BoPo Monday Interviews
Let's talk about bodies. Well, body positivity that is. Every Monday, we will hear from another individual related to all things BoPo. Quarter Life Crisis is my space to talk about everything that I feel and all that I believe in. But, here and through these interviews, we will hear other people feel about body positivity and the body positivity community. I'm am hopeful that along the way we will encounter opposing opinions to mine and we can delve into some great conversation about something that is so important to me. Among other questions, they will have an important question to answer: what does body positivity mean to you?
Today, we're getting into body positivity and plus size modeling with Ximena!
Toni: You know where I start- full name?
Ximena: My full name is Ximena, pronounced hee-meh-nah, Valentina Alvear
Toni: That is beautiful. I would be screaming it from the mountaintops and making sure everyone knew it! Any nicknames?
Ximena: Some of my friends and family call me Mena or Xime.
Toni: Tell me about yourself. Who are you? What do you love?
Ximena: I'm about 3 weeks away from turning 22, I'm half Chilean and half Venezuelan and I'm the only one in my immediate family to be born in the states. When I'm not modeling I’m a barista at a Starbucks. I absolutely love to sing and have always wanted to do it professionally. I think I’m hilarious. I have a lot of great friends who fill my life with fun and laughs.
Toni: We connected through Instagram. I was so blown away by your feed. Not only are you stunningly beautiful, but it looks like you’ve been modeling for years. When did you start?
Ximena: The first job I ever had was at torrid when I was 17 and my store had an Instagram page run by our store manager. She would have me dress up in some of the clothes we had on sale and "model" them so she could post them on our page. That was the first time I ever did anything sort of like modeling. A couple years later, a friend of mine asked if I'd want to do a photoshoot just for fun because she had a nice camera. After doing that with her a couple of times- also perfecting my selfie game- I realized that modeling might be a possibility for me and I decided to start an Instagram page and just see where it went. It grew faster and larger than I expected. I never really thought I'd actually be paid to model and have it be something I took so seriously but now it's my goal to make this a full-fledged career.
Toni: That is awesome. It sounds like this all happened so naturally, like it was really meant to be. Where do you get style inspiration?
Ximena: I get a lot of my style inspiration from social media and celebrity styles. I've said the phase "Oh my god, I love this. It’s so Kanye West" more times than I’m proud of. I typically like to be very on trend with the street style. I love taking a tomboy-ish style like sneakers and a men’s t shirt and giving it a sexy edge by adding some fishnets or cutting the shirt into a crop top. I find so much cute stuff in the men’s section of stores and I feel like a lot of girls neglect that area.
Toni: One of the most important questions in this interview- what does body positivity mean to you?
Ximena: Body Positivity for me means actively trying to change the societal mindset that we must hate our bodies, that something is always wrong with them somehow. Loving yourself and your body unapologetically- especially when your body doesn’t fit the "norm"- is seen as an act of rebellion almost and that shouldn’t be the case. Body positivity means loving your body simply because it’s yours instead of picking apart every little problem and comparing yourself to others.
Toni: How did body positivity come into your life?
Ximena: I think body positivity came into my life when I started that job at Torrid. I was the youngest girl that worked there at the time so I worked with other plus women a few years older than me who I really looked up to. I would get to style other plus women in outfits that made them feel confident and beautiful and I saw so many gorgeous plus women who were so confident while I was working there that it made me start to realize my body was beautiful too.
Toni: It sounds like working at Torrid was an incredibly positive experience for you. Do you wish you had BoPo earlier in your life?
Ximena: I think it would've been helpful to have more body positivity as a I was growing up in middle school and early high school. Being called fat back then was like a knife to the heart- but if I get called fat now I'm just like okay- and what?
Toni: Right! Because we’ve never heard that before. Take me back to middle school. Take me back ten years.
Ximena: I’m a few weeks away from turning 22 so 10 years ago I was a chubby and awkward 12-year-old who had grown up wearing maternity jeans to school because my mom had no idea how to dress a fat child. I was young though and thought the stretchy band was cool. But around this time my older brother had a girlfriend who was plus sized and we got along really well and she took me back to school shopping and introduced me
to plus size fashion. She gave me a total style makeover and I credit her with really sending my life in the direction its gone. My style obsession started there.
Toni: Who do you look to for BoPo inspiration when you need it?
Ximena: I look to other plus models who are slaying the game. I look at other girls with bodies like mine and I see that they're confident and crushing it so i can too. I think it'll do so much good for your own self confidence if you can find other women who you think are beautiful who share similar qualities with your body. Eventually you will start to realize that if those women are beautiful you are too.
Toni: What is your favorite part of your body?
Ximena: Definitely my butt. Also my thighs. They're huge but I love the womanly feel they give me. A lot of girls hate having thick thighs but mine make me feel so sexy and strong. #teamthunderthighs
Toni: I know that’s right, you betta werk, As a plus size model, what are your goals? How do you want to slay this industry?
Ximena: I want to be signed to an agency and start working for companies like Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe. I think the industry right now highlights the "ideal" plus woman. Meaning a size 12/14, perfectly proportioned, with little to no tummy fat, arm fat, or rolls. Don't get me wrong, I think these girls are beautiful and have done so much to help grow the community but, girl I have a belly. I have big arms. I want to see what that body con dress is going to look like on my tummy. I want to represent another type of plus size body and really bring that to the forefront.
Toni: That is so important! To see people who look like us. To see chubby babes, fat babes rocking the dresses that the size 12s have had the chance to. I love that you are trying to do that for the girls coming up. I absolutely love it. Now with that said, how do you feel about representation in the body positivity community?
