Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2018-04-06

My Uphill Battle to Interrupt Fatphobia with Tee Shirts

A few weeks ago I was at a three day seminar about building up businesses. I won a tee shirt from her merch table and I went to go pick it up. The business guru had about a dozen shirt designs and several styles to choose from. However, when I went to select my shirt there was no choice available for me because there wasn’t even a unisex shirt that came in a size that fit me.

This is not an unusual experience for me, or for many fat folks. It sucks to feel left out of the inventory of 95% of stores. I don’t like this feeling and I totally don’t want this experience for my customers for Fat Kid Dance Party. I’m interrupting fatphobia and it’s an experience where fat people are centered!

PDX tour stop day two!

I started Fat Kid Dance Party by thinking about who was left behind in dance aerobics. I started my tee shirt journey from the same mustard seed. Who is left behind with traditional tee shirts?

In justice circles, the general call is for shirts that go up to size 6X. This is difficult to find but I basically made it my mission to do it. I feel especially hurt by so-called intersectional feminist stores that don’t carry plus sizes, or barely make it to a 2X. I wanted to create a different experience for my customers.

It is really hard to find a size inclusive line of tee shirt blanks. Different size bodies need different fit configurations and a unisex shirt isn’t particularly comfortable for me as a person with boobs. Even a unisex size 2X basically only fits up to a size 24W. It’s not enough. If you’re in justice movements and you want to validate intersectionality, you need to offer a size range that includes fat people.

Me and Jake in Seattle!

“Women’s” cut shirts are almost never truly size inclusive, a 2X in that cut tends to fit someone who is more like a size 14 not a size 24. Plus size bodies require a different fit and most shirt manufacturers are lazy about it. Often people printing shirts for their merch aren’t focused on inclusion and aren’t accommodating actual human diversity. (I would say a full 15% of attendees at that business seminar wouldn’t have been able to fit a single shirt at the merch mall.)

I hunted around last August for my sized to 6X tee shirt blank solution and luckily Rachel Kacenjar was already creating that.

Rachel has been designing and curating plus size clothes for well over a decade. She was on the hunt for a really good plus size tee shirt blank and knew she needed to design one. A bigger neckhole, a better shape. She found a manufacturer whose minimum order was $50,000 and by cobbling together orders (mine was $1,000, I’m sure other folks had more) and doing the labor of fulfilling all of those sub-orders, she managed to get it done.

With Julia who won my MVP for “traveled the longest to get to class” award in Minneapolis!

It was no small feat, Rachel had lengthy back and forth with the manufacturer to get the fit right and we didn’t get our shirts until the beginning of February. However, the shirts are incredible and so worth the wait!!

I worked on tee shirt designs with Genuine Valentine, a tee shirt company that primarily serves non-binary and queer folks and their allies. GV is a print on demand tee shirt service so as orders come in they are printed and fulfilled by a behind-the-scenes third party. That third party only allows you to buy their blanks and they only go up to 4X in unisex.

Minneapolis!

Fat folks have likely experienced a vendor charging more for a 2X or above tee shirt! True, it costs more to produce because of slightly more fabric and I have experienced the customer annoyance of having to pay $3-$10 more than a thin person. Not surprisingly, the slow as molasses manufacturer charged $2 additionally between the 1X shirts and the 5/6X shirts.

Since my primary goal is to interrupt fatphobia for my customers as much as I can, I just calculated what my cost for all the shirts was and divided it by the number of shirts to determine my cost. I also extended the same price to the print on demand shirts so the cost of all shirts is evenly absorbed.

The nice thing about Genuine Valentine as the home for my online print on demand tee shirt sales is that I can easily do kids shirts and non plus size. (It’s referred to as “straight size” isn’t that funny?) I included some wording in the description letting customers know extended plus sizes are available through my website.

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The shirts are made in the USA in ethical factory, screen printed by queers of color, graphic designed by a non-binary person and in every way as diverse as I could make them. The shirt material is really soft and I love mine. Best tee shirt I’ve ever owned, actually. I LOVE that the printing takes up a lot of space on the tee shirt because the best part of having a larger body is more landscape for art! Tattoos! Clothing! More landscape looks great decorated! #moreismore

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Yay tee shirts helping me interrupt fatphobia—YET—having two sources for shirts is so confusing! I’m still working on the customer experience buying them online. Anyone anywhere can buy the print on demand shirts through Genuine Valentine, but how to get the internet the limited edition fat 4 fat designed babe adorned version?

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Since I got the shirts printed by Stuzo clothing I have been selling them in person at Fat Kid Dance Party classes and on my tour! It is validating and exciting to see my shirts out in the wild! I love the shirts so much I bought all the stock that Rachel the designer had left of them and am printing a fresh run.

My dream is to have people go up to people they see in a Fat Kid Dance Party shirt or with an enamel pin, water bottle or whatever and high five for self care! (Jazz hands are the no touch high five if you don’t like high fiving!)

Jenny, Dara (in the non crop top version from Genuine Valentine), Kristen and I didn’t plan to all wear the Self Loving AF crop tops at the same time.

The beautiful Fat Kid Dance Party website is still under construction. Once that’s done I’ll have a merch section. In the meantime I’ve struggled figuring out how to sell my on hand special plus size shirts in a temporary capacity without confusing things too much with the side piece that is the print on demand option. But nevertheless I persist and I’ve heard that if you’re not embarrassed by your first iteration you waited too long to launch.

I really know how to do a Facebook live sale like a QVC show! I’m excited to sell some of my cute fat vintage hoard and all the tee shirts I have on hand! I’ve been going live weekly with the Plus Bus for several months selling plus size clothing and love doing it!

So if you want a tee shirt, tune in live on my Facebook at 6PM PDT on Monday, April 9, 2018! Turn on notifications so you get reminded when I go live every day to talk about loving yourself more!

