Michelle Hopewell

Michelle

Black British, faith filled, curvy actress with a love for food, great music, good movies, life changing literature and awkward moments.

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I’m Problematic, But So Are You

Here we go with the controversial titles again! I genuinely think y’all are going to start boycotting me purely based off of my titles but give me a hot minute to explain myself…

A while ago I wrote about why I wasn’t body positive, and attached to that same sentiment is the culture breeding within our body acceptance community that includes sometimes calling out, or the policing of, things that are hindering what it means to be ‘body positive’ or to have self acceptance and true inclusiveness.

Whether it be brands or people, we are becoming more and more aware of when something – or someone – is problematic, outright damaging, and harmful to the community as well as to people’s journeys as individuals.

Now in a way this is awesome: we are taking responsibility for not just ourselves but for each other. We are standing up for and protecting one another, and speaking out against negative content manipulating us into harmful practices, mindsets and attitudes… but here’s my question.

Aren’t we all problematic? And how helpful is this calling out culture?

Hear me out.

I am not exempt from it, which is why in the title I say I am problematic. I absolutely am. I know that not every thing I think or do fits into someone’s definition of what it means to be a good and ‘healthy’ example of self acceptance. I strive to educate myself, correct myself, and be as sensitive as possible to others while still maintaining balance in my own life; but that doesn’t mean I am perfect.

Nor is any other blogger, vlogger or influencer you look up to.

We are disappointed when we discover our favourite artist or actor does something that is bad. We look up to them, they inspire us, and in a way because of that we expect to see something close to perfection. We even do the same to our parents. So when someone fails us or themselves we feel instant betrayal.

Though, how can we expect this example of perfection from others that we are unable to give?

Now don’t get me wrong, this does not excuse bad or manipulative behaviour in any way. It doesn’t excuse bad practice. It doesn’t excuse harmful language either, especially when people stand to profit financially from others.

A few weeks ago in my own Insta stories I tagged a plus brand about a campaign they were running – during an event happening in London – and asked why the influencers / models included weren’t more diverse and representative of race, gender and why every person was able bodied. I also tagged some of my absolute favourite bloggers and influencers who would have been great in the campaign.

I did that, not to be super petty or inappropriate, but simply because as a woman of colour I get so frustrated seeing the big plus brands making the same mistakes and not being as inclusive as possible.

You see, even body acceptance and positivity is a marketable business now and sometimes it feels the only people included are those who are seen as marketable. This means a lot of the time the people involved and the content presented is incredibly excluding.

Now, one of the amazing influencers I tagged got back to me to say that she actually was part of the campaign but in a different way, and I was so happy to hear that her important and relevant voice was being added to the campaign because we need more strong and powerful women ready to speak up for what is true and right.

Talking to her made me think though. I had, in my frustration, taken it to my social media platform and, unafraid, tagged this brand in hopes they would see it and there would be an instant reaction to do something: but how helpful is it for me to actually do something like that?

How helpful is it for me to approach seeing something problematic with more problematic behaviour wrapped up in what I feel is actually helpful.

What is the balance?

Can we be social justice warriors, stand up for each other, representation, and equality without sliding into a negative place?

I know that I am thinking twice now about whether I need to speak out and more importantly HOW I speak out.

We receive what we put out.

So if I am putting out something as negative and vicious as what is being put out elsewhere, am I not also the problem?

If the way I highlight or challenge a problem is actually steeped in my past wounds and experiences and / or an extension of my ego, am I not the problem?

How do we educate and inform one another without tearing each other down or attacking the essence of who someone is?

Honestly I don’t have all the answers. I don’t.

All I can hope is that asking these questions of myself, and others, will help us move in a direction where we find solutions together without using tools of anger, shaming, or digital abuse to get to the desired outcome.

Perhaps it’s naive of me to think we can achieve this. Perhaps it’s too idealistic, but we don’t all have to agree and get along or have the exact same definitions of self acceptance in order to help ourselves or each other on this journey.