Ximena: I touched on this one a little bit already but we really need to start showcasing many kinds of plus bodies. I want to see tall, short, pear shaped, apple shaped, small chested, big chested, and everything else being just as praised as the bodies we are celebrating now. We need more diversity.
Toni: Now, I have said the “f” word. Can you define “fat” for me?
Ximena: The word fat has such a bad reputation when really all it means is overweight. It’s not a terrible word if you don't let it be. I refer to myself all the time as fat all the time because I am and it gives me the power back. No one can hurt me by calling me fat if I say it myself. But, fat does not mean ugly. Let me say that again, FAT DOES NOT MEAN UGLY. I hate when I casually refer to myself as fat and then someone goes, "No, oh my god you're not fat!” First of all, shut up. Yes, I am. Who are you trying to fool? Then they follow up with " You're beautiful." Uhm... Bitch, did I say I was ugly? No! I am significantly overweight, which is neither inherently good nor bad, it’s just a fact, and that’s all that being fat means to me.
Toni: Yes, yes, yes. One million times yes! I am fat as hell, but ugly, I could never be that. Yes girl! Any new projects you'd like to talk about?
Ximena: 2018 is going to be my grind year. I'm giving myself one more year of working my butt off to really start making some big moves or I’m just going to call it quits if it’s not progressing the way I want it to. In
the new year I'll be starting a YouTube channel where I'll talk a lot about the fat experience in general and a bunch of other body positive related stuff, too, so I’m pretty excited for that.
Toni: How do you spread your own body positive messages?
Ximena: I wear crop tops, and shorts and tight dresses and things that people would think are reserved for thin women. I carry myself with a confidence that makes some uncomfortable because "Oh my god, she’s fat why is she so confident?" If I can show other women that it’s okay to unapologetically love their bodies, hopefully they can do it too.
Toni: I love this question because it always varies. Do you have any advice for anyone who is trying to love who they are and how they look, but aren't quite there yet?
Ximena: Everyday tell yourself 3 things you love about your body. Try to stop the self-deprecating comments in your head when you notice you're thinking them. Also, if you look good you'll feel good. I know that if I just roll out of bed, head a mess, no makeup on and walk out the house in a dirty sweatshirt I’m not going to feel too confident. You gotta put time and effort into making yourself feel good. Do/wear whatever makes you feel most like a goddess. Eventually you'll start to feel that way all the time.
Toni: Anything else you would like to say?
Ximena: To all the people who have helped me along this journey so far- friends, photographers, followers- thank you. The little 10-year-old tomboy fat girl would've never imaged she could feel this beautiful. All I want is to help all of you feel that way for yourselves too.
How can people follow you or get in contact with you?
My Instagram is where you'll find everything, @ximenavmodels.
And with that, we have another interview down, another opinion heard. As always, I want to thank Ximena for taking the time to answer these questions and for connecting with me. Make sure you keep up with her, I know I see big things in her future. Don't sleep y'all!
Like many of the BoPo friends I have made, I found Jelissa scrolling through one of the BoPo hashtags on insta. To find out that this girl stumbled into modeling through a friend is beyond me, can we look at this queen? I am so excited to get into this with Jelissa, so let’s do it.
Toni: You know where I have to start- name?
Jelissa: Jelissa Iris. Some of my friends call me Jay but most of the time just go by my name.
Toni: Tell me about yourself. What do you love?
Jelissa: I’m a regular girl from a Toronto. I love the arts- well anything creative to be honest. Music, art, and fashion are my loves!
Toni: After finding you on insta and stalking you, it seems so obvious to me that you are a complete natural in front of the camera. When did you start modeling?
Jelissa: This just kinda just happened. One of my good friends Sasha, also @flawsofcouture, asked me to model for her line. For the longest time, she would ask and I was a chicken. This year, I said it’s gonna be my “F it” year and I’m gonna do anything I’m scared of. I’ve also always wanted to do fashion posts but again I was scared to and I forced myself out of my comfort zone and here I am.
Toni: I think that is incredible. You are actively facing your fears. To say, “Ya know what- I’m terrified, but I am gonna do it anyway,” that is more than admirable. What about fashion- where do you get style inspiration?
Jelissa: Men’s fashions and queen street hipsters. Honestly If I like it, I wear it. Clothes are a form of expression. Wear what you want. I just like to be comfortable, that’s most important. I’m clumsy, ha! I don’t want to look like Bambi in these streets.
Toni: Haha! You are cracking me up. But, I feel that. That’s why I stay away from heels, even though I could use the extra height at 5’1”. Let’s talk bodies girl. What does body positivity mean to you?
Jelissa: Body positivity means me… Loving me for me and appreciating me in the “now,” regardless of my current weight. It’s taken me so long to get here, but I’m here and I need to celebrate me!
Toni: That’s beautiful. It took me a long time to get to that place, too. I’m happy for you. Where did body positivity come into your life?
Jelissa: Body positivity honestly came into my life in the last few years. I would always hide myself and try to make myself small to fit in. The older I got I just started to have a “I don’t care” attitude towards the negative comments.
Toni: Do you wish you had body positivity earlier in your life? Is there a time specifically that you think it would have helped you?
Jelissa: Absolutely! Like I never say girls who looked like me, there wasn’t the Ashley’s, Nadia’s or the bloggers and models/ influencers like there is now. I would hide in boys clothes or looking like someone’s Aunty... not cute!