2017-07-26

Overcoming Stereotypes and Busting Out My Own Style

When I was eleven years old, I remember vividly the relief of exiting the school bus while girls viciously taunted me. This time the impetus was not my fat, my usual crime. It was having the audacity to wear a half ponytail with several different colored fuzzy ponytail holders on it—and the fuzzy ponytail holders did not match. I was in middle school and my greatest longing in the world was to fit in and go unnoticed. On that excruciating bus ride, filled with shame and regret for my bold choice, I learned that I better not try to have fun with my style. Folks who have been bullied on a bus know how endless the ride can feel, and how painful it is to endure taunting, staring straight ahead pretending it doesn’t bother you.

Fitting in when you’re already wearing adult sizes in sixth grade is basically impossible, especially in the early nineties. Plus size fashion is limited today, but before online shopping and Torrid in the mall, we had nothing but boring career wear to work with. The idea of looking like the typical American pre-teen girl, with her Guess jeans, hypercolor tee shirts and high top name brand shoes was my dream but I neither had the funds or access to make that dream happen.

As I absorbed the other lies I was taught about being a fat woman—that I was not sexually attractive, I better not wear anything revealing and I should try not to draw attention to myself—I lost any desire to discover my own style and perform my gender. Performing gender is a way of showing your internal gender identity externally—usually through clothes, accessories, and maybe make-up.

When I got to college and started the coming out process, I let the same kind of limiting beliefs affect how I presented myself. Due to femmephobia and anti-butch sentiment in my collegiate LGBT community, I learned that having a strong expression of masculine or feminine gender was not acceptable and it was better to lean towards an a-gender or hippy outdoorsy look. I thought that in order to get a girlfriend and be attractive I should be as androgynous as possible. This was kind of a relief because shopping in the men’s department at Old Navy made it marginally easier to find clothes that fit me (this is before Old Navy carried plus size women’s clothes).

I never actually pulled off androgyny, my inherent Femme presentation busted through no matter how many times I heard the term “Lipstick Lesbian” thrown around in a derisive way.

When I moved to Philadelphia for law school I fell into what I like to call the “right” crowd. These friends were supportive, believed I was a babe in a fat body and wildly applauded all of the new things I was doing to express my style and my gender. I began slow, in cute dresses, wearing sleeveless tops, showing cleavage.

Going sleeveless was a revolution for me. I had always believed that stereotype that a fat person I shouldn’t show off my arms, I have no idea how that rule came to be. Arm fat isn’t dangerous, it’s just a benign part of your body. It took a lot of work to get comfortable going out without sleeves on, but having that “right crowd” was really helpful to develop my confidence.

As I began performing on stage first as a drag king and then as a dual drag king/Femme queen I began really pushing the gender envelope. Leaning into different gender presentations I began to figure out what was expressing who I was and what I felt an inherent aversion to.

Far beyond fitting into the standard American womanhood, whatever that is, my actual gender expression is a sort of exaggerated femininity. Like Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy, I feel the most myself in bright make-up, big hair and sexy clothes.

Many queer women (and people) cannot relate to the standards of beauty and femininity that society promotes. Queer folks come in all shapes, sizes and gender presentations and the standards of beauty are not representative of actual human diversity.

Legendary storyteller Shonda Rhimes is partnering with Dove to shift the power of media representation from Hollywood into the hands of real women. Using an all female crew, Dove is helping open up the conversation about the effects of gender stereotypes. Meet Kylee!

Kylee Howell’s story is the second film from Dove Real Beauty Productions and empowers others to find their real beauty. It is a powerful message of non-conformity, self-assurance and shedding the narrow definitions of beauty imposed on herself and other women in her community. It also has a really sweet message from her mom.

I love this video—Kylee is a dapper stylish barber who had to unlearn gender stereotypes to become herself.

Quentin Crisp said, “Style is being yourself on purpose.” I really believe that you have to let go of everyone else’s expectations of you and fitting into stereotypes in order to truly discover your own style. This is so difficult in a culture that commodifies insecurity and prizes fitting in. Thank goodness for the internet and the ability to see so many gorgeous people out there working their own looks, their own gender and their own idea of how to be a woman/man/limitless gender they want.

If you have been struggling to overcome stereotypes and let your unique beauty shine, I highly recommend figuring out who the “right” group is for you. When you’re feeling good, write down who your body positive, supportive, style encouraging friends are. Who in your life believes in an expansive definition of beauty? Write it down and put that list someplace you can see it next time you need encouragement, or some folks to go out with wearing your first sleeveless top (or whatever your equivalent of a sleeveless top may be).

When I walk into the room doing my style and not stereotypes, I’m writing the conversation instead of landing in a narrative laid out by stereotypes. I am showing people I am bold, I take risks, and I am confident. I know now that fuzzy ponytail holder thing I was rocking in sixth grade was a stylish risk and it was fiercely nonconforming.

Photo by Jes Baker.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

2016-07-21

Thigh Chafing aka Chub Rub Prevention in Bathing Suits!

I got the following question in my comments about a topic I’m very passionate about–thigh chafing aka chub rub prevention!

What about swimming? How do we go swimming with bikini bottoms but still prevent the chafing?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve never actually found swimming to cause chub rub for me, but I have definitely had moments at pool parties and beaches where I needed to surreptitiously apply chub rub prevention for out of the water wandering and socializing. It’s hard to find a clandestine spot to rub something between your thighs out at the beach, and you don’t want to wait until it’s too late!

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I decided to try out my current three top choices for chub rub prevention in the water. I tried each one doing the same activity and determined the results.

The activity–aqua jogging for 35-45 minutes, then walking around the pool 10-15 times to find out if I felt chafing coming on. I feel like aqua jogging is about as vigorous and thigh chafy as you might get in the water, since it is pretty consistent thigh rubbing when jogging.

