My Reaction to Tess Holliday on the Cover of People Magazine

May 28, 2015 at 10:48 am |
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If you happen to follow me on Instagram (or if you don’t),  I’m @theobird so come and join the party! You have probably been waiting for this blog since the weekend.

On Saturday I posted a picture from this week’s People Magazine which had the beautiful Tess Holliday on the cover with the headline, “World’s First Size 22 Supermodel.”

I must admit I’m very late to the Tess Holliday bandwagon. I think I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t follow her on social media. This very driven young woman has overcome what many of us who have struggled with obesity have experienced: bullying, rejection, and guilt. At 29 years old, standing at 5’5 and 280 pounds, she is the first plus sized model of her size to sign to MILK, one of the big powerhouse agencies in the modeling industry.

Since signing with this renowned agency, her phone has not stopped ringing and the jobs are plenty. One of the most inspirational sides to her story is her fearless campaign over social media encouraging all shapes and sizes to “love your body” with the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards. Holiday says in the article, “The whole reason I do this is to show women that you can be beautiful regardless of your size. You are allowed to dress how you want without feeling ashamed of your body.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more with this statement if I tried. Truly loving yourself comes with practice and repetition, and lots of it.

I also found it interesting that People Magazine chose to insert a tiny box in the middle of the second page of the article that posed the question, “Is she a good role model?” This got me thinking on the flip side of the coin as I’m sure they were hoping to achieve. As I quickly found out on my own Instagram posing a similar question it made my followers so mad at ME for even asking such a question. I was accused from everything from being a fat shamer to a mean girl.

tess holiday people magazine article

(Photo by Olivia Ward)

WHAT?!?! ME?!?! Are you serious?!?

Did everyone quickly forget that in the not so distant past I once weighed 280 pounds? And, at my highest weight, I tipped the scale at almost 300 pounds? I’m not going to lie —at first all of those comments really stung. I almost abandoned the blog all together because I felt I no longer had a right to have an opinion because I wasn’t plus sized anymore. Many suggested it wasn’t my “business” to comment on such things.

I have spent the last 4 years since The Biggest Loser and spending my entire life dedicated to those that want to improve their health and happiness. I even completely changed my career to the fitness industry because I believe that health and wellness is a free gift for anyone and everyone who desires to embrace it. I want to be a part of that revolution. I have never been someone who thinks health must correlate with a specific size or number, and more importantly health is a lifelong process. We go through times of great victory and great struggle. That is reality, and I have PREACHED that for years.

After the initial sting of these comments wore off and my confidence — although a little bruised — returned I decided I had to write, even if more hate comes my way. I will not be quiet.

My question although has changed. My new thought is this: When posed with the reality of morbid obesity in the media, does bringing light to this reality make us fat shamers? Although it’s not a black and white question and equally doesn’t have a black and white answer I believe the answer leans more to the side of “No” than “Yes.” In this case I believe the fashion industry is sticking to what it knows: i.e. this is what works and this is what sells. For years we have seen women who are terrifyingly thin grace the runways and covers of magazines and have been told that this is the “standard” of what we should attain to. I think now we are seeing the other side of the coin, which to be honest, I think is only fair. Fashion should show the “population” and with over 60% of the population being plus sized they SHOULD have a voice in the fashion world! The silver lining to this particular new role model is her story comes with a positive message to “Love yourself no matter the size.” In my opinion loving yourself in your skin is one of the most important lessons we can learn and is something we need to continue to remind each other.

Now, the silver lining of MY side of story is this: I believe the more you honestly and truly love yourself for who you are, the better choices you will begin to make in regards to your health. I’ve seen it over and over with clients I work with and a lot of time it results in weight loss which results in a healthy mind AND body…and if we are taking a moment here to be honest isn’t that really the GOAL in life? Not to just be “skinny,” I want to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. And that takes more than just a diet.

Funny enough I would LOVE to hear more of your thoughts and feel free to be honest. My skin has toughened a little and I’m ready to discuss in the comments below!

Stay Happy & Healthy!

Olivia xo

What are your thoughts about the first plus-sized supermodel?