Honestly end of elementary and high school it would have been great because I didn’t think I was beautiful. Of course you’d hear it from your family but you have to love me so y’all don’t count! It’s crazy because now people who I had the crushes on are telling me they wish they had the courage to speak to me back then. Welp! Their loss! Haha.
Toni: Isn’t is funny how that works! They always want you when it’s too damn late. Take me back about ten years. Who were you?
Jelissa: I was a shy church girl, like deep in the church. Singing, drawing and playing make up. I honestly feel the same just out of my Steve Urkle phase.
Toni: Okay, now take me ten years in the future. Who are you?
Jelissa: Honestly the same, but showing the younger girls and women who look like me they are beautiful just the way they are and that is just from me living in my own truth!
Toni: I love that. Women empowering women! We need more of it. Who do you look to for body pos inspiration when you need it?
Jelissa: Honestly my friends are great for that! Like my friend, Chanelle. Anytime I’m having a moment, cause everyone has those times, she reminds me “Shut up you’re BOMB, “ and I shake it off and keep it moving!
Toni: What is your favorite part of your body?
Jelissa: I have moments. Sometimes it’s my booty and sometimes my shoulders, I know random, but my collarbone is popping!
Toni: Girl, not random. If it’s poppin, its poppin. How about this- define “fat.”
Jelissa: It’s a word; it doesn’t define me!
Toni: For so long I let that word define me. I let others let it define me. After letting that happen for so long, I still find myself struggling at times.Do you struggle with anything related to your body?
Jelissa: Yes, I absolutely hate my old Aunty arms, but womp, they are there. Imma have to live with it, haha!
Toni: How do you feel about representation in the body positivity community?
Jelissa: Honestly, I just want to see more diversity. Sometimes everyone looks the same or they only feature the same girls. Or, you have the girls who do the extreme parading of themselves. I’m here thinking, I just want to be treated like any other person... just remind people we are the norm and average.
Toni: That makes so much sense. I feel it, sometimes everything can seem so extra. But, I also understand why BoPo babes are extra, ha! How do you spread your own body positive messages?
Jelissa: Just being me love me and appreciating me even when others don’t!
Toni: Alright, this is a question I like to ask. I have a few different answers, as expected. Do you think it is becoming more or less difficult for young people [growing up and] trying to accept/ love their bodies? Why?
Jelissa: Honestly it’s a bit of both... things have definitely progressed since I was in high school, thank God! But now you have era of everyone trying to be the next Kardashian look alike. Getting bodies done like it’s too much. But if you do it do it because you want to, and not feel pressured to change what God created you to be!
Toni: Do you have any advice for anyone who is trying to love who they are and how they look?
Jelissa: There is only one you. You are an original work of art. Love you even if no one else wants to. Things get better you were made for today. You have purpose and are important!Everything happens at the right time. Godspeed!
Toni: How can people follow you or get in contact with you?
Jelissa: You can follow me on my ig, @jelissairis and I’m going to put a fire under my butt to post videos on my YouTube channel!
Toni: Anything else you would like to say?
Jelissa: Be who you want to be, love the way you want to be loved.
I want to thank Jelissa endlessly. I love getting different takes on BoPo, that’s why I am doing these interviews. I want to hear different stories, so thank you to Jelissa for sharing hers! Make sure to follow her.
I have followed Davina on Instagram since late 2015. She has always struck me as a powerful woman, a woman who goes for and gets hers. So, when I reached out for an interview and she agreed with enthusiasm, I was thrilled. Let’s get into this with her!
Toni: I am a partially boring interviewer, full name?
Davina: Davina Faust.
Toni: I have the pleasure of being referred to as “Boog” and “Chicky” by my family. Any nicknames?
Davina: My family has cute names for me, but otherwise no. I like my name a lot, so I prefer to answer to it.
Toni: I really like your name, as well. I have never heard it before and that’s rare! Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Davina: I like to reflect on my childhood, because I truly believe it has guided me to the woman I was always meant to be. When I was 8 years old, I was the heaviest girl in my grade and I was beginning to be tortured by bullies on an almost daily basis. I was haunted by names such as, "wide load," "heifer," and the simple but poisonous, "fat girl."
Toni: The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt,” is bullshit. I can infer, but what did that make you feel like?
Davina: In some way… I felt that I had deserved such punishment. No matter what I'd accomplish, I was always a bit of a failure due to my weight.
Toni: How did the negativity of your younger years take part in forming who you are today?
Davina: Starting January 1, 2011, I vowed to change my life. I realized that I had tried - and failed - to lose weight for years because I was looking for quick fixes. Therefore, I adjusted the goal. Yes, I wanted to lose weight, but not for anything or anyone else. I wanted to take control of my life, to take care of my health, and to challenge myself physically. I began a blog mostly for purposes of accountability. My weight loss journey was a slow, tedious, challenging process. But, the time was well worth the investment. I hit my goal of losing 50 lbs, and now I've kept it off for almost 5 years!
Toni: Wow. I know from experience, losing weight can be easy, but keeping it off is really tough. So many people end up reverting back to their unhealthy habits and inherently putting the weight back on. How did you manage to keep the weight off and find a love for fitness and health?
Davina: I recognized my potential - and my joy - to pay it forward as a health coach. I want other people to recognize that they can smash ANY goal they set for themselves, and they do not need to be afraid of the process. My blog remains active, and I have an up-and-coming channel on the BONBON Networks as well as YouTube. I am most passionate about empowering women who struggle with emotional eating and other stress-related disorders and guiding them to be healthy not out of punishment, but out of self-love. I'm creating courses on how to better serve these women and I'm constantly pushing myself to learn more. I'm currently pursuing a certification with Precision Nutrition and I am hoping to soon enroll with the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I'm certified by AFAA and ISCA Fit as a kickboxing and PiYo Live instructor; I teach classes around NYC. And, finally: I am a giant dork who is in a committed relationship with peanut butter.
