Would you put on a bathing suit, walk into a corporate office, stand under horrific fluorescent lighting, be filmed on a camera phone and broadcast on a major news organization's Facebook Live feed in front of more than 50,000 viewers? That's exactly what I did recently. I work as a "plus-size" model (I'm a size 12) in New York City and was hired by a swimsuit client to model the latest swim trends for summer alongside a size 2 swimsuit model. The point was to show different styles on different body types.
Live viewers, of course, were able to ask questions and make comments. Out of about 400 comments, 395 of them were nice — some even extremely kind and body-positive—yet I found myself focusing on the few comments that were mean-spirited.
One man said I needed a gym membership. Another man proclaimed, "No fat chicks." Another viewer, also a man, questioned how I was a swimsuit model. I can't say I was shocked that people could be so cruel, but I found it interesting that the ONLY negative comments came from men. Women in the chat were very complimentary—some even elated to see someone with their body type modeling swimsuits so they could see what it would actually look like on them, and they even told the authors of the rude comments to, "Be nice, and try doing what she's doing!"
I'm not saying these comments didn't affect me at all, because for a few hours I did think about them and even found myself questioning my weight.
I knew I had a choice. I could choose to internalize these few, isolated hateful comments and feel victimized and horrible about my body, or I could choose to be the victor and speak openly about my experience in the hope of encouraging others to embrace their bodies, whatever shape or size, and honor them with daily acts of self-care like exercise, meditation, and clean eating. When I think of everything my body does for me day in and day out, I am filled with such a sense of gratitude that all I can say is, "Thank you."
The shame of not fitting into society's itty-bitty standard of beauty has been replaced by the grace of self-acceptance and the knowledge that I am so much more than what I look like in a swimsuit—especially in poor lighting.