BANDELETTES

You may have already read my write-up about Bandelettes, these super sexy lace bands that go around the thigh and stay up all day to prevent chub rub. Totally the answer to the “what do I wear on a date when I don’t want to be wearing bicycle shorts under my dress for sexy times” question. They are also just an amazing layering piece because they are cute and when they peek out from under a short skirt it is hot.

I grabbed a pair and tried them on the first day. They worked great! I was actually pretty dubious because after a super long, sweaty day (10+ hours in outdoor NYC muggy heat) Bandelettes are soggy and not in great shape. Maybe it’s pool water, maybe it was that they were a brand new pair, but they worked like a charm! Even the walk around the pool didn’t disrupt their staying power on my thighs.

My Grandmother thought they were so sexy she made me pose for photographs. It’s kind of weird when your Grandmother says you look sexy but I’ll take that over diet talk any day.

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Full disclosure, I get an affiliate bonus of 10% of all orders of Bandelettes made through my site. Please know I wouldn’t affiliate if I didn’t believe in them. (All of my Bandelettes money is going towards my tea business.)

BODY GLIDE

Body Glide has been my go to thigh chafing boo for over ten years. We’re still going strong, I love that it comes in a stick glide on formula, makes it so easy to apply and take on the go. I was kind of worried about it enduring the pool water but it seemed okay.

After my walk around the pool I felt the nervous sensation that my thighs were no longer as protected as they could be and that I would typically go to the restroom and apply more if I felt that way and were going to try to walk around any more than I had.

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CHAMOIS BUTT’R

I had this tube of Chamois Butt’r, a chafing prevention potion meant for cyclists, hanging out from my last foray into thigh chafe prevention experimentation. I have been enjoying it because I feel like I can pile it on a little thicker than the stick applicators. I had high hopes for this one lasting in the water (after all, chafe prevention prevents sweat from creating chafing conditions) and it didn’t disappoint. Similar to the Body Glide, I felt a little nervous after my out of the water walking around the pool was over but it held on and I remained chafe free.

So that’s what I have for swimming-related chafe prevention! Do you have a chafe prevention modality you love? Comment below or on my instagram, facebook fan page or twitter. I love adding new thigh chafing prevention modalities to my hit list!

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2016-02-15

Beth Ditto has a new Fashion Line!

New plus size fashion has been given unto us… and it is good!

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One of my very favorite wardrobe staples is the sweater face dress I bought from Beth Ditto’s first fashion line, a collaboration with Evans in the UK. For those of you who don’t know Beth Ditto, she’s probably the most famous queer fat femme out there, rising to fame as the lead singer of Gossip, has her own awesome solo music projects and wrote a memoir with Michelle Tea.

I consider that sweater dress an investment piece–I spent a bunch of money on it, I adore it and will continue to wear year after year. I always make a huge impression when I wear it.

Beth’s first line for Evans was so killer and I still regret not buying the Domino dress! At the time I was working for Re/Dress in Brooklyn and Deb, the owner, coordinated a big purchase from Evans so we could all share the shipping. I think each of the shop girls bought a piece!

I was so excited to hear that Beth was working on a new line and it launched Monday at 3AM Pacific Time! First thing I did this morning was browse the collection.

This time Beth is doing it herself as an indie designer–no corporation. Everything is made in factories in NYC and she’s gotten input from her designer friends to help put it together. Beth says herself these are investment pieces, and she’s right. They are priced like indie designer pieces but from what I can tell via the internet look totally worth it. Timeless and well conceived. I can’t wait to hear from folks their feedback about the fit and fabric!

loladressbethdittoWhen I am a rich lesbian I will buy the Lola dress in Lipstick Traces. I LOVE the cut and the color and fabric pattern design.

As my readers know I’m in the middle of my transition from NYC to LA so since I’m living off savings and working on new career prospects I don’t have the cash to plunk down on all of the jumpsuits and dresses I want to add to my life. I thought I would aspirationally shop on this post to perhaps inspire my readers to buy some of her pieces so she can be wildly successful with this venture and continue to make clothes that I can buy when my transition period is over and I am a rich lesbian.

04_185-815x1024I LOVE this Modern Love Jumpsuit in Liquid Black. I just think wearing a sheer silver lamé jumpsuit with great underwear out to an event with exceptional shoes sounds like an amazing experience. New item on my bucket list!

timessquarejumpsuitbethdittoThe Modern Love Jumpsuit is also in this Times Square pattern. Adore it!

ninadressbethdittoWhile my first choice dress from the collection is the Lola, I’m kind of dying over the Nina dress! I think it’s so versatile, I think it could be a good fancy work dress, a great cocktail party dress, a great red carpet dress. And if I were giving Hillary Clinton a make-over I would put her in this dress. The only reason it’s not my top choice for aspirational shopping is because I have a dress that is a similar cut and color combination.

04-01-Bubble-color-eatyourmakeup_1024x1024The Double Bubble Dress in Eat Your Make-up (comes in a couple of other colors as well) is on top of my list to twin with Kelli Jean Drinkwater, my queer fat femme friend from Sydney Australia. Because when I’m a rich lesbian I’ll fly her to LA so we can twin in whatever we want!

bethdittoleighdressBoth the Leigh Dress and the Kim oversize shirt look sooo comfortable. I have a dress that is sleeveless with a similar drape, big and flowy, and it is perfect in hot weather. Casually glamorous.

Working at Re/Dress for the three years it was open in Brooklyn and being a body positive activist for over fourteen years has put me in contact with so many indie plus designers. Doing this work is truly a labor of love, has a lot of overhead and rarely yields a profit that lets anyone live high on the hog. I love to support indie designers and think that it’s worth it to spend your money on a quality garment that’s well made. As plus size consumers we have way more corporate options than ever before and sometimes you need/want a pair of $13 jeggings from Forever 21. But I think that prioritizing our investment piece spending to indie designers who support the mission that all bodies are worthy of great fashion and style is super important!

