Inspiring plus size women who will help you ditch diets

As the old adage goes, “You can never be
too rich or too thin.” It’s not surprising that this notion is a truth for
many women in a society that equates thinness with beauty, wellness, goodness,
and self-control. 
But ideas are changing as more and more women
choose to throw diet culture out the window and embrace themselves as they are.
Fewer women want to lose weight than they did a decade ago in America, which is
a positive sign for those of us fed up with fatphobia and bigotry. And at the
forefront of this revolution of self-acceptance are visibly plus-sized women
who are showing us how fierce, beautiful, and brilliant they are. These
inspiring, plus size babes will make you want to ditch your diet for good.
I first learned of Virgie Tovar through
a mutual friend on Facebook, who liked a post of hers about fatphobia — a word
I’d never heard — but immediately resonated with me. And ever since then,
I can say that following Tovar on social media has made my life a better
Tovar’s fight against fatphobia is
multi-faceted. She’s the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on
Life, Love, & Fashion, an anthology of pro-fat essays by activists,
performers, poets, and writers. She’s also the founder of Babecamp, an online
course that helps women break up with diet culture (another phrase I learned
from her). And she writes a weekly column about fat issues called Take the Cake
on Ravishly. And she just gave a Ted Talk which I’m dying to see!
Her Instagram features travel adventures
with her friends, her gloriously unapologetic fashion posts, some food porn
here and there, and most importantly, enduring reminders that fat is not a
moral failing! Fat can be as fabulous as you make it. So, as Tovar says,
“Lose hate, not weight.”
You just can’t miss the gorgeousness that is
Precious Lee. She’s one of the first plus size, black woman to appear in
the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She was also the first plus size,
black woman to appear in Vogue. She’s also a model for Lane Bryant, and
has starred in their #ImNoAngel, #PlusIsEqual, and #ThisBody ad
Lee’s beauty goes far beyond skin-deep, as is
evidenced by her defiance in an industry that demanded she conform. When
she first pursued modeling, her agent suggested that she change her name to
something more conventional (Victoria). And while she did, initially, after a
short time she went back to her given name. She also cut her hair, which made
her agents unhappy, but also allowed her to be herself and live her authentic
truth. And it paid off, big time. Now she’s a successful model who’s showing
the world that plus size and black is beautiful, and helping us see our own
beauty in ourselves. Need a little inspo? Check out her Instagram.
Some women really do it all, and Kitty
Stryker is one of them. She’s a “writer, antifascist activist, and queer
sex educator.” On top of that, she’s the editor of the upcoming
book, Ask: Building Consent Culture, a compilation of essays from
badass folks about the importance of consent in all aspects of life. And that’s
not all. You can also catch her speaking at conferences and universities about
a variety of issues, from body positivity to pornography — or even teaching
Juggalos about anarchy!
Stryker is also open about being a survivor
of both rape and abuse, as well as a survival sex worker. This kind of candor
is vital, as it empowers survivors not to be ashamed, and provides strength and
empathy to so many people who need it. Additionally, she’s open about having an
eating disorder, specifically anorexia, while being fat. 
One of my favorite things about Stryker is
her ever-evolving look. From her hair, which is
always changing colors, to her costuming, which is incredible, to her
stunning sense of fashion (even for protests!), she’s the shape-shifting queen
of aesthetics.
Rye Silverman first graced my screen when
I learned that she was selected as the first ever transgender model
for Modcloth’s #fashiontruth campaign — where she absolutely
slays with her curls, her coy smile, her killer legs, and her perfect skin —
all Photoshop-free. Silverman was featured by Modcloth in 2015, the year
they ditched “plus size” as a label, and integrated all of their
clothing into one sizing system. And while while Silverman may not be
conventionally plus-sized, she shows us how good you can look in non-standard
sized clothing.
Silverman has understandably gotten a lot of
attention for her modeling, but her primary work is in comedy, where she’s performed
a poignant and personal bit about flying while transgender.
Her wit is biting but gentle, and her comedy
is refreshingly self-aware. With a candor that invites people in to laugh and
be entertained — even when she’s doing sensitive material — it’s no surprise
that she continues to find success as a comedian. All that, and she’s doing it
while living her truth as a transgender woman, something it took her many years
to realize.
I credit Lesley Kinzel with being the first
person to bring awareness of fat-acceptance into my life. It was 2012, and I
had just moved into a new city and was working a new job. At the time, she was
a staff writer at xoJane, where she published pieces on everything from fashion
(I got so many good tights because of this article), fat-shaming (this one
about doctors and fat-shaming is a must-read), dieting (this homage to diet
foods she ate as a child is everything), and pop culture musings about
games, movies, and more. She also wrote and published a book, entitled Two
Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body that year, and
I read it immediately when it came out.