We don’t need to be perfect.

We need to be mindful.

So that’s that. My name is Michelle, I am perfectly imperfect. I have my own limited wisdoms and I am problematic, but I hope for great things for you. I will be mindful of you and I will be a champion for you, regardless of if we are on a similar or different path.

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WoC Spotlight – Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah

It’s been a hot minute since our last woman of colour blogger spotlight and what better way to kickstart 2018’s instalments than with the majestic Gloria Shuri Henry aka glowpinkstah!

Now, I have been following this beauty for many a year now. I’m a total fan and it’s such a pleasure to watch videos and read posts from this intelligent, hilarious, compassionate, open and honest woman!

SO without further ado:

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself! What’s your background and when did you start blogging?

I’m a San Jose, California native living in Glasgow. I enjoy musicals, playing with my kitten, animated movies that make me ugly cry, fashion, and making people laugh. I’ve been making videos full time since 2010 and have decided to fully dedicate my channel to body positivity and plus size fashion.

I started my YouTube channel, glowpinkstah, when I was in high school just to show a video I made to a friend of mine who lived in LA. After that I posted for fun for a couple of years. I mainly did comedy videos and created characters based on family and friends that I grew up with.

One of my videos went viral and it kind of had a snowball effect on my career. I was partnered with YouTube, took my first ever plane ride to NYC for work, was on George Lopez’s talk show “Lopez Tonight,” was on One Tree Hill & had a part written for me in a movie called Along The Roadside. As my career evolved I started sharing my experiences being a plus sized woman and has since led me to where I am today. Plus size fashion was always something I wanted to dabble in and since high school it has become a huge part of my career.

 

Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah

Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah in a blue coat

 

What is it like for you as a plus woman of colour and blogger?

I grew up in a pretty diverse, and at the time, less desirable area of San Jose but I did notice that I was treated differently. When I went to malls as a teen I’d be followed around and remember being asked to leave my backpack behind the front counter of some stores.

Even as an adult, and I specifically remember this because it’s happened twice in the same location. I had an appointment at an Apple store to get my laptop fixed on a busy day and was waiting for over half an hour at the genius bar and I politely asked multiple times when it’d be my turn. After a while an older white man comes up to the genius bar and says passive aggressively “Well i guess it’s like the doctor’s office. You show up and don’t know when you’ll be seen” and a good two minutes after he arrived someone saw him and I waited another 15 minutes before I got any help.

Another time I walked in with my husband so he could get help with his laptop. He’s also white, handsome, easy to talk to, and I’ve noticed that he always gets treated differently to me whenever we’re out. When we were at the same Apple store on a busy day he was helped immediately and I wasn’t acknowledged even if though was sitting right next to him. Same at Abercrombie and Fitch. Not a single hello to me and when my husband used to shop there he’d be treated like a first class citizen whereas I was just this fat person who wouldn’t fit into their clothes anyway so why bother speaking to me?

 

Who are your favourite British plus WOC?

I absolutely love Stephanie Yeboah, but WHO DOESN’T?! She’s so honest about how she sees things and also has a nerdy side to her. Alison Hammond always makes me cackle, I love the way she interviews people and the jokes she makes never fail to make me laugh. Bodyposipanda aka Megan Jayne Crabbe is also just a ray of sunshine. Not only do I have total hair envy (I wish my hair color was as epic as hers) but I find her story inspiring.

 

What can the plus community do to ally with you?

I’ve finally started to realize the meaning behind the phrase “women help women.” I just started a little series on my youtube channel, where I talk about other plus size women that people should be following if they aren’t already. I think what we can do for each other is lift each other up and support one another’s accomplishments instead of being jealous and bring each other down. I know that there have been times where I’ve been ALL kinds of petty-jealous of someone else’s success and I’ve learned that being bitter isn’t worth my time.  It’s always easier said than done to not compare yourself to others so let’s just lift each other up MKAY?!