Readers! If you get one of Beth’s pieces tell me how the fit is and what you loved about it in the comments, on my Facebook fan page or on instagram!

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2015-07-13

An Open Letter to Oprah about Crop Tops and Body Positivity

This is a letter I wrote to Oprah Magazine in response to a call for reader input in the August 2015 issue. It is in response to the totally banal and fatphobic response to a reader question in O Magazine that folks should wear crop tops “If (and only if) they have flat stomachs.” I generally skim or skip the style and beauty content in O Magazine every month because it’s written towards folks who are seeking a more neutral style than I am looking for. But given the deep internet controversy I thought this was a great time to offer Oprah some unsolicited advice about how she could be doing better.

Since posts are better with photos of lots of folks with different bodies, I have asked my friends to be part of a crop top army, their photos and links are throughout this post.

IMAG0213If I had a Bevin Magazine and I did it like Oprah with my photo on every cover this is what my cover could look like one month.

Dear Oprah:

I am writing this from the place of being very steeped in Oprah culture. Like many folks, I am a longtime fan. Growing up watching your talk show at my babysitters and getting more interested in your message of self-improvement once I got to college in the late 90s. I remember saving up to buy an Iyanla Vanzant book I saw on your show. I’ve always identified strongly with you and your interview style, my friends even started calling me “The Queer Oprah” about a decade ago because of my way of asking the right follow-up questions and getting deep into someone’s story, similar to your skillset. I like to ask questions until I really understand something and walk through the world with curiosity, which I believe you do as well and what makes you so good at what you do. I buy all the book club books. I’ve had a subscription to O Magazine for several years, and maintain a hoard of back issues for reference.

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Photo of Laura Luna, one of my favorite folks on social media. Her insights and vulnerabilities and fun are very inspirational. Here are her words as a caption to this photo. I highly recommend an instagram follow! “That time at #amc2015 when I got pulled up on stage by @leahrosegallegos from @lascafeteras to share a dance and everything around me felt magical cos femmes and a little of LA in Detroit and how because of seeing so many brilliant fats strutting their stuff at the conference I felt safe and even a little liberated to wear this outfit and dance dance dance in front of what seemed like a sea of people.#femme #queer #qpoc #qwoc #femmesofcolorvisibility #fat #xicana #latina #femmeofcolor #fatvanity #pocbodyposi #effyourbeautystandards #fatpoc.” Photo was taken at the Allied Media Conference by Ara Howrani.

Ever since you started OWN, I’ve been an even stronger fan, your spiritual programming really resonates with my eclectic mix of spirituality. I kept cable much longer than I could afford to because I wanted to continue to have access to OWN. (Because it streams online the parade of spiritual thought leaders on Super Soul Sunday is still part of my life, but if you made Next Chapter and Iyanla Fix My Life available for purchase like Bravo does with their shows I would be a very happy camper who doesn’t have cable.)

I say all of that to position what I’m about to say from a place of love and constructive feedback. I get what you do in the world, I get where you have been going recently, and I think you can do a whole lot better when it comes to talking about people’s bodies.

The original instagram post that started it all, according to news reports.

You were at the forefront of diet culture for decades, folks watched you openly struggle with controlling your body. Your value for your body echoed the dominant culture, that you should be thin. I think it’s important to recognize that the diet focus you had for many years influenced people, and caused harm by reiterating body shame and body hatred for all of the people watching who view you as a role model.

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Photo of Amanda Joy. Check out her art website and her instagram!

People change and people evolve, and I’ve noticed in the past few years much less emphasis on dieting in the Oprahverse–that has been a welcome shift.

I hated my body for so many years. So when I watched you dieting growing up, I identified with feelings of futility and wanting to try yet another thing to control my body. I hated myself so much that it consumed me. More often than not, my idle thoughts were spent berating myself, rather than focusing on bigger ideas or being open to seeing the world around me. I didn’t know how to be present. I was always focused on the future, the thin body I would one day have that would solve all of my problems. Or I was focused on the past, my failures, and deep depression.

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My friend Chavon modeling for Booty and the Geek. In Chavon’s spare time she makes geeky themed frames and journals, check them out on instagram.

Ironically, though the Oprah show reiterated my body hatred, it was an Oprah Book Club selection that helped me begin my journey to stop hating myself. Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone featured a fat main character who hated herself so completely I felt shame for identifying with her so strongly, and vowed to work to stop hating myself.

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Photo of Pizzacupcake, one half of the duo GAYMOUS, showing the important relative to the crop top–the side belly cut out. You can buy the incredible GAYMOUS EP here. (Their Let’s Pretend We Don’t Have Feelings video is also worth watching!) Photo by Danielle Billingsley.

It would be years until I got to the stop hating my body part of that journey, but once I did I was free to open my mind up to the world and step into an activist role working to help all people realize that they are worthy of love no matter what their body looks like. I really believe that my purpose in life was blocked and my spirituality was not accessible to me when I let myself stay obsessed with hating my body and myself. A big part of my spiritual awakening happened because I was able to love and inhabit my body, realizing that I was here in the body I was given for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to help folks heal the shame of a society steeped in body currency. (Body currency is a term coined by Jes Baker that I explain in this post.)

11202448_914884111888521_3032253831620096736_nI just started wearing crop tops this year. I’ve been slow to start wearing crop tops, even though I’ve been rocking a fatkini for a couple of years. I am forever indebted to my queer fat femme style icons for doing it for so long and helping me learn that it’s okay to flaunt and love your belly at any size. Photo by my friend Anne at Rebel Cupcake in June, 2015.

Now I’m present. I love my body and it frees me up to really inhabit this life. To focus on my purpose. To enjoy the world this time around. To have so much fun that it makes up for the years of depression, self-loathing and misery.

