The word fat used to be a weapon that would bring me to tears upon every utterance, but now it’s become a simple descriptor that has shaped my life.
I’ve been big since my earliest memory. I was always larger than my friends and classmates, and I became aware of it a a young age. At 3 years old, I was devoted to dancing. I remember being in ballet classes, leaping across the stage, not realizing it wasn’t expected of me to be so physically able and active. My instructors would be impressed by my range of movement, and at the time I thought it was because I was just a good dancer. But in hindsight, I realized that, in normal cases, being fat was hindrance that many couldn’t get past. However, oblivious to the expectations and standards set for me due to my size, I continued to pursue the art that I loved.
My desire to dance was soon stifled as I gained awareness of my size. My parents were both big, so I never felt excluded or unimportant in my household, and most of immediate family relatives never made me feel like I was any less beautiful because of it. But my paternal grandmother, a stern West Indian woman, always made it a point to call my dad and I out for being overweight. I was a force to be reckoned with my youth, especially with relatives, so fortunately, her words didn’t stop me from being myself. But those same words from schoolmates did. I was teased relentlessly in school, called out for looking different than everyone else. In childhood, your greatest wish is to fit in and be seen as normal, but my weight continued to prevent that from happen. “Fat” triggered the anger and sadness so intensely that it was banned from my home, never to be uttered for fear of a meltdown.
Throughout middle school, my sadness from being left out turned into volatility and depression. All of the classmates knew that the word “fat” was my hot button, and all they had to do was press it to ignite my hotheadedness. I was always intelligent, funny, and witty, and I often used my personality to overcompensate for my size. I would crack self-deprecating jokes in efforts to prove my worth, to show that I could roll with the punches and laugh at myself. But, any time I would hear the F-word, playfully or not, it would remind me, no matter how hard I tried to camouflage them, that my differences still remained. People would it my size before they got to know me as a person. “Fat became something that defined me more than my personality, and it was something I desperately tried to get away from. Countless young fitness and nutrition courses, personal trainers, dieticians: they all were presented to me to try to fix physical problem that needed to be approached from within.
Luckily, in high school I rediscovered my passion for the performing arts through acting. I felt the most confident about who I was in front of an audience. With that came even more awareness in my body. In early youth, it was apologetic. I didn’t want my body to inconvenience the people around me. I tried to compensate for my size because I wanted to be accepted. But this newfound consciousness was from a place of power and pride. Acting helped me cultivate an environment that welcomed my uniqueness in all fashions. My body created beautiful art, and in order to let to flow freely, I had to break down the barriers that kept me oppressed and hidden. One of those barriers was the word “fat.
As life progressed, my horizons broadened. Social media became an active part of my life. Twitter and Instagram were the main forums for my outspokenness. I started posting risque selfies, fashionable pictures, and sharing my views on the diversity of beauty, and its necessity in mainstream media. There was a fanfare of positivity from followers and supporters, but I was confronted with thousands of opinions about my body: what I should or shouldn’t say, what to wear, how I should think of myself, my assumed lack of health. Critics pressured me, trying to make me believe that my voice wasn’t meant to be heard because I was “fat.” Once again, I found myself face to face with a word that would’ve paralyzed me in shame and insecurity, a word that would’ve sparked an outrage, causing me to doubt myself and the confidence I’d worked so hard to build. However, with the empowerment from finding my passion and becoming a influential voice in the plus size world, I learned to let go of the negativity and inhumanity that came with “fat”, and redefined as a descriptor. Fat became a simple adjective that could successfully coexist with the other beautifully positive attributes I carry. And to this day, I am able to brush off the negative comments with more ease than before.
Through my activism in the body positivity and self-love community, I’ve been able to create a safe space for women of unconventional bodies to feel beautiful and own who they are without shame. Truthfully, in certain contexts, the world still rubs me the wrong way. At times, it’s difficult to ignore it when “fat” is being hurled at you with the intent to break you down. A clapback doesn’t seem so bad, given I’m one to defend myself when I feel attacked. But discovering your purpose takes power away from the negativity people spew at you. When I was still undefined, everything people said to me stuck, and I carried that burden on my shoulders. But as the dignified woman I am today, I can proudly declare that people words say have no more influence over my life. “FAT” is a word I can use with confidence and strength, because its effects on me have faded away.
COVER ART BY @P.RCELAIN ON INSTAGRAM