 

What are your hopes for the plus community and for WOC in the plus community?

The first thing that comes to mind is more opportunities should be available to WOC. I really hope that someday we’re not an afterthought or people don’t involve WOC in campaigns just to meet a quota. I want people to genuinely understand that the world is a pretty diverse place and there’s so much to learn from people who are different.

 

Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah

Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah in a blue dress

 

How do you deal with insensitivity within the community?

It always sucks when people have awful things to say. I think it stings even worse when fat girls hate on other fat girls. We have similar, if not the same struggles, yet some people like to make others feel miserable. It’s sad. I deal with it by blocking people. I deal with too much crap to be calling out every single person and it’s just better for my mental health to just let things like that go from time to time. There are times that I feel that it’s necessary to respond, and I applaud people who call people out on a daily basis but for me, at this point in time, it’s about blocking negativity out of my life.

 

How do you deal with targeted discrimination and racism, hate speech and prejudice within and outside of the community?

I get people commenting on my videos and posts on instagram telling me they think my husband is gonna leave me, that he’s only with me because I’m fat, he won’t love me if I lose weight. I also get comments like “you’re gonna die soon” and “did your parents ever have children that lived?.” As I mentioned above one way for me to deal is with this is to block people.

Another way I deal with targeted discrimination is, I allow myself to feel down but then I pick myself back up and I keep posting my videos, keep showing these people that their opinions don’t matter and that even though I block them, my response is to always be passionate about what I believe in. My channel revolves around (and this is something I try to live by) self acceptance and loving the skin you’re in.

 

Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah

Gloria Shuri Henry of Glowpinkstah in a lace top

 

In your dream world what opportunities would you like to see plus WOC bloggers having?

I’d love to see more diversity including body types, abilities, and ethnic backgrounds. I do believe things are improving but WOC are still underrepresented. I actually noticed that there are few Asian women represented within the community so seeing more Asian women on the covers of magazines or in the forefront of campaigns would be amazing.

 

What tips can you give other plus WOC? What helps and encourages you?

What encourages me is knowing that there are people out there who have gone through similar struggles as me and continue to strive and be the boss ladies they are. I think people should always take time to feel what they’re feeling. I never benefited from bottling in my feelings and pushing them aside – it would always end badly for me so feel what you feel and when you’re ready, get right back up! Also be kind to others, but that’s something for everyone.

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Thalgo UK Beauty Review

So if you read my review for the best pantos in the UK you’ll remember that I finished panto myself.

Oh yes I have!

Sorry I couldn’t resist.

One of the things that comes with being the fairy godmother is being covered in heavy make up and glitter which lets face it, is great for a while, but add in sickness, stress, anxiety, tiredness, your period, dehydration, a relentless schedule and baking lights on heavy rotation what you will end up with is, for lack of a better phrase, “mash up” skin.

It’s been bad. Y’all I mean it’s been really bad. My skin has been the worst it has ever been and for someone who usually holds pride in my clear skin, I have been learning to adjust to the phase it’s in right now.

Accepting it, not beating myself up or shaming myself for it and just being open to trying out different things to see what it responded to.

There hasn’t been a moment of rest for it. If any of you have been following me, you’ll know I have been working pretty much nonstop the two years and 2018 and 2019 are going to be the same.

Now this is a blessing but my skin is yet to get the memo.

So its become increasingly obvious I need to rehaul my regime.

After asking for tips and recommendations enter Thalgo stage left!

They were kind enough to send me some products to review and review them I did.

I patiently waited until it was January and the panto madness was over so that I could spend the month testing out the products.

I received the perfect matte moisturiser, gentle purifying gel, a mask and the gentle purifying lotion.

Now a little bit about Thalgo! Since 1964 they have been crafting spa and beauty products all based on marine intelligence. They are committed to offsetting their ecological footprint, while also crafting products naturally extracted and beneficial for skincare.