Fringe shorts on the Fire Island Ferry! Heading to Cherry Grove! 🍒

A video posted by Bevin (@queerfatfemme) on

Speaking of fun, press play on this video and see how much fun I’m having in my Diet Industry Dropout crop top!

The body shaming response to a reader’s question about whether she could wear a crop top, “If (and only if)” she has a flat stomach is causing public outrage for good reason. This is a chance to get on the right side of history. More and more folks are deciding to love their bodies and wear whatever they want to display those bodies.

I was disappointed that the public response from O Magazine (as printed on People.com) was trite and shallow. “We support, encourage and empower all women to look great, feel confident and live their best lives – in this case, we could have expressed it better. We appreciate the feedback and will be more mindful going forward.” Actually, doing what you did caused harm to folks, much like the constant diet chatter caused harm on the Oprah show. Not just “could have done better” but how about instead of being just mindful you really do something different?

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This is Al Benkin. “I’m a otherly abled gender non conforming queer working artist. I am a proud She. My bramd is Beautiful Mutant Art aka Mutantland.” You can follow Al on instagram!

This is an opportunity to move forward with utilizing your platform to include body positivity. I think you can acknowledge that every person has humanity–do all humans deserve dignity regardless of their body’s appearance? Can you be open to the fact that our culture creates a hierarchy of bodies and that race, class, gender, gender presentation, sexuality, culturally approved beauty, amount of cellulite, body hair, age, ability and a ton of other factors ranks us and pits us against each other?

That keeping us hating our bodies and focused on dieting is a way to hypnotize us while folks who have their body currency on lock (white, thin, straight, wealthy men) use it to profit off of us?

This is a chance for you to use your clout to actually change our culture. You are a thought leader. What you amplify in your media makes a difference in people’s lives. You know from your experience on the diet roller coaster that body shame does not help people lose weight. It simply helps people hate themselves.

IMG_4486Photo of Jenna Riot, amazing femme DJ and style icon! Jenna’s instagram is here. More fun than the Kardashians.

Here are some ideas I suggest to adopt throughout the Oprah media platforms, including O Magazine, Oprah.com, and the Oprah Winfrey Network programming.

1. You can talk about nutrition and body love from the perspective of “all bodies are good bodies.” You can do this from a place of knowing that working to eat in alignment with the comfortable functioning of our body and movement for so many great, body loving reasons don’t necessarily have to be focused on an outcome of weight loss. That weight has nothing to do with people’s value. You can do a whole show about Health at Every Size!

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Photo of very talented performance artist Shane Shane by Odalys Diaz. I love Shane Shane’s FANCY belly tattoo.

2. Continue to suggest foods, eating patterns and physical movement that is focused on nourishing the body. You totally do this about half the time. (The other half of the time is printing a bunch of intense dessert and indulgent food recipes. Both are great! Both can be about celebrating food and bodies.) When you do this, try to not assign value to the food and movement you talk about.

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Photo of Kelly Higgins, self identified body positive straight girl. (I definitely think fatkinis are cousins of the crop top.)

3. How about a lifestyle show about people loving their bodies? Doing loving movement at every size. Getting various body positive activists to work with folks one on one on the show to help them work through their body shame. I have a lot of ideas for shows celebrating body love. There is so much fun to be had celebrating body love!

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Marina wore her first crop top last week! Here’s her tumblr.

4. Place a thematic emphasis throughout the Oprahverse on body love and healing aimed at young people. I imagine how different my life would have been if the Oprah Show had talked about body positivity and loving your body where it is at when I was an adolescent instead of making me want to go on a liquid diet. It would have been so freeing. It can still be so freeing to so many teens if you make this turn now.

You know who should be wearing crop tops? Everyone who wants to be wearing crop tops. Non-normative bodies wearing crop tops are important because they help make the world safer and easier for other folks to feel comfortable in their bodies. I’d love to see you in a crop top, Oprah. I don’t care what condition your belly is in, I know it is beautiful.

xoxo,

Bevin

P.S. I want to mention in this letter, because it’s an open letter, that it’s important to talk about the fact that just because people with all bodies CAN wear crop tops they don’t have to. It’s okay to be somewhere on the body love journey (or fashion preference journey) to not wear crop tops. No one should feel shame about their body love journey because they’re not ready to Rock the Crop.

Side note: How amazing would it be that, instead of the shallow “We’ll try to do better!” statement they actually issued, Oprah instead issued an apology with a promise that she’ll be on a future cover of Oprah Magazine wearing a “Diet Industry Drop Out” crop top?

Just saying.

11747402_10155735014085702_614776046_oPhoto of Jacqueline Mary by Courtney Trouble. Jacqueline wrote a great guest post about how to be a good ally to her crippled arm. She also is a DIY smut artist inclusive of all bodies, the link here is totally not safe for work: Heartless Productions.

2015-01-28

Why Plus Model Tess Holliday’s Media Blitz is an Important Moment for Fat People Everywhere

So the other day I got a phone call from a reporter friend of mine at the New York Daily News (one of the big dailies in NYC) doing an article about plus size model Tess Holliday (formerly known as Tess Munster) being signed to a modeling agency. Tess is unusual because she’s only 5’4″ and a size 22–much different proportions than the standard for plus size models. By the way, even though plus size models are modeling clothing worn by women of lots of different shapes and sizes, the “industry standard” is under size 14 and 5’8″ or taller.

tessCNNTess Holliday on TV! Source: Tess Holliday Facebook.

I did the interview with the New York Daily News and my quote is good and meaty. Here it is.

“It’s astounding the reach she has and how many people respond to her,” said QueerFatFemme blogger Bevin Branlandingham. “She created a movement around being a plus-size model.

“It’s radical to have an agency willing to stand behind someone and push the envelope about what way models have to look. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. A good model has more to do with how she works in front of a camera then what her height and weight proportions are.”

