, Standards of Black BeautyWoman Wanders Hollywood in a Bikini to Teach People About Body Image

Woman Wanders Hollywood in a Bikini to Teach People About Body Image

So, I’m sure you’ve seen the story by now:

A plus-sized Los Angeles woman is stripping down to her bikini and strutting down the famed street to let the world know it’s not wrong to have curves.

Amani Terrell says she began performing the bold stunt because she was tired of how people perceived obesity and wanted to show people that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

“You cannot seek validation from other people. The world is very cruel,” she told KTTV. “You must seek validation within yourself and be kind to yourself.”

The 260-pound Terrell admitted that she has to lose weight, but she’s not letting her weight hold her down. KTTV Amani Terrell, who is 260 pounds, has been walking down Hollywood Blvd. in nothing but a bikini to show off her curves.

“There’s a misconception that big women have low self-esteem,” she told the local Fox affiliate. “I don’t have low self-esteem.”

Although some bystanders heckled Terrell as she strode down the street, some people applauded her ability to flaunt her figure.

“That’s sexy right there,” one fan told the news station. “That’s a big mama with a lot of confidence.”

And the scantily clad Terrell she doesn’t plan to stop her walks down the boulevard anytime soon.

“New York has the cowboy, the Naked Cowboy,” she said. “Well, L.A. is going to have the plus-sized bikini girl on Hollywood Blvd.”

Now, to be clear, I believe you should wear a bikini at whatever size you want. And I believe you should be able to move freely about your city wearing whatever makes you happy without being harassed or insulted by strangers who merely want to put you down, or pretend they “care about your health.”

That being said, I needed to think long and hard about this. I was originally going to write about it yesterday, but I didn’t like my initial thoughts. I needed to stop.

Amani, on the walk of fame!

Amani, on the walk of fame!

I have a few points I want to make, and then I want to hear what y’all think:

1) I really wanted to question the juxtaposition of “You must seek validation within yourself and be kind to yourself” up against the practice of walking down Hollywood Blvd in a bikini, intentionally subjecting yourself to a very brutal and cruel world in this manner. Being heckled, having people take pictures of you with their camera phones and uploading you to the Internet, potentially becoming the butt of fat-hating jokes, all to try to prove a point to a bunch of strangers… none of this seems very kind to yourself.

2) Then again, when you think about how fat-hating we are as a society, she could be in a regular outfit, and potentially still be subjected to the very same treatment. She could be wearing a muumuu and still be treated the same.

This is an unfortunate reality.

No matter your size – you could be small, just particularly not-lean – if you don’t fit someone else’s standard of how you (and people like you) should look, you’re subjected to this treatment. And, for some reason, this seems okay with us.

3) I wasn’t surprised to see her say she “doesn’t have low self-esteem.” Remember, we talked about this before – when Washington Post said the following:

In the Post-Kaiser survey, 90 percent of black women say living a healthful lifestyle is very important to them, outranking religion, career, marriage and other priorities. Yet two-thirds report eating at fast-food restaurants at least once a week, and just more than half cook dinner at home on a regular basis.

For Cuff, being healthy doesn’t mean being a size 2: “That’s not what I grew up seeing. It wasn’t in my makeup. It’s not about trying to identify with somebody else.”

Even when celebrities such as Queen Latifah and Jennifer Hudson have touted dramatic weight loss in magazines and commercials, they have largely retained their curves. Among black women who want to lose weight, having model proportions is often not the goal.

[…]

In 2008, Heather Hausenblas, a University of Florida professor of exercise physiology, co-wrote a study looking at the role the media played in body image among white and black women. Both groups were exposed to the ideal tall, thin white woman’s physique, and their moods were compared before and after. White women felt badly about themselves after viewing the idealized physique; black women were unaffected.

Black women “are just not comparing themselves to these white models,” Hausenblas says. Caucasian women are internalizing the images; black women are not.