  • I started off using the mask, I did an Instagram story (make sure you follow me so you don’t miss out on first impressions- @michellehopewell) using the mask. Depending on my mood a thick mask can just be too much. I need something that’s going to do the job without feeling like I have to smear on copious amounts.

The products are all marine so they’re water based which is great because they’re not thick and over baring. The mask went on smoothly and I didn’t need multiple layers. It dried relatively quickly, I washed it off and it felt wonderful. No dryness and no residue.  Lush!

  • The perfect matte moisturiser, can we just talk about it. I’m obsessed. Now ask any black girl and she will tell you that we will not just use any face cream. It has to be right, not too heavy, not too light because then our face can get ashy and the balance is just hard to crack. But for me I think they might have done it. A couple of squeezes is enough to cover my face and keep me going for a long time. I tend to reapply at this time of year because the weather is so cold I dry out quickly, but the consistency isn’t too heavy and doesn’t add any extra oil to my face.
  • Face washes can be equally as tricky for me but I’ve really been enjoying the purifying gel because its not too harsh and it doesn’t leave your skin with that horrible dry feeling. I found it’s been great for leaving me feeling cleansed and actually removing those last particles of dirt and makeup that lingers. So I nick named it, glitter be gone!
  • Last up is the purifying lotion. Now don’t be mad but I’m new to the cleansing after washing your face and before moisturizing and I can honestly say its changed the game, not to mention this particular products mattifying abilities that low key made me feel as if I had already put a primer on! It really helps to cleanse the skin, and I found it’s quite good at tightening my pores and giving that overall tight and almost blurred look that is a wonderful start to a facebeat.

Now I will say that with my sensitive skin I found that sometimes I was worried all the products would be too harsh but actually it was fine, but I will say that if you have hyper sensitive skin, these might not be the right product for you!

Overall the products are great for those who don’t necessarily have sensitive skin and are combination of oily and dry. the water base of the products means you are getting the hydration your skin sorely needs with adding more oil!

If you fancy treating yourself on some of these cold and grey mornings, why not try some of the Thalgo spa products!

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Press Night – The Dream Dress

In case you didn’t know (Why not?! You should be following me on insta @michellehopewell) we have officially begun tour life for Matilda the musical and we are teching in Leicester. Tech is when we run all the technical aspects of the show, lights, automation, sound  in line with wigs, make up, costumes, scene transitions and all that dress rehearsal jazz. We tech for a month, open and then have the first of what will be many a press night for the next 18 months.

Now this is hella exciting and not just because I get to be part of one of the most incredible British musicals with an obscenely talented cast of children and adults, but also because with each press night is a chance for a new outfit and honestly a new slay!

So with that in mind I need to get strategizing, y’all! I thought I’d share seven of my favourite dress options out there at the moment.

dress

We all know that I have my inner bougie Queen and so I can’t help thinking this Taller Than Your Average bandeau maxi dress with a slit would have my living my full life! It’s probably not practical for this weather or a children’s musical but would I not be walking the carpet like Yonces cousin!

Yes I am still obsessed with off the shoulder even though it’s winter, and so yes this Chi Chi Black Lace Bardot would easily work for me. I love where the waist falls and sometimes working a little full but shorter skirt can be just as sophisticated as anything else!

I have to say that Evans has some slim pickings when it comes to evening wear but this particular number caught my eye. The City Chic fit and flare would be perfect for a press night in a smaller venue, plus teal is my favourite colour and it’s a reasonable price for an occasion dress.

This Boohoo premium plus embroidered and sequined dress should just come with a “For Adults Only”sign because though it’s not appropriate for a press night, I’m sort of obsessed and to be honest I can see myself rocking this on a date night, but only when bae has been really nice to me.

I also like feeling like a princess as well as a badass diva, and this Maya Bardot dress might just be one of the princess dresses of my dream! Could it be any cuter?!

Anything with pockets means that I am sold and this Coast floral skater dress is everything you’d need to look cute on the red carpet.