Since that article came out on Saturday the media has been blowing up about Tess getting signed! I got an excited text from the reporter, Pearl Gabel, that it was the third most popular article on the Daily News’ website! Since the Daily News article came out I’ve seen Tess in People Magazine, Buzzfeed, CNN and just learned she was on Inside Edition!

During my brief interview with the Daily News I had a lot more to say than what my quote could fit, so here are my thoughts on why it’s important that Tess was signed by an agency and the resulting media storm.

tesscuteShe’s so cute! Source: Tess Holliday facebook page.

Fat comes in lots of shapes, and my fat looks really different than someone else who may be the same size as me. And it definitely looks different than a standard plus size model. It’s really refreshing to hear of a modeling agency willing to take a chance on a model who doesn’t fit into the industry standard.

So why does the modeling industry matter in all of this? Shouldn’t we be moving away from more superficial representations of bodies?

I was steeped in this issue when I was working at Re/Dress in its Brooklyn incarnation, 2008-2011. Then-owner Deb partnered with Plus Model Magazine to do a model search for a size 18+ model. I resisted at first, not feeling great about modeling as an industry and Re/Dress as an indie store helping supporting it. I remember a long conversation with Deb while we were sorting clothing on the racks talking about this. (Plus size processing was one of the best things about being a Shop Girl at Re/Dress.)

I came around 180 degrees watching the model contest unfold. There was of course an essay contest in addition to the photos for the entries. As folks who love people who love their bodies we really looked for people who had body positivity as part of their ethic. Seeing how excited people get about modeling and models, I thought it was a great way to use that excitement to feed in messages of body positivity. Additionally, it’s really fun to dress up and look pretty, especially if you’re in a non-normative body that is historically marginalized.

We ended up selecting a regular customer of ours who was so glamorous and gorgeous and, like Tess Holiday, gives amazing face in front of the camera. Audrey Lea Curry, who later went on to co-star in the erstwhile awesome show Big Sexy with my friend and fellow Re/Dress shop girl Leslie Medlik, was the model and won cash and prizes, including a spread in Plus Model Magazine featuring Re/Dress clothing and shot by amazing plus size model and photographer Velvet D’Amour.

audreyplusmodelmagA page from the Plus Model Magazine spread. Photos by Velvet D’Amour.

The plus model industry and size positive movement has been pushing the issue of representation in the fashion industry for a long time and it’s really heartwarming to see a shift happening in this moment. I remember ten years ago mainstream plus brands were barely starting to use standard size plus size models in their advertising. And today mostly you get the really pretty, “curvy” models. I love brands, like Domino Dollhouse, that have been using bigger plus size models all along and work to support them.

I first heard about Tess Holliday when she was modeling for Domino Dollhouse. I got to meet the designer, Tracy Broxterman, at an indie trunk show at the closing of the Re/Dress Brooklyn incarnation. (Re/Dress has since retained an online store and has a storefront in Cleveland, and is now owned by the fabulous indie designer Rachel Kacenjar of Cupcake and Cuddlebunny fame.*)

tess-holliday-anthonyevansPhoto by Anthony Evans.

What I love most about Tess’s media blitz is that not only is there a non-standard plus model in the industry making huge waves, she’s also tattooed and pierced! Tess has been staying on message about believing in herself in spite of what people told her. This quote from the People Magazine online article is really inspirational:

“I’ve just kept doing this stuff recently, thinking, ‘Thank God I didn’t give up,’ ” says the Los Angeles-based Holliday, who had to overcome many detractors to get where she is today.

“I found out about plus-size modeling when I was 15, and I went to an audition in Atlanta. They told me that I was too short and I was too big, and I would never model. But I’m very hardheaded!”

I can definitely relate to being bullied and using that spitfire to rise above the lies people told me about my body and loving myself anyway. Tess didn’t just stick to plus modeling in spite of being told no at that audition, she also began a movement called Eff Your Beauty Standards in order to empower other fat folks. I think it’s amazing when plus models, who could just stay a pretty face in front of the camera, get political with size activism and empower others.

The modeling agency (MiLk Model Management) said that they were driven to sign Tess because of her social media following. I think it was Tess’s inspirational movement that has been a big part of her prolific social media presence that helped get her that deal.

Tess Holliday’s Instagram is a very satisfying feed to follow. Lots of gorgeous Tess shots, of course, but also glamorous behind the scenes of a modeling career and regular every day stuff like hanging out with her babetown Australian fiance and her son. And it’s always a good moment for me when Tess is in her underwear. Swoon!!

tesshollidayforpowdermagazineHeidi CalvertI adore Tess’s vintage aesthetic and her fatshions. Photo by Heidi Calvert for Powder Magazine.

Our society’s ridiculous notions of beauty are being thwarted a bit right now, because of this event and the media avalanche. This is a big story. People who read it who haven’t heard about size activism might have their minds stretched. The modeling industry is seeing that people respond well to non-normative body shapes.

The more people who share about Tess and talk about how great it is to have actual plus size diversity in modeling the more we can catalyze a bigger societal shift towards body acceptance. So share this blog post, or a media piece you appreciate about it. (I’m especially fond of the Buzzfeed article because it shows lots of Tess’s followers using the #effyourbeautystandards hashtag being empowered!)

Fat allies, this is your time, too, tell your people about Tess and let them know that it matters to you that this is representing change in an industry that oppresses bodies. Remember my mantra, All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are!

And be sure to write your favorite plus size manufacturers to ask them to use models of all plus sizes so we can be sure that MiLK model management and other agencies that follow suit have jobs to send these models on! And support the indie designers that have been using plus models of all sizes all along!

