good college or find a great job. And especially in how we allow others to treat us, from friends and families to romantic relationships. So forming that strong base of confidence in ourselves, and a healthy relationship with our bodies, can touch every single part of our lives.
How would you explain to someone that body positivity is not a way to authorize diabetes and any bad eating habits?
I know a lot of men and women who would be deemed plus-size who eat very healthfully and exercise more than some thinner people I know. So I think you have to look at someone’s overall picture to decide if someone is healthy — his or her weight can’t be the only factor. I think it’s important that we all take responsibility for our health — if we are at risk for diabetes or some other condition often associated with high weight, we need to exercise more and eat healthier, but that doesn’t mean we have to hate our bodies at the same time. There’s a saying that you should take care of your body because you love it, not because you hate it. And I think when you look at it as being healthy, not necessarily with the goal of losing weight, it becomes something empowering instead of something that can feel defeating. For me, loving my body doesn’t mean I won’t make changes if I need to to protect my health. It just means I am not going to beat myself up.
What is your opinion on the new Barbie doll that was made after Ashley Graham and the new plus-size Barbie doll?
While I am happy that they made an Ashley Graham Barbie doll, I do wish they had released it for the public to buy! But they did release a new line of Barbies that have curvier figures, more skin tones and hair styles. And I think that’s very important. Our feelings about our own bodies are shaped from a very young age. And having a doll to play with that looks more like you, or your mom, or other women in your life, instead of them all having impossibly tiny waists and long blonde hair — that’s hugely influential on a young girl.
Can you give your opinion on the body activism movement and its impact in society today?
I am immensely grateful for the body activism movement. As someone in her late 30s, I didn’t grow up with anyone talking about body acceptance or body positivity. Everyone only talked about dieting and aerobics and low-fat snacks. I grew up in a time of “waif” models being the most popular — models like Kate Moss. There was no way I could ever identify with her, and I never felt I could ever measure up to women with her shape. Even though we have a long way to go, it’s wonderful that younger women now have more role models out there of different sizes and backgrounds, and people talk more about eating healthfully and exercising, but with balance. I am hoping more and more young women are learning to accept their bodies and treat them healthfully, and find those positive role models to turn to.
Can you explain how boys and girls today can learn to love their bodies the way they are?
What helped me learn to love my body was working out regularly and starting to run. It taught me that I didn’t have to look like what society deems is “acceptable” to accomplish great things. I ran two half marathons and weighed more than 200 pounds for both races. So I think finding something you can accomplish — and it doesn’t have to be sports, it could be drawing, writing, acting, singing, whatever you’re into — that can help you feel confident about yourself and help you realize that your body is more than just something to look at in the mirror and compare to people on social media. It helps you accomplish amazing things, and it’s important to treat it healthfully so you can continue accomplishing amazing things!