Standing out is something that when I feel in the mood for, I can’t help but do and honestly couldn’t do anything but that in this Star is Born one shoulder 3D embellished dress. I mean this dress is ready to be the star of the party and you know what? So am I!

Now we really are just window shopping because I have no way to finance this epic party dress fiesta but I tell you that I will do my best to look cute and feel fabulous and in any case. I’ll feel so blessed to be there that I’m sure the shine will still be apparent!

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Dressing Big Arms

Big arms! Some of us have them and they’re beautiful! However, with plus size clothing, some of the designs and cut of tops  don’t keep this in mind and so it means that some things don’t fit. This is rubbish because if you do have big arms you still want to wear blouses and shirts and fitted long sleeved dresses.

You might have read my post about coming to love and accept my big arms. Instead of trying to change my arms, I changed my perspective on them and it feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

Now that I’m letting myself live in a world where I am not ashamed or afraid to hide my body away, I thought I would share some of my favourite pieces from the AW collections that are all about showing a little arm or shoulder action!

First up… ASOS

These arm bands are so in right now and your arms deserve some bling so:

ASOS Arm Cuff

 

Yours

Cold shoulders are pretty much a staple in plus fashion. A lot of people have hypothesized that this is because it is a way to hide upper arms, but I personally think you could use this off the shoulder number as a way to accentuate!

 LIMITED_COLLECTION_Black_Cold_Shoulder_Wrap_Dress_With_Holographic_Glitter_210276_9396

It’s winter and cold but what if you’re going away to find some winter sun? You’ll need this for some evening wear.

Black_Pink_Floral_One_Shoulder_Top

 

New Look

Just because it’s not spring doesn’t mean you can’t wear a cute floral, plus this is on sale!

curves-black-floral-border-print-dress

 

Don’t shy away from short sleeves. Long or short sleeve you’ll rock this gorgeous floral fitted dress!

blue-vanilla-curves-red-floral-tie-back-tulip-dress

 

George

I’m rather late to the jumpsuit game but now I have been converted and I’ll never go back! You don’t need a LBD to slay!

glitter jumpsuit george asda

 

Pink Clove

This is cold shoulder but with a twist and it’s cute af!

plus-cassandra-tie-up-sleeve-skater-dress-p1212-10485_medium

 

Pink Clove know how to do a unique cold shoulder and it’s a wonderful way to show off your arms!

 pink-clove-plus-perina-cold-shoulder-high-neck-cullotte-jumpsuit-p1186-10464_medium

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Why I’m Not Body Positive

Firstly, Happy New Year you wondrous and glorious spirits. Let’s start this year off with something positive!

Secondly, sorry for the controversial and clickbaity title but it seemed like the perfect way to sum up something I have been pondering for a while. I no longer want to describe myself as body positive.

Before you come running at me with pitchforks and torches and screaming for me to be thrown from the bell tower, let me just step back and explain myself.

It goes without saying but…wait no, you’re right. It does need to be said and clarified on the regular because it’s important to check in, but I accept and love my body. I am on a perfectly imperfect journey with my vessel and I have feel gratitude and adoration for the gift of living.

Now that being said let’s get down to business. Mulan pun fully intended.

You see for the last few months in the plus size and body positive community there seems to have been quite a bit of debate about who the body positive movement belongs to. If you’re not aware, then this is a great opportunity to do some homework. The movement and the subsequent culture stemmed from the need for marganilsed bodies, especially those of colour, to create a safe space for themselves to reclaim their own selves, which for so long has been used as a way of shaming, stereotyping and abusing those who live in fat bodies of colour. Bodies that don’t fit into the standards set up for us by society and my the media. Bodies that are not regularly celebrated but are regularly subjugated for whatever the convenience might be.

Bearing that in mind the movement swept across the globe and of course for so many of us who have felt “other” and experience exclusion frequently, there was suddenly something that meant we would without a doubt be included and accepted.

