Two little words, while powerful on their own, take on a much more significant meaning when they are put together. I grew up a chunky kid, and I knew that fat was something I didn't want to be. But I first learned the real power these words wield in my adolescence. That's when I can remember the word fat being used toward me, making me feel bad and put down.
I can vividly remember being in my 7th grade Science class waiting for it to start. I overheard four classmates' (two guys -- one of which was my crush, and two girls) conversation and they were naming each girl in the class and rating if they would "go with" them or not. I was surprised when I heard the girls (who I thought were my friends) say my name. I froze so I could hear their conversation.
They asked, "What about April?" and my crush nonchalantly answered, "Her face is OK, but she's too fat." My stomach turned and I felt a wave of shame and embarrassment run through my veins.
Another instance I can remember the word fat bringing me feelings of self-loathing was when I was playing tennis with my church group. It was a Sunday afternoon and there we were, under the hot sun trying to be physically active. As I bent over to pick up one of the tennis balls, a boy who was passing by on his bike yelled out to me, "Fat Ass!"
The embarrassment made me want to vomit. I was so hurt because this total stranger felt the need to throw this insult to me for no reason other than to be mean and hurt my feelings, in front of my little sister no less. I wondered if she heard him and if she felt ashamed of me too.
I'm not sure why these two specific moments stick out in my head after all these years. Maybe because they were some of the first times I realized my body could constitute such a reaction from people who had nothing to do with my life. Both times, I was completely shocked and ashamed as I was made aware that utter strangers had opinions on my size.
I came to embrace the word fat, and self identify as a Fat Girl through many years of growth and self-exploration. I became comfortable with my body size in my twenties. Like I said before, I had grown up wanting to be skinny. I thought that my life would be easier and perfect, if I was just skinny.
Then, in my early twenties, I lost a lot of weight. Suddenly, I was a thin person. But I was still very unhappy. It was then that I realized that my happiness was a decision. I started to understand that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to choose to be happy in my head and not base my self-esteem on my weight.
Armed with that knowledge, I was liberated from correlating my worth with my weight. Sharing this message with other women has become my main goal with my work and the ways I express myself.
In 2004, my husband, photographer and director Carlos Batts, and I had been working on a photo book project for about four years. We were planning to start showing it to publishers in the hopes of getting it published, and the time had come for us to think of a title.
Just like with my stage name, the title "Fat Girl" came to me easily and naturally. I knew the power these words hold and how they strike a chord every single person. Men, women, boys and girls each have a reaction to the combination of these two words used together. I knew that I wanted to redefine and change the meaning of the term "fat girl." To me, fat would no longer be the negative word had been and was to so many others. I wanted to take away the shame, and make those words have a positive, empowering connotation.
From that moment, I truly began to embrace the word fat, identify with it, and make it my own. Embracing the word fat was my way of saying, Yeah I'm fat, so what? I am happy, confident and proud.
A year later, I entered the Adult Film Industry out of curiosity and opportunity. I was offered a part in a film, and I took it because I thought it would be a fun experience.
Several months later, I was offered more work, and after my second film I thought if I was going to continue in this form of self-expression, I wanted to have a strong intention and reason in addition to exploring this medium of sexual self-expression.
I decided that I would use my body and body of work to challenge the ideals of beauty and what is considered desirable. I decided that I wanted to make a statement to other women of size and to the world that fat women can be seen as attractive and that we can, and should explore and enjoy our sexuality. I wanted to show other women that they don't have to wait until they lost x amount of weight to feel sexy and worthy. I want to show them that we can enjoy the bodies that they currently inhabit.
I feel fortunate because I have had success with spreading my message to women across the world, and my work has been well received. I am proud because my work in adult film has gotten me many firsts, and has opened doors for other plus sized performers. I was the first plus sized performer to be on the cover of AVN Magazine. I am the first ever BBW to have sex toys molded from my body, which is great because it sent the message that there is a demand and market for sex toys that represent a more diverse body size.
I have spoken out and spoken my mind, and people have listened. I have attainted my goal of being able to reach other fat women and show them that they can feel beautiful the way they are.
But even after all of this, I am sometimes still not immune to being affected by outside influences on the way I feel. I was home sick the other day resting and watching TV, and I was astonished because the majority of what I saw were programs aimed at weight issues. Throughout the day, each program promised to share the knowledge to beat that belly bulge and become a better you.
After a few hours, I realized that these programs were actually starting to have an impact on me. I had not woken up feeling bad about myself, but slowly, I was starting to. I understand the health aspect of where these issues/programs are coming from, but there needs to be some balance. Just because you are fat, does not mean you are unhappy and unhealthy. I am not a health professional, so I do not try to speak about that aspect, other than to say that weight is not a complete indicator of health. There are thin people who are unhealthy as well.
These days, everyone is super PC. There is a sensitivity and awareness as to what words and names are harmful and irresponsible to use, but fat seems to be one thing that is still OK to make fun of and use as a punchline. "Need an easy laugh? Make fun of a fat person!" seems to be the general consensus.
From an early age, we are constantly bombarded with messages about what the society deems an acceptable body and these images have an effect on our psyche. I am trying to do my little part in providing some balance for other women who have a body that doesn't necessarily fit into that standard.
Yes, I am fat. I see the word fat as a descriptive word. Just like the word red. My hair is red and I am fat. It has no harmful power over me -- in fact, I have given it so much of a different, positive meaning that I completely embrace it. I am excited that I am able to continue to share this idea with other women through my work in films, with my writing and with the photography book Fat Girl, which will be published very soon.
I believe that the association of the word fat can evolve from a negative and become a positive, and I feel that the evolution has already begun. This is a pretty exciting time for us Fat Girls!