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.” [source]
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.
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?