A community where you could unapologetically exist without the fear of not being good enough or fitting in or the breeding ground for continuous self loathing.

Suddenly there were empowered bodies on mass and the platform was social media. People all over the world were bearing their souls and accepting themselves – not only that but uplifting and encouraging each other to find their own similar freedom.

In a world where conglomerate businesses make their biggest revenue from our insecurities, surely this would have been some of the most terrifying and threatening shows of the human spirit incarnate.

With that in mind, body positivity doesn’t really belong to anyone. The idea of being positive about your body and loving your body is something that should be universal.

It shouldn’t be that some people get to love themselves and others don’t. So please regardless of who you are and even if it’s uncomfortable, love yourself.

Now what is important is to acknowledge that there has not always been an equal ground for all people to love themselves regardless of who they are.

For a long time it’s been okay to love yourself if you slot into the bracket of what is ideal western beauty. This means that the majority of the world is then being told they are not to love themselves. They are being told to do everything they can to change themselves until they can fit because nothing will change to accommodate them.

I don’t have to ask many to imagine a world where they don’t have a space to exist because it’s the reality in which most of us lived a good chunk of their lives.

So enter body positivity for marginalised bodies. “Other” bodies. Bodies that do not necessarily fit into the norm. Enter a world in which those bodies can dismantle every dangerous, unhealthy and damaging lie and self hating tactic they have learned over the years.

It’s a thing of beauty. Self aware, courageous, fierce, strong people coming together to create something that means they can not only survive in their bodies and lives but thrive. I get all tingly thinking about it!

By now we’ve all heard of the idea of privilege and being aware of your individual privileges and not using them to bully or shame your way into gaining even more opportunities than many do not have. That’s what has been happening recently. The capturing and colonizing of a movement that’s purpose was once sacred becoming currency. A money maker. A fad. A trend.

No longer about acceptance but entirely about changes that do not benefit the mind, heart and soul, but are soley are about the body fitting into a different but still purchased version of western beauty disguised as body positivity. This comes around because of the abuse of our privileges; and so consequently I have spent many weeks thinking about whether I am contributing to the destruction of something that helped be the remaking of my mindset.

I spent nights in my bed fretting about whether if any blame lay with me. Sensitive to the end I shed tears wondering if I was part of hindering anyone’s journey as a trigger, comparison counterpart or taking up space that someone else might sorely need. So I started thinking about how to leave room for those who might truly need it to have a safe space to exist within this community.

I decided that I won’t ever say I’m further on in my journey than I am. I won’t speak for anyone other than myself but I will pray for and encourage as many others as possible. I will encourage anyone that finds me hindering in their own journey to feel no guilt in choosing to not follow me. I will be aware of my privileges in the community and I will speak for those of us who are minorities and I will champion others doing the same.

So I am self accepting. I am body loving. But I am not a body positivity leader; and for those who are, I salute you, I thank you and I am with you!

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Woc Spotlights – Tara

Next up on our wonderful Woc Spotlight is Tara! It’s been a pleasure sourcing all these amazing bloggers of colour and having them talk about their stories and perspectives. Long may we continue to celebrate and champion our incredibly diverse plus community!

Tell me a little bit about yourself! What’s your background and when did you start blogging?
I started blogging approximately 1 year ago, I am putting together a bunch of giveaways to celebrate which I am SO excited about! I am a mixed race (South American and Jamaican) English Literature and Linguistics Graduate (BA Hons, MA) from London and I run a tuition company where I teach English, Science, Maths and French to a range of children and adults.

Writing was my first passion, I had started many projects from poetry to novellas before I began blogging. Beauty has always been a deep rooted passion of mine, but it is only when I became inundated with questions on my social media, that I decided to start my blog! I write about beauty products, conduct reviews and I also write about hair care, skin care, lifestyle, travel and plus size fashion too. I really want to get more into the plus size fashion world and am looking forward to putting together some new content.