And it’s the internalizing that damages women’s self-esteem. Right after Adele won six Grammy awards, Vogue sparked an uproar by Photoshopping an image of the buxom British singer to make her appear thinner for the magazine’s March cover. It’s the kind of falsehood and manipulation that makes women and girls starve themselves, experts say.

New York-based writer and image activist Michaela Angela Davis calls it the “one act of cultural violence that we didn’t endure” — the one way that black women “being ignored by the media and all things glamorous worked for us.”

I responded in kind with this:

To be honest, I’m a bit dumbfounded by the slant. I’m dumbfounded that we can look at studies that show overweight women of color view themselves better than thin white women, and think that the Black women are the anomaly. We don’t see it as peculiar that white women don’t think higher of themselves. We think there’s something wrong with fat women valuing themselves greater than society thinks they should. We think it’s okay for thin women, the ones usually rewarded and praised in society, to think so little of themselves. That doesn’t strike us as newsworthy or worthy of introspection.

In other words, if you’re fat and have the audacity to still think you’re worth something, society’s going to put you on a petri dish and nitpick you apart until you value yourself as little as they do. I mean, come on. You’re fat. Surely you can’t be all that.

My thoughts still stand. It’s not shocking or surprising that she values herself highly despite not looking the way society believes she should look. What’s shocking, if anything, is that apparently a number of people are cheering her on in this. Maybe body positivity, and encouragement without shame, is catching on?

One can only hope.

What do you think?

By | 2017-06-10T11:21:48+00:00 December 18th, 2014|Body Image, Standards of Black Beauty|14 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.

14 Comments

  1. Alex April 8, 2014 at 2:27 PM - Reply

    Great post. The most interesting one I’ve read so far. I don’t know whether or not to agree with what the lady did, but by god did she have bucket loads of confidence hey 🙂

  2. Wendy@BlushandBarbells April 8, 2014 at 4:05 PM - Reply

    I live in Los Angeles but I haven’t seen this on the news. Two thoughts struck me immediately:
    1. A woman walking around on Hollywood Blvd in a bikini is news these days, when 15 years ago it was the norm to see working girls in not much more; and
    2. She’s going to need to wash with VERY hot water and VERY strong soap after lying on the sidewalk. Hollywood Blvd is filthy.

    I do admire her confidence but I can’t help but wonder if she’s an aspiring actress looking for some publicity.

  3. KIKI April 8, 2014 at 10:10 PM - Reply

    Im all for appreciating oneself. However, (I am NOT speaking of all black women but my family and friends) I notice too much laziness. Not when it comes to sitting in the salon for hours and doing their weave and fake nails. But to preparing their own HEALTHY food and making an effort to exercise. Unless your are an athlete I do not see how a women over 200 lbs is healthy. Too many of my friends sit and complain about how much they love themselves and don’t need to lose a pound but if you cant run up the stars at 25 without being so out of breath like your going to have a heart attack you may want to drop a few. I don’t even debate with the men in my family anymore when they bring home their “gym women” that rarely look like one of us, because if i grew up around that all the time I don’t know if thats who I would want to date either. When I see fit black women their body is amazing thick and curvaceous incomparable to any other. There is nothing better (in my opinion) than a fit black women (especially if she has natural hair too). I have made plenty health conscious black friends so there are many of us. But too many who don’t care, anyway overall as a people we need to be healthier. I know many wont agree as I said its only my opinion.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall April 10, 2014 at 5:52 PM - Reply

      I don’t think anyone would disagree with much of what you said, but this:

      “Unless your are an athlete I do not see how a women over 200 lbs is healthy.”

      misses the exact point that Amina is seeking to make. No, you won’t “see how a women [sic] over 200lbs is healthy,” because you aren’t looking at her blood work. You aren’t looking at her panels, her charts, her scans, any of it. You won’t see indicators of true markers of health, so why try to judge when you clearly are running short on information?