Toni: A busy, beautiful and empowered dork. A woman after my own heart. Peanut butter is incredible. I hope you never feel bad about that. What about a fun fact about you?
Davina: I moved to New York on two weeks' notice... for a job that laid me off two months later. Four years later, I'm still here! Everything truly happens for a reason.
Toni: Do you remember at what age or a specific time you noticed “having a body” and that bodies were different? If so, what was that like for you?
Davina: When I was 8 years old, we were in gym class and it was physical fitness day. Aside from the torturous testing of your personal best amount of pushups/situps/etc, we stood in line to receive our height and weight. Our numbers were recorded and handed directly to us on an index card.
Toni: Wow, an index card.
Davina: Right? Like, "Here are some potentially sensitive health statistics, little 8 year old!" I got my numbers and went back to the line. A friend of mine asked, "What does your card say?" I showed her, and I soon realized that my "weight" number was much higher than all of the other girls' around me. Pretty soon, my number had been whispered to the front of the line. I remember a boy in class saying something like, "That's how much my brother needs to weigh to play football." Nobody else was like me, so there must be something wrong with me. And, in that moment, my issues with "having a body" began. I was a monster who needed to be fixed right away. These feelings of self-loathing grew worse with age, and by the time I was in high school, my self -confidence was paralyzed. I would take a sharpie and write the word "FAT" across my stomach. I would cry at my appearance and when I saw photos of myself. I would grab every weight loss product, pill, nutrition bar I could find on the shelves and then wonder why they weren't working.
Toni: My heart is breaking for eight-year-old you because I can relate on so many levels. I had such a similar experience in dance when I was eight. But we moved on. You moved on, you grew and here you are.
Davina: Two decades later and 7 years since my lifestyle change, I have come SUCH a long way and I feel so beautiful. But, every now and then, those gremlins will creep in saying things like, "You can't wear (this type of clothing) because (insert body insult here.)" Eating more vegetables and doing kickboxing were the easy parts of my journey. The hardest part - that is STILL in progress - was most definitely rewiring the way my mind works.
Toni: I was going to follow my last comment up. You moved on, but I am sure it was and still is an everyday battle.
Davina: It's a frustrating battle, but most days, I know how to navigate it. A few months ago, I got the affirmation "You are Enough" tattooed on my abdomen, because that is my most difficult body part to love. I wanted to look down and see a constant reminder that I'm worthy no matter what my stomach looks like, and I got it in my mother and grandmother's handwriting so I'd definitely never regret it!
Toni: That is incredible, and I absolutely love the idea of getting a positive affirmation literally tattooed on your body! You can almost never tell yourself otherwise and that kicks ass. What does body positivity mean to you? How would you define it?
Davina: To me, body positivity is walking into a room and lighting it up with your confidence. Body positivity is knowing that you'll never be perfect, but loving those imperfect parts of you whole-heartedly. Body positivity is being comfortable in your skin.
Toni: I love that body positivity has a different meaning for everyone. Where, when and how did body positivity come into your life?
Davina: Body positivity came into my life toward the end of my weight loss journey. I was seeing great results from my healthy nutrition and exercise regimen, but I was still so hard on myself. I realized that I needed to actually practice personal development to work on my confidence. I wrote a list of affirmations that I read to myself every day, and I picked up a few really empowering books with helpful exercises. I continue to set challenging exercise regimens for myself to strengthen this confidence. If I can lift my own body weight, who gives a crap what my body looks like? My body is powerful and beautiful.
Toni: Speaking of your powerful and beautiful body, what’s your favorite part of it?
Davina: One of my genetic gifts has always been my butt (laughs). But, otherwise my shoulders! Growing up, I hated them because I thought they made me look masculine. Now I appreciate how strong and defined they are!
Toni: And if you could compare your body to anything, what would it be?
Davina: This is borderline cocky, but I like to call myself a walking weapon. I lift weights, I do kickboxing… I feel fierce. I’m not saying I’d win in a street fight, but, I think I’d put up a battle that would surprise my opponent!
Toni: Be cocky! You have learned to love yourself and you deserve that.
Davina: I also jokingly see myself as a Kardashian cousin. I absolutely love and appreciate my curves. Twenty years ago, I was bullied for having a shapely butt. Who's laughing now?
Toni: Work it, girl. Love and embrace it all. Now, we have talked about the past and the positives, but do you struggle with anything related to your body? If so, what? How do you work through those struggles?
Davina: Due to carrying my weight for over a decade, I have an excess amount of loose skin on my abdomen. I like to call it a “skin gut.” Although there may be some fat tissue, most of it can be pulled off of my body. Getting my affirmation tattoo was a lot more helpful than I ever imagined it'd be! I also try to focus on the science rather than the emotion of how I'm feeling about my stomach. If I'm feeling negatively, I'll reflect on why I feel the way that I do. I usually can recognize that it's probably water retention or inflammation due to the foods that I ate the night before. When I hold this perspective, I'm much more forgiving of the fact that I'm a human being who sometimes eats cheese which sometimes makes my stomach inflate; instead of my previous mindset of "my stomach looks huge, I must be a monster."