What is it like for you as a British plus woman of colour and blogger?
It is…interesting. There are so many representations of different women. But mixed race, black, Asian and Plus size? Not really. In addition to this, I find the representations unfairly contrived and unimaginative. Brands and social moguls all seem to be the ‘acceptable’ version of plus size: great skin, not too many stretch marks (or edited out) no rolls, no back fat, no cellulite, no dark patches under arm pits or between legs….to me…that is just not life.

 

Who are your favourite British plus WOC?
Grace Victory is definitely my favourite plus sized WOC from the UK. She has an amazing message and isnt afraid to speak out on sore subjects too. If you are in a position of power, I always have much more respect for people who use it wisely.

What can the plus community do to ally with you?
I wish that the Plus sized community supported other plus sizers in more than just the fashion field, not just showing support for plus size fashion bloggers. If I see a plus sized, WOC, I do my best to support; whether they are in the travel, beauty, fashion, parenting… Regardless of genre. I will give their content a try and support through a like, a view, a share. If it doesn’t end up being ‘my thing’ then it is not the end of the world. I find the plus sized community do not branch out enough and read/explore the internet as much as they could and should!

What are the important topics we should know that British plus WOC are dealing with?
Brands are catching on, but people need to realise that plus sized WOC have NOT been represented for long, it is only in the past 1 – 2 years that we have been seeing ourselves represented in the media, in adverts on TV, in magazines etc. There has been a huge lack of representation for a long long time.

Celebrating plus WOC then, is not an attack on every other type of woman, it is simply a cry of pleasure and rejoicing that finally, people are acknowledging us.

There is also a damaging stereotype which projects a bad attitude or boyish, violent and unstable personalities upon plus sized women of colour, which disables them from being feminine, elegant, pure, simply beautiful like other women in the industry (acting, singing, modelling, blogging, beauty etc) It is almost like big women of colour need to have huge personality to be funny or outrageous, they can never simply be beautiful.

What are your hopes for the plus community and for WOC in the plus community?
I hope that there will be more opportunities for exposure for models, singers, bloggers and others who want to earn recognition for their talents. After all, there are some talented plus size women of colour out here! If our appearance is normalised, perhaps we will be considered for more roles than just the wacky friend or an extra with attitude in films, or an ‘alternative’ blogger.

How do you deal with insensitivity within the community?
Luckily, I have not had to deal with too much. But my only method of ‘dealing’ with insensitivity – people who protest that racism/prejudice or plus size/body bashing doesn’t exist, those few size 12-14 models who have an hour glass shape with no rolls or stretch marks who say that they ‘represent all’ plus size WOC – is to ignore it.

I know what is out there, for plus sized women and for WOC. I read Twitter comments. I see comments on Instagram. I hear when guys say ” You’re actually really pretty in real life” There is so much subtext to people’s compliments. So much hidden thoughts behind protests and choices from brands. I usually name and shame or share, but ignore in a sense, to conserve my sanity and self esteem. I do not want to taint my message of love and positivity with the prejudice of others.

How do you deal with targeted discrimination and racism, hate speech and prejudice within and outside of the community?
Again, similar to the last question, I choose to ignore it. I rise above all instances of discrimination but with social media accessible to many, now I share all instances and experiences to raise awareness on such issues.

In your dream world what opportunities would you like to see plus WOC bloggers having?
I would like to see more bloggers with DIFFERENT shapes and sizes model clothes, raise awareness about feminine points of interest; fitness, leisure, love, sex, relationships, fashion, beauty, hair etc.

 

💙

A post shared by Tara Wilson (@tzonetara) on

What tips can you give other plus WOC? What helps and encourages you?
Follow inspirational women. Women who support women. Read body-positivity blogs, to help broaden horizons and help come to terms with insecurities and worries that ALL women have. Sometimes it is easy to think we are alone in our insecurities. I did. It is only when I saw on social media that other women had folds, other women had stretch marks, MANY women have cellulite that I realised I was not alone.

