We are starting a new guest blogger feature! Once a month we will be having a guest blogger sound off on a topic of their choice. This month we are featuring Lou Xavier, a plus size model, fat activist, and founder of the #fatisnotaviolation movement on Instagram. Keep your eyes on this woman, she is going to be big!
I have been fat for most of my adult life - roughly 13 years or so. And for most of those 13 years it was always ingrained into my brain that fat = bad. That’s what we hear and see all the time, everywhere. Skinny is good and healthy, fat is bad and unhealthy. That’s just it, there’s no in between. That made me feel absolutely inadequate as a human, and because of that I felt like I needed to change my body to become what society saw as good. So I worked hard as I was able to focus on losing weight and being that skinny "healthy" person. I lost and regained the same 50 pounds three different times. Each time it felt like I had failed when I gained it back. Then I had to restart to “get back in shape” and “lose the 100 pounds”. I was dieting, as most all fat people who want to lose weight are. And the moment I stopped Weight Watchers, or Calorie Counting, or whatever I was doing, I gained my weight back, because my body was restricting food intake. That is and was disordered eating.
Fast forward to my 31st year; the last 12 months. The year I found body positivity and self love for the first time. I remember the exact moment. Maybe not the exact day, but I remember what happened and how my mindset changed.
I was fresh out of the shower and as I removed my towel and looked at my naked body in my full size mirror, I didn’t see a disgusting fat body. I saw a human. I saw a beautiful soul who had been through a lot in their life and whose skin was a reflection of that. I was so taken by what I was seeing. It was an epiphany. I saw the real me for the first time as an adult, maybe even my whole life, and I was so happy and excited to start my new life with this mindset. I’m still a full work in progress, but the mental 180 was such a boost!
So what do you do with this new found internal power? You head to Instagram of course! (Ok, you don’t have to do that by any means, but that’s what I did.) I have been on Instagram since it’s beginning, and through the weight loss community I was led to the plus size community, and I found the people who truly influenced my new way of thinking and began following in their footsteps. I want to be an advocate and influencer to other fat people, or anyone who doesn’t love their body.
I want to show everyone that we’ve been so brainwashed by the patriarchy and class systems to be held down because of certain things we do, the way we live our lives, or the way we look. As I talked about in one of my most recent posts, being skinny is not the ultimate good in this world and it does not determine your morality. So after I found my confidence and self worth, I was directed toward a local Portland, Oregon plus size fashion show called Curvy Chic Closet. The whole event is a weekend long, semi-annual consignment event for plus size men and women, and there is a fashion show the Saturday of the event. I have always wanted to do more with my life than work retail and sit at an office desk. I wanted to be a plus size model years ago but I never knew how in the world to get started! The audition information came my way for January 2018, and I decided to give it a shot!
I auditioned for a motherflappin’ fashion show!
I was chosen to model. What an amazing feeling! In April I met Hannah Schnabel of Belle Ampleur, one of the designers I would be walking for. When I found out who I would be walking for, I already knew a bit about her from her Curves in Bloom event she had done earlier in the year. The beauty of her line and her passion for plus size visibility is amazing. The fashion industry was new for me in general, and I’m still trying to figure it all out.
I -for sure- fangirled when I knew I’d be walking for her!
The Belle Ampleur line we walked in was incredible! I felt so stunning in the dress she had me in. It was white with sunset colors around the hemline and had a cutout in the back. I was excited to show it all off. That show was my stepping stone into modeling and doing more through plus size and fat advocacy. It was where I realized I had a new home with new friends and people who understood me, related to me, and real people I actually could make friends with.
I have a lot of social anxiety, but when I model, I don’t feel scared. I don’t get nervous, and I don’t feel like I need to hide myself. Hannah and the fashion show I was in did that for me. I walked out onto a runway with an audience who was so excited to see all of us beautiful people showing off garments for bigger people. And as a fat woman in today’s society, that’s really scary. Until you find the right place; until you walk into a space where it’s inclusive. And not every place is like this, especially the internet. But the Curvy Chic show, and Belle Ampleur made my first fashion show an absolutely incredible night that I will never forget.
Since the show, I’ve been doing photo shoots and learning how to love my body in any form of undress. I’ve stayed connected with Hannah on social media and she’s now a friend in the plus community, which is where I know I belong. I was told by my therapist months ago that I just needed to find my people. And as a sort of recluse homebody who is only really very out there on social media, I don’t have a huge circle of friends. But now I have people who, even if I don’t see them much, know and understand why, and still support me as I support them. Whether it’s fashion and modeling, blogging, or just human life.
As the year has progressed, my confidence grew and I continued to grow my following on Instagram and model more. Through my work I also began to advocate for fat acceptance in our world. Not just being a plus size model, and not just putting up cute photos of myself. Although let’s face it, I love hamming it up for Instagram, I have no shame in that; but there’s so much more involved in working towards helping other fat people be comfortable in themselves, and also working on breaking down the societal “norms” that tell us that skinny and fit is the only thing you should be.