Toni: That all sounds incredibly productive. The negative self-talk is not at all conducive to a positive mind-set. With the mention of negative self-talk, how do you define “fat?”
Davina: A macronutrient that your body needs in order to effectively utilize energy. I have come a long way with this one!
Toni: At this point, you have lost 50 pounds and kept it off. You have fallen in love with yourself. With all of that said, what do you think about diet culture and how do you think it plays into the way we view our bodies?
Davina: The problem that I dealt with for many years growing up is that the industry is incredibly focused on losing weight as rapidly as possible. We’re force fed two-week nutrition systems, juice detoxes, and extreme elimination diets that lead to temporary satisfaction. I didn't successfully keep 50 pounds off of my body by doing it as quickly as possible. I did it through trial-and-error, through challenging myself, through implementing new habits... through years of hard work and through patience. It takes time to reverse habits and it takes time to reverse poor self-esteem. And it's impossible to fail this process - you can't fail if you're still trying. So, I wish the diet culture would stop making extreme promises on a condensed timeline. I wish there were more methods to teach people how to be healthy and happy on a long-term basis.
Toni: I am a person who was deep into a weight loss journey. I lost about as much weight as you have and gained healthy habits, but then it became very unhealthy for me. I was obsessive and punished myself when I binged and gained weight back. I found body positivity at that time. It helped me realize that I was perfect as I was at that time and after that time, before that time and regardless of the changes I wished my body would go through. All of that said, I have found that the body positivity community and weight loss or fitness communities are a bit polarizing. Do you think the body positivity community is inclusive?
Davina: It’s hard to admit, but at times- yes. I generally think it is a powerful movement, but I do feel like I’m a bit on the outside of the niche. I am so inspired by anyone who unapologetically loves what they’ve got, exactly as they are. For me, though, my damage was too deep for too long. My happiest self was uncovered when I began to focus on my health. I not only physically feel better, but – after accomplishing a physical challenge that meant a lot to me, my confidence exploded. So, for me, I became unbelievably happy when I lost weight, which puts me on the outside of many body positive communities. That being said, I lead with love. I'm not going to judge anyone, because we all have very different stories. If you're in a bigger body and you're truly happy, then I want you to shine so damn bright. If you're in a bigger body and you're actively working to become more comfortable in your skin, I'm sending you a tight hug of understanding. I want everyone to stop worrying about what others' bodies look like, and I want them to focus on what their own happiness looks like.
Toni: I love that and your positive outlook. You exude light. Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with me. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Davina: I want to encourage you. And this just isn't about body positivity, but whatever you're going through. If there's a fire in your gut, if there's some feeling that's telling you that you deserve better, you do. If you're thinking about making a change and you're thinking that maybe you deserve better: it means that the wheels are already turning; what you want is already in the process of becoming yours. You just have to show up and take action.
If you are looking to follow Davina, learn more about her or connect with her, she has several ways to do so. Check out her blog here: flabtofierce.com. She has an incredible channel here: tinyurl.com/Davinas/Channel. You can follow her on Instagram and SnapChat at @davinafaust, on Facebook at Facebook.com/flabtofierce.
Another huge thank you to Davina for sharing her truths and her heart with us.
This week we will hear from Angel, a 23 year old self-proclaimed unapologetic, fat hottie. I came across Angel on Instagram after searching #bodypositive. This stunning image of a coy blonde-haired babe popped up. After tapping on the picture, I realized she was using her beautiful body as a way to talk about net neutrality and I was like, “Okay, I’m already obsessed with her.” Then, I scrolled and scrolled and left her page thinking, “Wow, I have to talk to this girl.”
Toni: Let’s get into it, shall we? What’s your full name?
Angel: My name is Angelynn Saffell.
Toni: And, any nicknames?
Angel: My family calls me Ang and friends call me Angel.
Toni: Awesome. So Angel, tell me about yourself!
Angel: I am originally from Ohio but currently live in Texas! I love astrology and crystal healing. I’m very much an activist, mostly online due to mental illness but I have a very passionate soul that loves to help in any way I can. I have 2 dogs who are my world. I’m vegan which means a lot to me. I’m still in the process of going completely cruelty-free, but I know I’ll get there soon. I’m very outspoken about mental illness, it’s a passion of mine and so is working to end stigma.
Toni: Wow! I didn’t realize you were a vegan, too! My year anniversary is coming up. How long have you been vegan?
Angel: I have been vegetarian for 4 year and vegan about 7 months!
Toni: A fellow vegan BoPo babe! So cool! Fun fact about you?
Angel: I can make a noise that sounds like a pigeon and they’re actually respond to me.
Toni: Alright, let’s really dive in here. Do you remember at what age or a specific time you noticed “having a body” and that bodies were different? If so, what was that like for you?
Angel: I was in 1st grade when I first remember having a body that was different to others in my grade. It felt sort of weird. But at that time the bullying had not started, so I wasn’t force fed the idea that my different body was “bad.”
Toni: When was the idea that your body was “bad” or not ideal introduced?
Angel: It was in second grade. I’ll never forget being called fat by a boy I had a crush on. He didn’t like me because I was fat and that was the first time someone told me that my body wasn’t okay to be in.
Toni: So, this idea was introduced at school?
Angel: It was always bullies. I was very lucky to have a family who told me daily that I was lovable and worthy as is.
Toni: What about the kids today? Do you think it is becoming more or less difficult for young people [growing up and] trying to accept or love their bodies?