I would love to see this change mean more gateways for other non-normative bodies, ages, ethnicities, genders, body hair status, etc…

20150117_182554-MOTIONI also want to give a shout out to my bestie Mackenzi’s new women’s clothing boutique in Astoria, Queens, Lockwood Style, carrying sizes 0-24! The inventory is really diverse and there’s a lot of turnover in styles. It just opened as the sister store to her Lockwood home and gift store next door. It’s worth a trip to Astoria if you find yourself in NYC shopping while fat! The dress I was trying on was from Cabiria Style, an indie local plus size designer carried at Lockwood.

*If you’re suffering from cold this winter I highly recommend fleece lined leggings, and Re/Dress online is having a Winter layers sale right now. I just bought some in pink and black. Use code LAYERUP for $5 off each piece. I secretly wanted to buy this $98 vintage nightie but for now just practical layers, I will when I am a rich lesbian.

**PS. Be sure to check out Domino Dollhouse’s Valentine’s lingerie line featuring Tess Holliday!

***PPS. Read this article from Huffington Post last week about my friend Sophie Spinelle’s body positive feminist pin-up photography business. I love the title of the article so much! These Pin-Up Photos From ‘Shameless Photography’ Show That Every Body Is Gorgeous. Congratulations Sophie!

o-SHAMELESS-PHOTOGRAPHY-900Bra burning pin-ups is the way to go!

2014-11-13

New Episode of my Web Series The Lesbian Tea Basket

Hey friends! There’s a new episode of my web series The Lesbian Tea Basket up! Epsiode 29. With a backlog of unedited episodes, in this one I’m back to basics having figured out how to film myself on this computer and rating and reviewing tea.

In this episode I try some Teavana tea, iced, in a new Tervis Tumbler cup I got as a wedding favor.

The flavor is Youthberry Wild Orange Blossom Blend with Rock Sugar Sample. The link I’m giving here has slightly different ingredients than the one I was given as part of Leo’s tea stash divestment, so perhaps Teavana changed their blend? Now I have something else to investigate.

I meant to talk about my outfit in the video but I got carried away about the tea… The pink jacket with the silver flare on the shoulders was what I call a “failed resale.” I bought it when I was doing my own side clothing resale stuff online about three years ago. It never sold and I couldn’t part with it when it came time to get rid of the remnants. And now it’s part of my wardrobe.

If you’d like to check out other episodes of the Lesbian Tea Basket, here is a playlist that has all of them! I love sharing my tea adventures.

20141112_222508 (1)I didn’t manage to get a photo with the sweater on but here’s the outfit underneath the sweater that I wore to MIX Fest on Wednesday night for the Queer Rebels curated films.

2013-08-23

New Strategy for Thigh Chafing aka Chub Rub: Butt Paste

I’m in an anonymous fellowship for family and friends of alcoholics and it has happened a few times where a friend has come up to me after a meeting and said in hushed tones, “So, I was googling [insert search term here] and I found your blog!” I mean, as anonymous as you try to be I’m pretty recognizable and I use my real first name. So. It’s always really funny what brings people to the site, and thigh chafing (or chub rub) is a pretty common entry point.

Latergram from last night.
Me in a dress on a summer adventure, saved by the magic of chub rub prevention.

I laughed and responded to my friend that I’m sort of an intrepid explorer of the ways to improve access to fashion and comfort in the summertime. She is on the thin side and it is always a good reminder that thigh chafing can affect lots of people with lots of different bodies–and you can never tell what someone’s body really looks like in clothing. The bodily equivalent to “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” See also, Lessons from the Nudie Workshop.

All that is to say that people bring up thigh chafing to me all the time and I’m ever exploring ways to prevent and treat chub rub. This summer I talked about it briefly to a couple of folks and I was given the tip that this all-natural diaper rash cream called Butt Paste is great at preventing chub rub.

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Using solvents for thigh chafing prevention (I do a whole run down on the various types I know of in my living document The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Preventing Thigh Chafing aka Chub Rub) is totally dependent on your own body chemistry, some work better than others. But I thought this was a great choice because it’s natural (or as “natural” as something that is marketed as all natural can be) and it works for prevention as well as treatment.

It comes in lots of sizes, and I found Butt Paste in 2 oz for $5.99 on Amazon. There is also a Maximum Strength Butt Paste. According to some of the online reviews folks prefer it because it is natural, effective and has a pleasant slight vanilla scent and most other diaper rash creams smell like medicine. Apparently the maximum strength is also good treatment if your chafing has gotten to the point of open sores.

I’ve added this product to the big Thigh Chafing post. A reader also posted her review/recommendation for a new shorts solution in the comments section if you want to check that out.

2013-07-10

Flower Bois, Summer Trend in Butch Fashion

Nicky pointed out to me at the last WHAM BAM! that floral prints are all the rage in the queer scene–especially for the masculine of center crowd. “Flower bois,” they said (pronounced “bwah” here). “They’re everywhere.”

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DJ Average Jo at WHAM BAM! The next WHAM BAM is July 14th (the last one until Labor Day). Photo by Kelsy Chauvin.

They were right. I’ve been seeing it everywhere. Florals are all over menswear. I love it, especially because it’s a little gender bendy. It’s the same reason I love pink on butches–it’s one of my favorite colors and I like butches. Together, it is pleasing. I love a bold floral print and I love seeing it on my fashionable friends.

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I was really feeling the floral blazer on the queer to the far right in this photo. Photo by Kelsy Chauvin.

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Alex, one of the most fashionable men I know, to the left in floral and Leo, who overheard the discussion of flower bois, wearing a floral tie to the right. All at Nicky’s fortieth birthday. Also pictured, Randee Riot and Utah.

Florals are “on trend” this year so they are widely available, which kind of explains why we’re seeing so much of it in the queer circles but, still, it takes something pretty rad to tip like this in the queer community. So, because I love masculine of center florals, I present a shopping round-up to encourage more!

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Grey Geometric Mixed Floral Print shirt from Topman is a floral masterpiece. Goes from XXS-XXL but not sure how roomy of an XXL they offer.

