The Body Positive Movement
If the first thing that comes to mind when you hear body positivity is plus-sized women, then these three women are here to set you aright. The body positive movement not only works to make people have better attitudes towards their bodies, it also strives to make one positive and maintain a healthy lifestyle for oneself.
Dami Elebe, Latasha Ngwube and Temi Aboderin-Alao, through their daily lives and their careers, are encouraging anyone who cares to listen, to be confident in themselves, the way they look and live their best lives.
Ngwube is the founder of About That Curvy Life (ATCL) and a firm believer in “equality, for everyone to be considered beautiful in whatever state they are in”. Inspired by genuine zero to hero stories, Ngwube realised that the kind of success she dreamed of could be possible. She started off in 2004 as a makeup artist before becoming a fashion editor and then starting a brand known for celebrating curvy people and encouraging them to live their best lives now.
The ATCL initiative, aimed at inspiring and supporting the plus-size community, started out as a body positive advocacy movement on Instagram for plus-size people. Ngwube's sense of style and the way she tackled issues concerning body size really drew the attention to her brand. Being one who never thought of her size as a hindrance, she believed that she had gotten almost everything she ever wanted in life.
“The day that maybe I cannot get out of bed by myself, then maybe I will see it as a hindrance but that is on me and not on anyone else. I feel like what is in my head and what I carry in my heart is much greater than the sum total of my looks or what everybody sees on the outside. This I know for myself.”
Ngwube believes that her life is her way of encouraging others who may be struggling with issues relating to their physical appearance.
“I think that my own life and the way I live or have lived is the best example I can show anyone. I'm not telling people to live their best lives and I'm stuck behind some dead desk job that I hate. I am truly living my best life. And if anyone can look at all of that even from something as basic as my Instagram and not see that and think to herself, 'If she can, why can't I,' then I don't know what to tell you.”
“I want to see a world where women are not held back by what they perceive to be flaws or imperfections. I've seen women who in the last 10 years have been waiting to lose 10kg just before they can start living, go after a job, say yes to a relationship or travel the world. Why should you? Why can't you do it now? I do not think that you should sit there and wait. Those are the people I hope we're reaching and I need them to understand that there is no perfect time. I wonder why people are always quick to [mention] the implications. Just because you're slimmer than me, how do I know that you haven't spent the last 15 years of your life in the hospital? I don't know what goes on inside of your body. You probably don't even workout as much as I do. I'm all for people being healthy. Be healthy, eat well, live well, drink water, get fit, but don't tell me I can't be anything I want to be because I'm bigger than you.”
Her message for everyone facing one form of insecurity or intimidation based on the way they look or people's perception is,
“The way people see you is really up to them. It has very little to do with you, and upon closer inspection you will find that those people don't also think very much of themselves too. Just keep pushing through whatever it is that you do or whatever that gives you joy and then one day it will all be worth it.”
Dami Elebe is the brain behind comedy web series Skinny Girl In Transit (SGIT) and Rumour Has It. Passionate about what she does, the scriptwriter opened up about the challenges she has faced so far in the industry.
Elebe feels that one's physical appearance may hinder one in the entertainment industry, with people preventing you from doing certain things because of size, rather than the limitations of one's talent.
“It's a struggle that my talent gets recognised slower than other things that are being done in the entertainment industry. I also feel like if I were slimmer, I might be in a different place. I feel like there's a little bit of that discriminatory thing to people who are bigger in the industry and you have to do twice as much to be out there.”
She talked about what she felt was the true meaning of body positivity. “For me, body positivity is not just about me being plus-sized. Body positivity is about every single one of us who wake up in the morning and just look in the mirror and feel like they are not who they feel they should be. This is us just saying, “Look it doesn't really matter how you look. What matters is what you make with your life at the moment.” One thing I want is for us to get to a point whereby your look doesn't hinder people from recognising the greatness that you are or whatever it is that you do. I'm just here to make sure that people who have physical challenges don't let other people make them feel small enough for them to doubt whatever talent they have.”
Elebe believes that you need to be confident with the way you are, even if you plan on making changes to the way you look.
“At the end of the day, you start to realise if you don't want what you look like, then you change it. Whatever it is that you want to do to make yourself feel awesome, go ahead and do it. You have to be comfortable with what you have now before you can even start to work with what it is you want. Changing and working on yourself and being confident is something that you continually do for the rest of your life. The first step to body positivity is confidence. It's the first step and it's the hardest step because to be confident in who you are and what you do is so hard, especially if you keep thinking about what every other person is saying. Don't care what any other person says because this life is just you and God.”
“It doesn't matter what your disadvantage is. It limits you from nothing. The only thing that limits you is your mind. If you don't put your mind to it, you'll never get it done. You can only push yourself to wherever it is that you want to go. You can only take people's opinions about you as just that, opinions. What do you feel about yourself?”
Aboderin-Alao is very passionate about plus-sized fashion. Inspired by her mother, who taught her to fight through hardships and come out stronger, the designer and CEO of the Golden Curvy Agency moved back to Nigeria in 2011 to start her own plus-sized brand, aiming to empower curvy women. She has had runway shows since 2001 after her official launch of the JPKOUTURE fashion line at Terra Kulture. Since then, her plus-sized brand has handled various shows from Africa Fashion Week Nigeria (AFWN) to Plussize Fashion Week Africa (PFWAfrica).
Aboderin-Alao, who has a background in computer programming, talks about her first show and how far her brand has come:
“I think what made it special was that ever since we started, people were laughing at us, not getting what the message was.”
The main achievement of PSFWA was having an inclusive fashion show that catered to everyone, regardless of their size.
“I started this plus size thing in 2011 when nobody would touch it. Now, almost on a daily basis, I come across pages or people who are doing plus-sized fashion now in Nigeria. Designers are now catering to plus-sized women. There are more than 25 [plus-sized designers] at the moment and mainstream designers who never really catered to plus size are now extending their product range. More people are talking about body positivity.”
Initially, the plus-size brand was accused of glamourising obesity, but Aboderin-Alao made it clear that it was so much more than people thought it to be. Body positivity, to her, was about being confident with who you are and the way you look.
“It all starts in the mind. If you're feeling down about yourself, you're not going to get confident enough to get up and change your life and be who you want to be. Whether it's changing your current relationships, economic status or weight, if you don't have the confidence or the push to start, you're just going to constantly be on hold.”
Her agency has not only given plus-sized models the opportunity to rock the runway and be confident; it has also trained them to have a clean, healthy lifestyle.
“A strict part of building the confidence of our models is that we teach them what they are supposed to eat, we put them on diets, do regular detox and boot camps. Just because you're a plus-sized model doesn't mean you can eat anything that comes your way. You're also like a normal model that has to watch what you eat.”
“Building someone's confidence includes telling them don't just eat anything you want to. You have to take care of yourself and you have to exercise. You have to be mobile. So those are the things that we do and that's what we are about. It's a holistic view of the plus sized woman's life void of judgment.”