Kinzel left xoJane in January of 2016,
but because she’s a rock star and a total fangirl, she landed a gig working on
the Netflix reboot, Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show as beloved now as it
was when it originally aired in the ’90s. Kinzel’s found incredible career
success, all while being fat and completely, 100 percent cool with it.
Let’s get this out of the way first: did
you see her stunning and beyond-sexy photo in the Sports Illustrated
Swimsuit Issue, for the #swimsexy campaign? 
Philomena Kwao is one of those women who is
as smart as she is sexy. She has become an icon in an exceedingly thin-centric
industry that’s only recently diversified to include a variety of body types
and skin tones. Plus she’s legit brilliant: she holds a bachelor’s degree
in economics, as well as a master’s degree in global health management. On top
of that, she speaks openly and candidly about her journey to self-acceptance as
a black woman navigating a society that prioritizes “thin” and
“light-skinned” as beautiful. She’s also worked with Women for
Women International, a non-profit that helps marginalized women around the
world affected by war. 
Kwao also models for Torrid, and features her
look du jour on Instagram.
It’s hard to miss Lindy West these days, and
that’s a good thing! Her 2016 book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, was a
New York Times bestseller, and was ranked as one of the best books of the year
by NPR, Esquire, Newsweek, and the LA Times. She was also featured on an
episode of This American Life entitled “Tell Me I’m Fat,” during
which she discussed her experience as a fat woman and read from her memoir.
Additionally, she writes a column for The Guardian, where she
discusses politics, feminism, popular culture, and of
course, fatness. 
West’s been very public about her battles
with trolling, from which she has emerged downright heroic. She discusses it in
her book, and has penned articles about online harassment and bullying. She
even spoke to one of her former trolls, and had it broadcast on the
West famously left Twitter at the
beginning of the year, but it wasn’t because of her trolls — it was “the
global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them.” But you can
still find her on Instagram.  
Shay Neary made history in 2016 when she was
selected to model for the well-known plus size brand, Coverstory. She was
the first ever plus size, openly transgender woman to land such a campaign.
More recently, she booked a UK campaign for Yours Clothing, a plus size
clothing company that sells up to a size 36. She also gives style advice on
their site, so if you’re a walking fashion faux pas like me, she can help.
The importance of her visibility in the
modeling world is definitely not lost on Neary, who often speaks out about the
importance of diversity in the modeling world. Additionally, her collaboration
with these designers validates and gives voice to the existence of plus sized,
trans women everywhere. And this is only the beginning of her career, and of
the movement!
Of course her Instagram is absolutely
adorable, full of selfies, professional and staged photos, motivational grams
for plus-sized and trans women, and of course, cute pictures of her dog.
Beth Ditto is the feminist, punk rock goddess
we wished for, for so long. And when she finally turned up in the mid-’00s as
the lead singer of Gossip, she was even better than we could have imagined. She
just released her first solo album, Fake Sugar, in June, after several years of
radio silence and the dissolution of the band. Thank goodness she’s back.
Ditto is a multi-faceted woman who has defied
convention just by being herself. She’s an out-and-proud lesbian, who legally
married her wife in 2015, once same-sex marriage became legal in Oregon. She’s
fat, and she’s not ashamed — in fact, she has reclaimed the word for herself.
As she told NPR, “I’m big and I’m fat, and that’s just what it is, and
that’s OK!” Don’t worry — if you’re not quite there yet, her advice just
might tip the scales. 
And to top it all off, she’s not just a
singer! She has her own (super cute) clothing line for plus size women,
and she’s a published author. Her book Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir with the
amazing Michelle Tea, came out in 2012.
Last, but certainly not least, is the
brilliant Marianne Kirby, one of the leaders of the contemporary fat
acceptance movement. She was at the forefront of the blogosphere in the
mid-2000s, writing about fat acceptance and ditching diet culture for something
better. This led to the genesis and publication of her book Lessons from the
Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body, co-authored with
Kate Harding. 
Kirby has been featured in a host of
publishing outlets, from The Guardian to xoJane, and on television shows such
as Dr. Phil. And more recently, she has written her debut novel, Dust
Bath Revival, a YA reader about, well, zombies, set in her native Florida. She
completed the novel on an Amtrak train as one of their inaugural writers-in-residence,
who were selected to spend two weeks riding the rails and, of course, writing.
On top of publishing a YA novel featuring a
fat, queer protagonist, Kirby also slays with her fashion sense (among other
things) on her Instagram. 
future is bright
With so many foxy women getting out there and
being heard, it’s true: the future is bright. Fatphobia is real, but now all of
us have some sheroes to look up to — whether we aspire to write a book, be a
comedienne, smash the patriarchy, become a model, release an album, or just
realize how good we look in that outfit we took so long to put together. 
These women are out there doing the work not
just for them, but for all of us. So buy the two-piece swim suit, smile at what
you see in the mirror, and have the courage to live your own, unique, beautiful
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.