“I spent the first 12 years of my life in Zimbabwe and the culture there was very different from the western world. We didn’t focus too much on looks or body shape. It was more about substance than how someone looked.
Unfortunately, when people in Zimbabwe had body hangings, it was almost the opposite of what the western world said. If you were too skinny, people would look at you and think, “Are you well fed? Do you have money to eat?’ If you were a little heavier, people would associate you with the good life because you could afford luxury and eat to your heart’s content.
In Zimbabwe nobody set me a standard of beauty and I was always very confident because there was nobody to compare myself to. But then when I moved to Ireland I noticed how the media focused on very different things. I’ve seen magazine covers that said things like, “10 easiest ways to lose weight in 10 days!”. Even the hair removal was a culture shock for me – I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to have hairy legs!
All those magazines and ads were so strange to me, and I was exposed to them during my formative years trying to blend into a new culture. I wanted to adapt, so I thought, “What is normal here and what do I need to do to adapt?”
I suppose that’s when I started seeing myself the way other people saw me. I started reading magazines that said 60kg was too fat and it made me more aware that I was carrying a bit more weight and that I didn’t look what western society considered beautiful. I still had confidence, just not as much as before…
Things changed in 2009 when I entered a beauty pageant for the African community in Ireland. At that time I was size 14 and that was still considered big. I won the contest and there was a lot of controversy because a lot of people thought the winner should have been a smaller size.
In the months that followed, I went to charity events in my sash and crown, and many people were visibly surprised at my size. I particularly remember an incident when I was a judge at another competition and I overheard people on the toilet talking about me while I was in the dressing room. I could tell they were older women and they said it was an absolute disgrace that I won and that I was promoting obesity. I’ll be honest, I was a bit shaken by this incident, but I also realized that these women could be my mother – and can you imagine a mother putting her daughter down like that?
It pushed me to overcome my own insecurities. I thought, ‘I’m going to piss off more people and become that stand-in for people who need it
get their confidence from somewhere because they don’t get it at home.
When I came to terms with my own physical blocks and started getting feedback from other people about how my confidence was helping them, it really pushed me.
Today I work in technology alongside my Instagram life of content creation. I’m not the only one posting beautiful pictures. I want to add value to people’s lives and initiate important conversations.
I’m part of this movement that encourages people to love themselves for who they are and be kind to their bodies. I feel the [body positivity] Message can be a little misunderstood when people think you have to love yourself, period. But it’s really about appreciating and being kind to your body and acknowledging the fact that your body has carried you through so much of your life.
If you don’t love some bits, that’s fine. If you could work on loving her, that would be great. But really, it’s about being kind to yourself instead of hating your body.
I start a lot of conversations on Instagram because there are a lot of everyday things smaller people don’t need to think about. For example, I remember going to an interview that was on the third floor of a building and there was no elevator. I took my time and paused along the way, but that’s something shorter people don’t have to think about. And as a larger person, sweat is usually involved in any type of activity, so you need to take care of that, too. Sitting in certain chairs, especially if they have armrests, can also be a challenge. Even going into a restaurant where the tables are pushed close together can be difficult — and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or draw attention to yourself.
I’m a size 18 and recently had to ask for a seat belt extender on a flight. I then spoke about it on Instagram and asked my followers if they were embarrassed by this situation. Personally, I always ask for it as soon as I get on the plane. It just saves the hassle of walking down the aisle and holding it.
I also talk to my followers about the dating scene if you’re a fat person — and to be clear, I’m using the word “fat” purely descriptively. A lot of fat women, myself included, tend to overdo themselves and throw as many clues as possible when using dating apps. If someone shows interest in you, you should make sure they know you’re fat because you don’t want them to be disappointed when you meet in person.
It’s very self-deprecating. You might joke and say something like, “I couldn’t even take two steps without being out of breath”… I remember being on Hinge and saying, “I look so much smaller in my pictures, you know”, which is basically saying, “I need you to reassure me that you know I’m fat and you think I’m still attractive and you still want to get to know me.” That’s what society has done to fat people – we almost feel like someone is doing us a favor by being attracted to us.
The truth is that being overweight is not an obstacle in the dating world. It may be portrayed that way in the media, but it really isn’t in real life. The barrier mostly exists in the minds of people who are overweight.
We set ourselves limits because when you’ve been beaten down by society like this, it can be hard to believe that there are people out there who really just want to get to know someone for who they are.
I’ve seen the comments people are making about couples on TikTok. He’s a fitness guy with a six pack abs and she’s a size 24 and people in the comments are like “how did she get that man in the first place?” And I’ve seen it myself. As I walk down the street with my husband, who is significantly shorter than me, I know there are women who think, “I can’t even get a text message back, and this fat girl has a super attractive partner…”.
Of course there are people who don’t think like that, and they’re really blessed to have that mindset, but mostly fat girls are scared of dating and showing themselves out there. And when someone thinks they are attractive, they are still plagued by insecurities.
AAt the same time, I can really see the impact of the body positivity movement. Take plus size fashion for example. It used to be awful and old fashioned and all they gave us was patterns and flowers and things that aged us. Now we’re allowed to wear beautiful, sexy clothes, but god forbid we call fat people sexy – apparently it’s still a taboo. I personally don’t understand why anyone can dictate that you can’t wear a crop top because you can see the back rolls, or that you can’t wear shorts because you have cellulite on your thighs.
Fortunately, however, things are changing and I feel like this is just the beginning of this movement. I’ve seen firsthand how body positivity influencers can change a person’s narrative of how they view themselves.
You look at someone and you think, ‘Okay, if we look the same and I think they’re beautiful, why don’t I think I’m beautiful?’ And it can really inspire you to change your perspective.”
As Katie Byrne was told
https://www.independent.ie/life/plus-size-women-we-almost-feel-like-someone-is-doing-us-a-favour-by-being-attracted-to-us-41497014.html Plus-Size Women: “We almost feel like someone is doing us a favor by being attracted to us”