 

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Learning to Love My Big Arms

arms

I used to – and admittedly sometimes still do – have a massive problem with my arms. You see, I have big arms and excess skin and there’s nothing that I’ve ever done that has made them any smaller. They jiggle and flap and I used to detest them so much that the thought of anyone seeing them made me break into a cold sweat. Heck. Even me seeing them made me break out in a cold sweat. They were one of the many things about myself that I couldn’t accept.

On my journey of self acceptance I’m working hard towards learning how to not only accept my big arms, but love them. It took me so long to wrap my mind around the fact that everyone else around me didn’t have this thing and that I might never be able to or want to change to my arms to be anything else. It’s taken years of layering and cardigans regardless of temperature and weather, to resolve myself to the fact that I can do more than just survive big arms – I can thrive!

It wasn’t an overnight change. The reality was I had lived more than a decade finding new ways to dislike my body and new ways to punish and shame myself because of it. I thought my body was a failure in it’s entirety and then I felt like I was failing just dedicating so much energy to hating myself!

Even though I had a support system of people telling me that they loved me and that I was beautiful – and because of my faith I had a belief that I was loved by God – I still felt like I wasn’t worthy of any of their love, let alone love from myself. From the moment I was old enough to understand that I was bigger than all of my petite friends, I knew that I had to do all I could to hide the fact.

Imagine 10 year old Michelle. She would have full on melt downs at home if her only clean PE kit involved wearing shorts. How sad that even from a young age we’re already afraid of our bodies. Already disappointed that they don’t meet a westernised standard of beauty. While the rest of my friends and peers wore cute tops and dresses showing off their arms, I spent most of time agonising over why they didn’t just put sleeves on summer clothes. I took to borrowing t-shirts off of my older brother purely because men’s t-shirts have longer sleeves!

I wore cardigans on top of nearly everything and in nearly all weather. If the shirt I was wearing sported short arms, I had my trusty long sleeved shirt to wear underneath. Thankfully in the early 2000 layering was the fashion so no one questioned me, but as time went on the people around me started questioning what was obviously an uncomfortable choice.

Sometimes I would say I was just cold, sometimes I would jokingly said I was making a fashion statement and then sometimes if I was feeling really vulnerable I would feel attacked and get on the defensive. What did it matter? It wasn’t anyone’s business! Surely I can just wear it and not have a problem!

Years of this never-ending cycle started to wear thin on me. I had to face facts. I didn’t like my body, I especially didn’t like my arms and something had to change. The journey to that change has been long, hard and tiring, sometimes I take 10 steps forward only to feel like I have taken 8 steps back, but I’m learning that judging myself on that is relative because any progress is still progress.

The first time I wore something that showed my arms I felt my heart palpitate. I had allowed it to be come such a deeply rooted psychological fear that actual symptoms were manifesting, but as with many things: sometimes jumping head-first can be the way to assuage that fear. That’s exactly what I did. I allowed myself to be in positions where I had to show my arms. Whether it was going swimming, changing in front if people or not making excuses as to why I had to keep my t shirt on for a costume fitting, eventually the fear began to dissipate.

There was no quick-fix and it hasn’t been easier by any means but that’s the point of a journey.

It doesn’t matter what our journey looks like, what matters is that we are on it.

The body acceptance movement opened new doors on my journey. Suddenly I was seeing all kinds of people happily and proudly loving their bodies. I saw other women with big arms not living in fear of people seeing them and proudly baring them. It gave me the confidence to begin doing this myself so that eventually I found my own courage and strength. Until eventually it was no longer even an act of bravery to do so, it was just living.

I still have times where I struggle with my arms. When I look at them and worry about why they don’t look like someone else’s but then I remember that that is the beautiful part of it. They don’t look like someone else’s. They look like mine. They belong to me. They are a gift to me. Gifts are worth cherishing and loving and that’s exactly what I aim to do.

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