I have a confession to make: Until fairly recently I didn’t feel deep down that fat bodies were beautiful. Worthy of respect, of course; deserving of good sex, and good health, and to be free from hate and stigma, yes, yes, always yes. But truly beautiful? No. And I didn’t even know this about myself until it changed.
Several months ago, I was looking at a series of images by illustrator and Instagrammer Rachele Cateyes of her own naked body—and after overcoming an initial slight shock (“Wow, she’s naked! And fat! And not afraid!”) what I felt was, “Oh, how beautiful.” Not just the negative and positive space, the filters, the framing of her photographs—but her body. Her naked round stomach and thighs and rolls. I actually started to cry. Beauty can do that to you.
Although I’ve always espoused and preached body-love principles, I hadn’t truly felt like or love for all types of bodies, including my own.
That’s the moment I realized that although I’ve always espoused and preached body-love principles, I hadn’t truly felt like or love for all types of bodies, including my own fat one.
How about you? Humans are visual and social creatures, and I believe that what we see in our art and media informs our innermost values. What follows is a list of just a few artists who are expanding and informing our culture’s ideas of what’s beautiful.
Lady At Large creates vintage-y paintings, wood hangings, and even articulated paper dolls—mostly fat mermaids—and sells her stuff on Etsy. Her work has a 1920s commercial-art feel but somehow still manages to be modern, and even a little punk rock. Her philosophy: “Growing up in this society, it’s difficult to [be] unscathed by societal expectations of beauty and femininity. It can paralyze a person with self-hatred, my goal is to show the beauty in all of us, and not just inner beauty but the superficial physical beauty too. Because truly we are all lovely just as we are every bit of us!”
Jennifer Buckingham is an Instagrammer, fashion blogger, and plus-size model who wants “an extreme change in the way that beauty and our role models are represented in today’s society.” The way she rocks a bikini pic is beyond.
Your Fat Friend writes anonymously, saying and writing things that so many fat people think and feel, but don’t say out loud. She gives a public voice to concerns that have been invisible outside of fat-activist circles. Her essays and other creative nonfiction have made a huge mainstream splash on online platforms like Medium, Upworthy, and Twitter. (And special thanks to her for her amazing input on this list!)
Sunny Sea Gold is Greatist’s body image columnist and the author of Food: The Good Girl’s Drug—How to Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings (Berkley Books, 2011). The views expressed herein are hers. A health journalist by trade and training and a mom of two little girls, she’s also an advocate and educator focused on reducing the rates childhood obesity and eating disorders by building Body-Positive Families. Reach out to her @sunnyseagold.