One of the things that happens frequently on Instagram, and even in real life to fat people, is body policing. Unwanted “advice” from people who think they know what is best for us, and have been taught that fat people are disgusting, they’re unhealthy, and that they’re full of disease that will kill them, and that being fat is posing huge health risks.
Newsflash all; we’re all going to die at some point. To tell a fat person that they’re going to die because of how they live their lives is just cruel. But we are not dying just because we are fat. I have perfect blood pressure, and pulse every time I go to the doctor. I have high cholesterol, but you know who else does? My 140 pound mother. High cholesterol can be and in my family case is, hereditary. So everyone who thinks that being skinny is the only good thing in this world, the only purpose in your life, needs to get off their high horse and learn to focus their energies somewhere else. Because as fat people, we have already had an exceptionally difficult life learning to so much as like ourselves, let alone love ourselves.
Because of these comments, these fake concerns, these “body police”, it’s been a tough road for us. The biggest issue I have is with people who come to the fat community to tell us we’re unhealthy and need to lose weight to be better, but it is fake concern. They’re not going to the skinny people who are smoking and drinking in their social media posts and partying all the time to voice their concern. They think that a skinny person is promoting health... because they’re skinny. But the smoking and the drinking and the party drugs pose a huge risk to health, but they don’t see that. No, they see thin, or straight sized, as we now call it. That’s how I know that they don’t care about our health, they just don’t like seeing fat people.
They think we are a “Boil on the butt of humanity.”
Thank you Miss Ouiser Boudreax for that quote. [As I was typing that sentence, I heard her say that in my head, and well, I just couldn’t keep myself from a Steel Magnolia’s line.]
As my activism for fat humans has grown, a friend and I started noticing so many fat bodies being removed from Instagram. Being reported as violating guidelines. The guidelines they’d been told they were violating were the nudity guidelines. Guess what? They weren’t actually violating a single guideline. Their body was nude, yes, but the nipples and butt were covered. So what people are seeing and reporting are FAT BODIES that are partially nude. When a few of us have reported photos showing full nipple, we get responses saying that the photo did not violate the rules. This is absolutely not ok, because it very clearly does.
Instagram’s Community Guidelines regarding nudity are as follows:
“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are
artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on
Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show
sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”
So, why are the bodies that aren’t showing nipples and butt being removed when the bodies that are straight size and showing all nipple aren’t? Because of fatphobia. Because people are seeing our photos and deciding that we are not what they want to see so they’re reporting us. I once saw someone comment on a fully clothed woman’s photo saying she was going to report the photo for self harm. Are you kidding me? Self harm because she was a fat girl, so she must be harming herself by staying fat, right? This topic puts me in a tailspin of rage most of the time because it is so absolutely unfair to fat bodies who are just trying to live their lives as humans without being shamed everyday and everywhere they go. Being told that we’re killing ourselves because we’re fat.
And in that rage and anger, Sarah Rosen and I started #fatisnotaviolation. We wanted to bombard Instagram with photos of fat bodies in whatever state of undress, but not violating any rules, because WE. WERE. DONE. We were and still are so tired of how our bodies are treated with such disrespect because of how they look. And #fatisnotaviolation took OFF.
We are still in awe at how many posts we have under the hashtag. In two months we have over 5,000 posts under the tag! Because of this we have had a few articles written about this movement and an immense amount of support from the fat and plus size community. And now Sarah and I are working on our website and the things we want to do with this movement. A lot of body positive accounts are being deleted from Instagram right now for reasons that make no sense. We want to see how we can challenge Instagram and figure out how these posts are actually determined as violating rules or not, and how accounts are actually deleted. We’re just two people. We can’t really go up against something so big, not without you. #fatisnotaviolation has given us a great platform to work towards educating people, and inspiring people.
I want to continue to inspire people on my Instagram by showing them what a person in a big body is capable of doing, who we are capable of being, and who we ARE! I want to bring more visibility to mental health issues and invisible illnesses. Chronic pain and diseases affect all people, but bigger bodies have a harder time going through life with these limitations.
I want to advocate for big bodies; for fat people. I want to continue my modeling. I want to push boundaries in fashion. I want to see ‘fat-shion’. Plus size models for companies are still very proportioned and look close to straight sized.
I want to see more fat girls modeling that that look more like me! Someone who doesn’t have an hourglass figure. Someone who has a smaller butt and tummy flap.
We don’t all hold weight in the same place, and want to see more models in different shapes so that I know what would look good on me. In eight months I have come a long way. I have become a plus size model, I have become a small scale online influencer, and I have started a movement for body positivity with a hashtag. I am incredibly proud of myself and what has transpired, and it all really started at a Portland fashion show in a beautiful white dress with sunset colors and a cutout in the back.
Thank you to Hannah Schnabel and Belle Ampleur for your continued support of who I am and what I do. And for the opportunity to model for you and be a feature on your blog.