Angel: I think it’s becoming easier in many ways. When I was growing up I didn’t see anyone in the media that was my size and we didn’t have social media like we do today. It’s a great thing to be able to have access to so many amazing men & women who look like you, who are doing the things you want to do. Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have that. I didn’t have Tess Holiday or Simone Mariposa. I had thin women who looked nothing like me. So, I think that we are moving towards a better place for children growing up in terms of self-esteem & representation.
Toni: What does body positivity mean to you? How would you define it?
Angel: Body positivity means everything to me. It means a reason to keep going at times. I would define it as unlearning society’s “rules” on what is considered beautiful and learning that you’re beautiful no matter how you look.
Toni: Where, when and how did body positivity come into your life?
Angel: Body positivity became a part of my life in 2014, I’d say. I started gaining a following from posing lingerie photos. I started having both men and women message me saying how I was so inspiring. That time was when twitter starting shifting into more of a progressive move in terms of fat bodies. I started seeing women who looked like me post more of their body and I learned the term Body Positive. That moment changed a lot for me.
Toni: What was it like for you to be inspiring others after being told that your body wasn’t good enough?
Angel: It was life changing to be honest. Knowing I inspire others gives me purpose everyday to keep going. It made me feel like for once I was doing something right and I was excelling at it. I was able to reach and help so many people. I felt like all of the years of bullying had lead up to these moments, where I can help others and people want to interview me for my opinions. I was always told as a child and teen that no one would care about what I had to say because I was “fat and ugly,” but the jokes on them!
Toni: Isn’t that the truth! We’ve talked a bit about the past; let’s move on to the present. What is your favorite part of your body?
Angel: My thighs are my favorite part of my body, which to me is amazing considering I used to only wear jeans to cover them. I love how thick they are and how they keep my hands warm in the winter.
Toni: With that said, do you struggle with anything related to your body? If so, what?
Angel: I do struggle with parts of my body still, specifically my tummy and saggy breasts.
Toni: And how do you work through those struggles?
Angel: I choose to put them on display, so I’m forced to love them. I look in the mirror naked every day and repeat loving and caring words to myself. I do my best to be open about my struggles on my social media. It not only helps me let them go, but helps other people know that they’re not alone. I also go to therapy weekly and she helps a lot with understanding why I feel these ways and with learning to have positive thoughts about myself. I know many people don’t have access to mental health care so that’s why I do my best to be a surrogate therapist to as many as I can. Although I’m not a professional, I try to repeat what I have learned.
Toni: How do you yourself spread body positive messages?
Angel: I use Instagram and Twitter to spread my body positive message. My approach is about self-love, acceptance and forgiveness. I truly believe that we must forgive ourselves for the years of self-hate, talking bad about our bodies and forgiving society for forcing these ideas in our heads. I try my best to inform people that a healthy mind is most important. If we cannot heal our minds & our thoughts, we can’t do much else in terms of loving who we are and how our bodies will look during our lives.
Toni: How do you feel about representation in the body positivity community?
Angel: This is a great question. I feel as though there is not enough representation for the women who started the body positivity community. In my opinion, it’s been taken over by women who are size 12-16. They don’t represent me. They don’t go through the same struggles as me in terms of fatphobia. I feel like I only have Tess Holiday and that’s sad to me, that I only have one woman in a community that was started by women who look like me. I love that body positivity has helped so many people, but I also feel like it has forgotten the people who started it in the first place.
Toni: Speaking of Tess, my goddess and beacon of light, do you look to any one specifically for BoPo motivation or inspiration?
Angel: I look towards Tess Holiday & Simone Mariposa the most. They’re who I feel represent me the most and they are very inspiring women. They’re out here succeeding and making a name for themselves in the modeling industry. They’re unapologetic and proud of who they are. They inspire me a lot.
Toni: Both Tess and Simone are known for breaking typical fat-girl fashion boundaries. And I have to say, your style kicks ass! How do you defy fashion expectations as an unapologetic fat hottie?
Angel: It’s all about wearing clothes that make you feel confident and comfortable. Remembering that this is my body, my money, and my life helps a lot too. If they’re not paying for the clothes, their opinion is of white noise. I also think once you wear it once in public, you’ll realize so many people will compliment you. I’ve never had one person actually approach me to tell me that I need to change. Sure, I’ve had stares and whispers but at the end of the day, if YOU feel confident then the rest is history. Don’t let people steal your power from you.
Toni: Where are you favorite places to shop? Where do you go for fashion inspiration?
Angel: I love Torrid, Fashion Nova Curve, Charolette Russe, Target & HerStylePlus. I definitely get fashion inspiration from Simone Mariposa, she is always on point. I also love @FlawsOfCouture. She is completely slaying everyone.
Toni: Anything else you would like to say?
Angel: Remain you, unapologetically. People will always have their opinions and they will want you to bend to fit society’s "normal," but please never do. Never dull your shine to make others comfortable. You’re incredible, beautiful and worthy just as you are.
Toni: Where can people follow you or get in contact with you?
Angel: You can find me on twitter and Instagram at @cosmixhoney.
A huge thanks to Angel for taking time to answer these questions and being a source of inspiration to me and other BoPo babes.
Happy Monday! Today we get to hear from Asia Milia Ware. I connected with Asia a few years back on Instagram and have kept up with her here and there since we first connected. I was so thrilled when I reached out to Asia, asked her to do an interview and she agreed! Asia is beautiful on the inside and out. She runs a successful personal blog and writes for InStyle. As you would expect it to be, her style is incredible and her ambition is captivating. I am ecstatic to hear from her so let’s get into it!