      Is she supposed to hide herself, devalue herself until she’s no longer “200lbs?” She openly acknowledges her own personal desire to lose weight, but her point is to acknowledge that she doesn’t have to hate herself until she gets there, and that people shouldn’t try to make her think less of herself because she ISN’T there.

      • Se Jones May 18, 2014 at 9:54 AM - Reply

        KiKi, I agree with Erica. Seeing is not ALWAYS believing. Most people want you to believe on those of a certain size have hypertension & diabetes. But that just isn’t true. Though I am larger than multiple cousins, THEY… the smaller, thinner cousins, have more health problems (& have had surgery because of some problems) than I have. I do have hypertension, but I have made a decision to not battle the silent killer allnthe days of my life! I also have a sister who cannot understand why I only battle HTN & she has HTN, diabetes & high cholesterol. I try to exercise regularly, and sometimes fall miserably short. There are times when my eating habits absolutely are deplorable. But I do dust myself off, get back up & eventually start all over again. The thing is, I simply refuse to quit…. UNTIL I WIN!

  4. Angela L. April 8, 2014 at 11:57 PM - Reply

    I clicked on the video totally expecting to feel embarrassed for this woman, thinking she had made herself into a joke. To my surprise, instead of feeling embarrassed by her, I felt proud of her. She exuded self-confidence and instead of seeing a joke, I saw a happy, well-balanced, confident woman taking a stand for self-acceptance. She was not delusional like some obese people, touting that they are healthy and have no desire to change. She was honest, admitting that her weight is something she’s working on, but in the meantime, she was going to love and accept herself NOW, not when she fits the mold of society.

    My Story: Twelve years ago, my body resembled this woman’s body. I didn’t like myself because of how I looked and how much I weighed, 240lb. I had earned two Ivy League degrees, was smart and successful and sweet, but had such low self-esteem because I hated my body. Looking like Amani in this video so depressed me that I was willing to undergo gastric bypass surgery to no longer be that size anymore. I lost the weight and was a “normal” size for about 10 years. Then the unthinkable happened, I started to gain weight and am now just 10 lbs shy of what I weighed when I first sought out the gastric bypass surgery. However, instead of feeling depressed and suicidal (which commonly occurs in those who regain weight after the gastric bypass), God has taken me on a wonderful journey of self-forgiveness, self-acceptance and self-love, no matter my “size”. I feel more comfortable and confident in my own skin now than I did when I was a size 8. This is because I realized this one truth. How I look (my “image”) doesn’t determine my blessings in life, God does. He looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. My blessings and happiness flow from my relationship with Him.

    Do I desire to lose weight again and become healthier? – Definitely! Am I going to continue to buy into society’s view that obese women are on the lower totem pole or that something’s fundamentally “wrong” with me because I struggle to lose weight? – Nope! Am I going to walk down Hollywood Blvd in a bikini? – No way! But Amani’s uninhibited act does make me smile and feel that I can positively embrace my current body without shame, while striving for better.

  5. Annette April 9, 2014 at 11:28 AM - Reply

    “Maybe body positivity, and encouragement without shame, is catching on?” Let’s not kid ourselves industries have earn billions a year making us feel there is something wrong with ourselves that we must fix. People with curly want manageable straight hair. The “beauty industry” is booming.

    I admire her for stopping the pattern that was created to keep us slaves to industry. To value ourselves and not get brainwashed to think something is wrong with us. Your body being thin or heavier don’t define who you truly are.

    Some people need to wake up don’t know why but this this story reminds me of the matrix.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall April 10, 2014 at 5:48 PM - Reply

      “Let’s not kid ourselves industries have earn billions a year making us feel there is something wrong with ourselves that we must fix.”

      I don’t think saying “maybe body positivity is catching on” is about kidding ourselves – maybe if I said “Finally, we’re all accepting people as they are” then I’d be in another universe. But it’s hard for me to ignore than, a few years ago, writing about bodies in a way that isn’t intended to garner shame had ME overrun with hateful trolls a few years ago. Times are, without a doubt, changing for the better.

