If you haven’t rolled your eyes at a mainstream news outlets’ list of body positive icons, then consider yourself lucky that you missed the frustration of seeing one of these stories come across your feed.
Every few weeks it seems like another one pops up and not only are the majority of these icons barely above a size 8, but these lists usually include just one woman of color or sometimes none at all. I am so in favor of drawing attention to women who are challenging beauty standards but not if that list features women who all look the same.
It all begs the question:
Is a list like that actually challenging beauty standards or is it simply continuing to reinforce them?
In the press, the body positive conversation is being dominated by smaller white voices. When only certain bodies and voices are celebrated, this does a huge disservice to the community of individuals who worked so hard to get us here.
When Marie approached me to write this piece, we both agreed that a list focused specifically on women of color was necessary given the makeup of other such lists already published.
And we also both agreed that this list wouldn’t just include the women that you may know today as leaders, but also focus on the accomplishments of the past that truly paved the way.
I will note, now that plus sizes are cool and on-trend, mainstream media has failed to acknowledge a lot of those who have been grinding and making waves in plus size fashion for it to be HERE today.
While we may have lacked access to funds and to commercialize properly (like any other situation), our voices have become erased and minimized in this game.Marie Denee
When asked about the subject of a lack of inclusion, Figueroa-Jones called for a more unified and inclusive message.
“Body positivity is a lifestyle and much more than what you see on social media,” shares Figueroa-Jones. “There are many ways that we could all promote a body-positive lifestyle for ourselves and those around us. I never want people to think that they are not able to participate simply because they are not bloggers or have a platform.”
Unity is the key to furthering this movement!”Madeline Figueroa Jones
“The reason why the movement has thrived is because every day, women and men are supporting those of us that are putting ourselves out there. We have been able to create change because of the support from the community“, Figueroa-Jones adds.
Chenese Lewis shares that this issue is sadly nothing new in the plus size fashion industry.
“Every decade in the plus size fashion movement has had key influencers with defining moments, and women of color have always been in the forefront of the community.
However, there are very few (if any) women of color in top leadership positions on the corporate level with companies whose brands directly affect the plus size industry, and that reflects in the imagery celebrated in mainstream media.
I came into the community in 2000, and as long as I can remember, lack of diversity has been an on-going issue, but it is reflective of our society as a whole because women of color make up a third of all working women, but they are scarce in corporate America.
For many women of color that have outstanding accomplishments in the body positive, plus size fashion, or any industry, in general, had to go above and beyond what is expected and sometimes still get overlooked for someone more privileged.
Even though plus size fashion is getting more mainstream media attention, the exposure is less frequent for women of color than their white counterparts.”
And in the vein of celebrating that greatness, this is our list of 25 women of color who paved the way for body positivity and plus size fashion (in no particular order).
25 Women Of Color Who Paved The Way for Body Positivity & Plus Size Fashion
These are only 25 Women of Color who have positively impacted plus size fashion, and there are so many more!
One way in which this issue has been amplified in recent years is through social media. Lewis calls attention to social media’s impact on the voices. Those who are considered to be most influential in mainstream body positivity and plus size fashion.
“The biggest change in the body positivity and plus size fashion industry has been the overwhelming importance of social media,” says Lewis. “This can also be problematic when a white blogger or social media influencer publicly posts racially insensitive things with little or no consequence to their brand and still receives mainstream opportunities, while a woman of color is not even considered.
Even though there are women of color in the plus community that are immensely popular, in many instances, they do not receive equal opportunities or support. Despite all of this, there are women of color who somehow break through the hurdles and achieve greatness, whether its grassroots activism or mainstream success, our contributions to the progression of this movement are significant.”
It’s impossible to really do the 25 women of color justice, and this list is by no means exhaustive. But, hopefully, it’s a start to a more inclusive look at body positivity and plus size fashion. Join the conversation by sharing the women of color that have impacted your own body positive journey.