In a move that is sure to cost them more than a few subscribers, Self magazine has made Tess Holliday their July cover model. Tess, known for her stunningly iconic beauty and fabulous fashion sense, is also sadly known by many as “that fat model.” The first size 22 model signed to a major agency, you might say Tess has paved the way for fat women around the globe — including yours truly.
I can’t remember the day I first saw Tess’ face, I can only remember that I wished I could apply makeup in such a way that it didn’t look like my six-year-old son did it — blindfolded and using a brush from his crayola watercolors. I followed her. I wrote about her. I cited her to others as a “must see” model in the fat positive movement.
And now, here she is, in all her glorious backfat beauty, on the cover of Self.
In the accompanying article, titled “Tess Holliday’s Health Is None of Your Business”, Self contributor Ashley H. Ford spends some time with Tess asking questions, talking about things like “concern trolls,” postpartum depression, and, of course, the happiest place on earth, and possibly Tess’ favorite, Disneyland.
It’ll be hard, if not impossible, for the fatphobes to get past the photos. After all, she’s fat.
A couple of years ago, I took some photos with Substantia Jones of The Adipositivity Project, showcasing my own backfat and pregnant looking — but not at all pregnant — belly and butt and boobs (which I have obscured so as to not be banned from Facebrat).
I went looking for this photo on the Internets (because it seemed easier than searching through literally 9,436 photos — mostly of my kids), but instead of finding this photo, I found a Reddit thread devoted to pointing out that I’m hideous, stupid, disgusting, and dying — something Tess hears daily (if not minute-ly).
This happens all the time in media, people making judgements about bodies and health and lives without knowing even a little bit about the person — and without any awareness or acknowledgment that none of those things are any of their GD business.
Instead, these folks often try to make themselves sound like Very Worried Citizens by saying Just Me Being Concerned About Your Health. Like that time my grandmother ordered 24 year-old me (apparently fatter than she’d like to be seen with) a chicken sandwich — hold the motherfricking mayo — because “it’s just not good for your cholesterol.”
Oh, and like that time someone actually called me “Mayo Mermaid” (which really only made for great art, no doubt the opposite of the intention).
The thing is, fat positivity isn’t just about celebrating beauty or health at any size; it’s also about reminding people that the health of others, regardless of how grim it may appear to their expertly WebMd-trained eyes, does not warrant your concern, and it definitely doesn’t warrant your commentary. Not my health, not your health, not Tess’ health. And no, being a “public figure” or “putting yourself on the cover of a magazine” does not automatically mean it’s open season on your body. In short: don’t give me your advice unless I ask for it.
PS I’m not going to ask for it.
Tess will, no doubt, be dealing with an onslaught of Very Concerned Citizens in the upcoming weeks. The same folks that come at Ashley Nell Tipton and Jes Baker and Virgie Tovar and me and probably you (if you’re anything over a size 12). The same folks that see a fat body in media being, well, a fat body, and think only, “you’re going to die of diabetes (or a heart attack or cancer or or or).” The very same folks that are missing the point entirely.
The point isn’t that I’m fat. The point is that there are a lot of fat people — none of us deserve judgement, and all of us deserve dignity.