  6. Cherished131 April 9, 2014 at 4:36 PM - Reply

    I like this story because looking at her is liking looking in the mirror. If I think she is beautiful than it helps me to love myself more. Some comedian on Youtube did a similar thing by putting on a bikini and I who would have never thought to buy a bikini at size 16 went out and bought one because my image was distorted. Every time I see a story about this woman;please note, I can’t read the comment sections because of cruelity, I see beauty. I see a beautiful woman, skin and body. I’m still on a journey to loose weight and not be pre-anything but this act was a good thing that she did to remind us of various kinds of beauty.

  7. Angela L April 9, 2014 at 10:27 PM - Reply

    I clicked on the video totally expecting to feel embarrassed for this woman, thinking she had made herself into a joke. To my surprise, instead of feeling embarrassed by her, I felt proud of her. She exuded self-confidence and instead of seeing a joke, I saw a happy, well-balanced, confident woman taking a stand for self-acceptance. She was not delusional like some obese people, touting that they are healthy and have no desire to change. She was honest, admitting that her weight is something she’s working on, but in the meantime, she was going to love and accept herself NOW, not when she fit the mold of the masses.
    My Story: Twelve years ago, my body resembled this woman’s body. I didn’t like myself because of how I looked and how much I weight, 240lb. I had obtained two Ivy League degrees, was smart and successful but had such low self-esteem because I hated my body. Looking like Amani in this video so depressed me that I was willing to undergo gastric bypass surgery to no longer be that size anymore. I lost the weight and was a “normal” size for about 10 years. Then the unthinkable happened, I started to gain weight and am now just 10 lbs shy of what I weighed when I first sought out the gastric bypass surgery. However, instead of feeling depressed and suicidal (which commonly occurs in those who regain weight after the gastric bypass), God has taken me on a wonderful journey of self-forgiveness, self-acceptance and self-love, no matter my “size”. I feel more comfortable and confident in my own skin now than I did when I was a size 8. This is because I realized this one truth. How I look (my “image”) doesn’t determine my blessings in life, God does. He looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. My blessings and happiness flow from my relationship with Him.

    Do I desire to lose weight again and become healthier? – Definitely! Am I going to continue to buy into society’s view that obese women are on the lower totem pole or that something’s fundamentally “wrong” with me because I struggle to lose weight? – Nope! Am I going to walk down Hollywood Blvd in a bikini? – No way! But Amani’s uninhibited act does make me smile and feel that I can positively embrace my current body without shame, while striving for better.

  8. Paula September 21, 2014 at 1:08 PM - Reply

    So, maybe I’m thinking too far into this, but I felt some kind of way, in how she responded to the man who referred to her as ‘Precious.’ While Precious is a character, people who mean harm in calling someone this, are ultimately referring to the size of the actress who portrays her. An actress, who herself has been very vocal about body image and beauty. To immediately respond, “that was very unkind…” hold up. If your mission is to promote positive self-esteem, no mater the size, that seems like it would have been a great opportunity to NOT take offense, rather hit back with something like ‘and that actress and women who look like her should love themselves, too!’ But…no. I forgot, even when it comes to expanding body image appreciation and acceptance, there are still limits on who qualifies. Kudos to Amani for her confidence, though. I just want her to get her story straight.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall September 21, 2014 at 1:17 PM - Reply

      You’re not. Not at all. This is an excellent point.

      Not just her size, but her skin color too – using it as a pejorative implies it’s wholly undesirable.

      • Paula September 21, 2014 at 5:18 PM - Reply

        Yes, absolutely agree! I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, and not bring up the skin color issue, but that was definitely on the mind, too.

  9. Gillibean April 27, 2015 at 5:26 PM - Reply

    I really love your take on things! I’ve read a few of your articles now, and you bring up so many good points that I wouldn’t have thought of. This website is helping my self esteem, my body, and my brain!

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