Toni: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Asia: I'm a fashion, fitness and women empowerment blogger- I work at InStyle Magazine and my goal is to inspire women across all platforms of life to live your best life through health, style and just by being all around bomb!
Toni: Fun fact about you?
Asia: I skipped kindergarten, so I've been an overachiever since my young days! Haha!
Toni: Do you remember at what age you noticed “having a body” and that bodies were different? If so, what was that like for you?
Asia: I noticed around the age of 12, I always wore school uniforms so there was not much of a difference to notice. But, I remember the older I got in school and the more dress down days I would have, I had a little more curves in my short skirts and I remember my mom telling me that I couldn't wear everything that my friends wore- referring to my smaller friends of course. It never really bothered me, but when I started to become self-conscious about my body at around 17-18 years old that was a scary time because I did a lot of comparing.
Toni: If you had to define “fat,” how would you?
Asia: Fat is a word people use to put people down who don't fit societies definition of beauty.
Toni: What does body positivity mean to you? How would you define it?
Asia: Body positivity to me is loving every inch of your body even if it may not look like the girls in the media or the girls on Instagram. I define it as being confident in your rolls, curves and even to the people who want the curves and extra voluptuous body parts, body positivity is being happy in what you were given and flaunting that.
Toni: I love that. I think a lot of people get caught up in wishing they looked like IG models and people who get paid to use their body’s for marketing and ads. What is your favorite part of your body?
Asia: My favorite part of my body is my waist, it's the smallest part of me and really accentuates my curvy figure.
Toni: Do you struggle with anything related to your body? If so, what? How do you work through those struggles?
Asia: I struggle with my thighs, I hate having huge thighs, but I workout to change them. Our solutions to our problems are simpler than we think.
Toni: If you could compare your body to anything, what would it be?
Asia: Nothing, I don't believe in comparing my body to anything anymore because I think it goes against what I preach to women. I am my own body goals, and comparing is a mentally unhealthy trait for me whether I'm comparing to an object or a person.
Toni: How do you feel about representation in the body positivity community?
Asia: I think a lot of it is for show to be honest, sometimes it's hard to decipher the real from the fake in this "body positive" culture.
Toni: As a woman in the spotlight, do you or have you felt inclined to change aspects of your body?
Asia: Every. Single. Day. When you have all eyes on you, you're always worried about how this looks, or why this looks a certain way. I set out on my fitness journey back in 2014 because I wanted to change how my body looked to become that "woman in the spotlight." Now that I'm there I feel even more pressure, it's a bit unhealthy because I believe in bettering myself for me, but unconsciously I do feel inclined to change because of my surroundings.
Toni: Now, with that said, if you had the ability to change the way bodies are viewed in mainstream media, how would you?
Asia: I plan to in the future, I don't want to spill out my goals too soon- but, it's coming.
Toni: Okay, okay. I like that. A little bit of a cliff hanger. Please keep us posted! What about the kids? Do you think it is becoming more or less difficult for young people [growing up and] trying to accept/ love their bodies? Why?
Asia: I think it's becoming more difficult because the media has been doing more inclusive ad campaigns and showing diverse women on covers of magazines, in stores, etc. but 9 times out of 10 the curvy women we see are still snatched at the waist have big boobs, a big butt it's still an "ideal" curvy body, which everyone isn't lucky enough to have. Therefore, on top of young girls in the past having to conform to small, slender models now younger girls are seeing curvier role models as well, but it's not always reality it's an even more non-realistic image.
Toni: What do you think about diet culture? Do you think it plays into the way we view our bodies?
Asia: I'm not into the "diet" word at all because I'm big on making health a lifestyle, but for people that are into that I think it's unhealthy mentally and physically and it plays into the mind playing tricks on the body for temporary happiness.
Toni: Who do you look to for body positivity/ inspiration when you need it?
Asia: To be honest, I look at myself. Everything we need is already inside of us. Don't get me wrong I have women who I follow on Instagram who motivate me to keep pushing and I love their stories, but I am my number one inspiration.
You can also find her on Instagram - @missasiamilia and @curves.n.cardio.
Thank you, Asia!
It's been a while! But, we're back with another BoPo Monday interview. Today we are hearing from Tomeka Williams aka Meka.
Toni: Thank you so much for doing this interview! Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Meka: I am a 28 year old free spirit. I'm outgoing and fun. I love adventures, movies & food.
Toni: This interview is centered around body positivity, as you know. Long before body acceptance or body positivity comes body awareness. Do you remember when you noticed “having a body” and that bodies were different? If so, what was that like for you?
Meka: I honestly didn't fully realize I had a body and that other people recognized or paid attention to bodies until high school. I mean my body was there, but it was just a body. Then when I got to high school and hormones from my peers were everywhere, it one day seemed to be a topic. I also was a lifeguard my entire teenage years (16+) so I would be in a swimsuit all the time, so it was like body out all the time. I didn't know exactly what a "good"or "bad" body was, so it brought on insecurities, like "Am I too thin?" "Am I too thick?" So, it was like an awkward stage and realization.
Toni: We use so many words to describe ourselves and our bodies. One word I continue to use and destigmatize is fat. What does that word mean to you? How would you define “fat?”
Meka: Fat to me is valueless... What's fat? We all have "fat." Just some peoples’ is more prominent or some people just have more of it. But, what is it? Nothing but another part of your body.
Toni: What about body positivity? What does it mean to you? How would you define it?
Meka: Body positivity to me means fully accepting and loving of yourself and others. When you truly come to the realization that everyone's bodies are different and not one or the other is going to be same and that that is okay, you feel different. It's a feeling to me that takes over your spirit mentally, physically, and emotionally and is assurance that you are good enough and unique.