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This rust floral bowtie from Fox and Brie is a great way to add a floral without going overboard if you’re hesitant to go full-print.

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Or if you want to be all hipster about it, try a floral snapback cap! But be sure to wear it hipster style, sort of popping up off your head like you’re an old-timey 1950s child.

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Wear your hat like this for full effect. (I actually really like this style of cap wearing.) Photo by Kelsy Chauvin.

It’s important to note the difference between cheese ball Hawaiin shirt and florals that are pushing the line of loud without going over. I am all for the cheese ball print if that’s your style but you have to know how to pull that off so that it looks stylish on purpose and not the shirt equivalent of socks with sandals.

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This Brooksfield short sleeve floral is a nice version of the classic loud shirt in pastel colors.

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This Tallia Woven Floral Shirt is long sleeved and has a nice tight floral pattern. Goes all the way up to 5XLT at Macy’s!

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And a bold floral in a black and white graphic tee (size S-L, $28) for those who are a little shy about adding color. I think this is the Avory Agony* response to the floral trend.

I had a hard time finding budget-friendly florals on trend but since summer is already heated up look for sales racks and clearance items, and know all these florals will hit the Marshall’s/TJ Maxx/Ross circuit in the next few months. Also vintage is full of florals, so that gives one something to hunt around for and are definitely more of a bargain if you know how to cull a thrift store (or etsy or ebay).

*Avory is a stylish dear friend who wears predominantly black and white. Like if the dreamiest Robert Smith clone in your high school grew up to have impeccable fashion taste but maintained their goth kid roots.

2013-05-14

Shabby Apple Review and Giveaway!

Shabby Apple reached out to me as a fat style blogger person to find out if I was interested in doing a review and giveaway. I had never looked at their site before, but was delighted to find a lot of dresses in the style of vintage clothing, many of which are available in plus size.

Their sizing is specific to their site, I checked out their size chart and saw that their “WL” was what would fit my measurements, and I ordered their “Boss” dress to see how it would look on me. I will be honest, I was completely dubious. The website doesn’t use plus size models so I didn’t know how it would look on me. The description made it sound like it might not fit me; they suggest larger busted customers go up a size in this dress and I was ordering the largest size they had. I figure with the surplice bust if it didn’t fit well it would at least be one of those dresses I could spill out of in a slutty sort of way. When I got the dress I was very surprised.

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Photo by Gizelle Peters from Rebel Cupcake.

The dress is a great stretch cotton, which looks structured but actually is incredibly comfortable. I wiggled in easily and had plenty of room. The arms are a little tight but seem to be breaking in on the second wear. I think it fits really well and looks classic retro pin-up. I actually loved it so much I might get another one in black and experiment with going down a size to get more cleavage out of it.

There are a lot of other vintage clothing style dresses in plus sizes (and straight sizes, too) on the Shabby Apple site. Check it out!

Shabby Apple is offering a $50 gift certificate to the winner of a giveaway. To enter, make sure you’re a fan of Queer Fat Femme on Facebook and comment below. I’ll select one random winner by random number generator on May 21st at noon and will email the winner.

P.S. I wrote Six Questions to Ask When Hiring An Attorney if you’re ever curious what you need to ask when you need to do that!

2013-05-03

Plus Size Vintage Clothing, Dresses, Jumpsuits, Blazers for Sale sizes L-4X

Hey readership! I have a giant stash of vintage (mostly) I collected around the country thinking I was going to do more pop-up shops than I ended up doing. I have it all neatly photographed in an album right here, but I’d love to highlight some of the gems for Spring for you below. Each photo on flickr shows the measurements, which is the best way to shop. It all ranges in price from ten bucks to forty, most around $25 or $30.

This one is not vintage, it’s from Torrid. I bought it off a babe but the bust is a little too small to work for me. Best for a size 24/26 babe who has a smaller chest. (Pinned behind the size 1X/2X model to show shape.) $25
2X/3X Torrid Garden Party Dress $25 (#20)

This vintage purple jumpsuit is a dream! The bust is up to 44″ with up to 38″ waist. $40. Magical.
XL/1X Vintage Purple Jumpsuit $40 (#34)

I made my friend Elisabeth try this on and it looks great and would be the perfect wedding guest dress! Size 1X/2X. $38
1X/2X Vintage Teal Sheer Sleeved Dress $38 (#9)

This sweet Springtime pastel wrap dress is going to make someone’s garden dreams come true. The rare wrap dress that covers up the yabbos. 1X/2X. $32
1X/2X Cotton Pastel Vintage Wrap Dress $32 (#35)

Who is the gender queerdo who wants to layer with this bizarre sweater situation? It’s roomy, bust and waist stretch all the way up to 60″ and would look great both with many things under it (think dress shirt, bowtie, hoodie, sparkly tube top, flannel shirt, or freeballin,’ as some of my genderfluid friends call that time you don’t wear a bra or anything. $20
2X-5X FREE WHEELING VEST purple $25 #29

Plum surplice dress so great for Spring! XL/1X (up to 42″ bust). $25
XL/1X Plum Surplice Dress $25 (#12)

This mod 80s blazer is foxy and 4X (pinned behind model to show shape of garment but it’s big)! $25
4X Mod 80s Blazer $30 (#23)

There are a whole bunch of pieces in the album! Take a look and email me with the number(s) you’re interested in. $5 shipping in US, free shipping for 2 or more items!

2013-03-11

Plus Size Underwear for All Gender Presentations

I wrote a guest post at Autostraddle about Plus Size Underwear! Peek under skirts and pants and find out how to be well-dressed underneath your clothes! I write from the perspective of how I wear and buy underwear, but I also have a hearty section of what I like to see on masculine of center folks (though I don’t wear that kind of underwear).

Plus Size Underwear for All Gender Presentations

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Peeking under a skirt. A little Bevin on Devin action. Photo by Courtney Trouble.

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