July 31st was my 36th birthday and I decided to do another photo shoot with Laura Dark (an excellent photographer from Columbus, Ohio). I did a shoot with her before and, at over 300 pounds, have been trying to edge into plus size modeling. Being a fat girl since puberty, I know people bear scars from adolescence that can last most of their lives. I remember seeing my baby sitter read Cosmo as a small kid and feeling like magazines like this were there to celebrate femininity. As I got older, I realized a lot of the trends my peers were sporting weren’t available in my size. Cosmo, Seventeen, and all the other fashion mags forgot about girls like me. In time, my interests shifted to art, friends, romance, and most of all rock n roll. I idolized women like Bettie Page and studied the girls in John Water’s movie, Crybaby. I was in love with their looks. I heard that look called everything from Pinup, punk, a bit goth, rockabilly, and retro.
Whatever you call it, my fashion sense was edgier and I had to be creative. Before the 90s, plus size fashion companies thought you needed to dress like a Pilgrim. It wasn’t really until the early 2000’s that I saw people carrying plus size styles I liked. I remember seeing the emergence of alternative models who had bright neon hair and tattoos, but for the most part, they were built like straight size models. On the other hand, I don’t recall seeing big women modeling, not even in plus size ads or on the websites selling plus size clothes. I was tickled pink when I saw a picture of Tess Holliday (Munster, then). I thought “This woman is absolutely gorgeous! This is who should be modeling plus size clothing!” which, however, oddly often still falls to straight size models.
In the last few years, I started following the “Eff your beauty standards,” campaign, the Militant Baker, Volup2, and Adipositivity and found lots wonderful people in the body positivity community. I began sharing the words of the wise before I fully believed them. It has taken me a long time to learn to love myself and to deprogram fat hate. I was amazed when I saw the Fattitude trailer and thought “If this was a mandatory watch in middle school, life would be so much better for so many people!” And now, here I am writing an article about my birthday photo shoot, and I feel like maybe this is my shot to help someone else who may not be in a happy place with their body. There is an exciting revolution at hand. People that aren’t the mainstream Hollywood expectation of beauty are becoming visible and we are demanding inclusion!
Over the years I have combed thrift shops for vintage fashion, learned the right e-bay keywords, and found some reliable vendors. I’ve played in hair and makeup and my arty friends have always had so much fun playing dress up. I’ve been asked to model for friends photography classes. When I started sharing pictures on social media I had so many people tell me I should try modeling so I booked some shoots. I posted pictures and had someone say, “I wish I could pull that off. I can’t dress like that or do that kind of makeup.” It is hard to break away from that way of thinking. I try and tell them that fashion and cosmetics are for anyone who wants to use them. Sometimes they make you feel glamorous and sometimes, if you don’t feel like being glamorous, they won’t. It runs deep and finding comfort with your own body is difficult. Feeling beautiful and worthy without all the flash is much harder. I feel like the only reason I can step out at 36 years old and over 300 pounds is because I have learned to accept the unpolished product. I have weak moments, times where I hope no one wants to take a picture of me, but I am working on loving myself in the raw. Acceptance and love of your body, as it is right now, is so important. It’s a hard job and I am not perfect at it, but trying is key.
I would love to represent women my size and show them that clothing fits bodies like ours. I’ve shared photos on plus sites and had clothing companies ask me to share them on their walls. I do want to be a model, but not just for myself. I want it for all the women who have issues (physical or mental) and feel like the world doesn’t welcome them. I want them to see someone they can relate to and know that body confidence can happen for them too. I also post pictures unpolished and let people know they don’t deserve to be treated differently, no matter what they are wearing. This for all of us IF we want it, but not mandatory if we don’t. No one owes anyone beauty. Many may feel horrified about the thought of getting photos taken of themselves in lingerie and then having the results shared with the world and there was a time when I would have, as well. It all boils down to comfort levels.
I do enjoy it myself. I love having my hair and makeup done, having a set built around my outfit, meeting other models. It’s so exciting and fun for me. On my birthday shoot the photographer and her team were so supportive. I told them what I wanted to do and why and they made it happen!
As of yet, I haven’t had anyone say anything negative to me about my pictures. I am sure it could happen someday. There will always be critics, but they are the same who also chastise thin models. I want to tell the people who are into it and curious to give it a try.
They will be surprised how many people think they are perfect just the way they are!
Sudzy Nixon is a 36 year old nurse, mother, feminist, fat activist and aspiring model who has tasked herself with spreading body acceptance and self love throughout the foothills of Appalachian Southern Ohio and beyond. She is in the process of starting a local support group for body positivity.
*This blog post is the opinion of a particular Fattitude intern or guest blogger – and does not necessarily reflect the position of Fattitude, Inc.