Toni: I found you through the #bodypositivity on Instagram, so I know that is one of the platforms you use to spread a message of body positivity. More than the platform, how do you spread body positive messages?
Meka: Honestly, by being narcissistic, naked, but humble all at the same time. I will post my selfies every day in the quickness, like "Here I am again!" I have friends and know people who are like, “Oh, I don't have this or that, so I don’t post on social media.” And I'm like, “Why not? Girl! You better post that!” I try to be encouraging. I hate seeing people struggle, especially when it comes to body image. I know how that split second of insecurity can ruin a day, month, or a year and I don't want people around me to feel that way. I try to be relatable to women and nonjudgmental.
Toni: What does spreading the BoPo message mean to you? Why do you do it?
Meeka: Spreading the BoPo message means a lot! It's such a big struggle with women and lately we are so pressured to be a certain way, to be pretty, or to be looked at or taken seriously… it's takes a toll on women. The main thing is expressing how it is okay to be different and special and that our bodies are just an asset to our minds, and personalities, and endeavors. Women are so powerful and intriguing and we should be recognized and adored for these qualities. And I feel that you get a different sense of confidence and stride when you are comfortable with the skin you are in. So, it's important for me to see more and more women accepting of themselves and their bodies.
Toni: I love everything you just said. We are pressured to be everything we are not. If you are thin, people are telling you you need to be thick. If you are fat, people are commenting on your health. We are powerful and I love that you are preaching that. Where, when and how did body positivity come into your life?
Meka: Body positivity didn’t really come into my life until about 2 years ago when I started modeling. I seriously got a crazy sense of acceptance from meeting so many women that are truly accepting and loving of themselves. People have this misconception of models being weight-conscience and struggle to love themselves because of the pressure. I got a double reward being part of the plus size world and meeting women that not only reassure you that are beautiful, but uplift you to believe that. Surrounding myself with such positive, strong women is how body positivity came into my life.
Toni: Speaking of modeling, I am always stalking your insta for style inspo! Where are your favorite places to shop? Where do you go for fashion inspiration?
Meka: Well...first and foremost, my favorite spot has to be my forever fashion home and that is Catchygirl Boutique. I'm also a huge Deb Shops, Rebdolls, and Goodwill fan! I get fashion inspiration from everywhere- places, people, I'm a mood dresser so it really depends on my mood and that tends to direct what my fashion style will be for the day.
Toni: From favorite places to shop to favorite parts of your body- what is yours?
Meka: My boobs. They are my girls and I love them!
Toni: Ayeee, okay! What about things you dislike? Do you struggle with anything parts of your body?
Meka: I think I still struggle some with my stomach area. Sometimes, I look at pictures and I'm like "Uh, that was gross," and then usually put it out of mind for a while. But, then I come back to it, and I focus on the positives, like, “Wow, that was an awesome memory I just made,” or “That was a really good time!” And next thing you know post! I post, post, post, and put it out there for all. Like, “Here it is, enjoy and accept it.” That helps me eventually get over the insecurity. And I try working on it, maybe I'll eat a little better for a couple of weeks, go to the gym one more day this week. There is nothing wrong with working on something you are insecure about. Also, the gym is how I get rid of my stress internally in my body.
Toni: When do you feel sexiest?
Meka: I feel my sexiest when I'm at home in my comfy clothes, hair all over my head but comfy. I love that fresh out of the shower, comfy clothes, smelling good, oiled up feeling but just being comfortable… did I say how sexy I feel when I feel comfy enough?
Toni: If you could change the way bodies are viewed in mainstream media, how would you?
Meka: I would get rid of the stereotypes. It sounds like a cliché but honestly, we all get so caught up in a certain look or way of being because we are influenced by media that we forget that we really can look how we want and do what we want. I would just tell people to go for it all the time every time. That first thought you have, do it every time. Yes! Wear that. Yes! Do it like that. Yes! That goes together.
Toni: When thinking about those stereotypes and mass media, do you think it is becoming more or less difficult for young people [growing up and] trying to accept/ love their bodies?
Meka: I feel like it's more difficult for women growing up because of all the pressure. I look at younger girls now trying to be like this celebrity or that person and I'm like, I really didn't give a shit about any of the stuff that some younger people care about now when I was 12-14. I just wanted to ride my bike and go to the mall all the time. Contour your face, like, what was that!? Making sure my booty was out or my lips were big...like no way! I wish younger people would just enjoy being kids and teenagers, because there are way more things in life when you have to actually adult.
Toni: Do you look to any one for BoPo motivation or inspiration?
Meka: For me, personally, I look to my fellow model sisters and my family. The women that I choose to surround myself with are positive and uplifting ladies. One thing that I look for in friends are beautiful souls, so I know at all times we all have each other. Even my family- they are strong, independent, confident women and I always look to them for BoPo inspiration. Also, the boutique that I model for- Tanya and Linzie are confident ladies who keep me motivated and have such great spirits and confidence in their lives and bodies, it literally manifests off their bodies into your soul.
Toni: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and a little bit of who you are with us! Is there anything else you would like to say?
Meka: Love yourself, you are beautiful Queen.
Toni: Where can people follow you or get in contact with you?
Meka: Follow me on Instagram @sodoyourcurves. For emails and inquires, Sodoyourcurves@outlook.com.
A special thanks to the beautiful Meka for her perspective on this thing we call body positivity. Be sure to check out her IG and follow her for fire selfies and amazing style inspiration!