As I sat at my favorite coffee shop today, I decided to take some time out to write down some goals for 2018. (Oh God…am I a real adult now??) But as I’m writing both personal and professional goals, I can’t help but reflect on the past year. It’s funny how life seems like it can creep by, as we quickly become defeated when our lives aren’t where we “think they should be”, but in a collective manner so much can happen in a years time. At this time last year I was writing papers and stressing about finishing up school…now I’ve completed my Master’s and moved onto the next chapter in life. Last September I took the leap to start this blog and in reflecting upon that, I seriously can’t believe just how many amazing things have happened in one year’s time. This risky, vulnerable decision has been solid proof that vulnerability really is the key to real life goodness.
So since the nostalgia has been real today, I wanted to share with you an interview that I did this past spring. After doing a photoshoot with a local Body Image Campaign, I was asked to respond to some interview questions related to body image.
Tell us a little about you.
Hi! My name is Alex Morella. A woman on her own self-love journey with a passion for inspiring other women to holistically love themselves, while also working toward changing the dialogue around fatphobia and diet culture. We live in a world that profits off of teaching us to hate ourselves; this is my “fist-in-the-air” commitment to helping people become a little more kind to themselves and others.
How did you become a part of the body image campaign?
I met Luke Burke through a mutual friend. I had started my public journey documenting self-love, body positivity, and fat activism, therefore our mutual friend thought we might work well together on this project.
What exactly is the issue with your body that you have struggled with.
I was born fat, grew up fat, and continue to reside in a fat body. Living in a society where the biggest fear for a woman is fatness, I haven’t always been seen as the “ideal woman” (whatever that means, right?). I live in a marginalized body where people see my body long before they even attempt to get to know my personality. Though I was raised in a supportive home environment, I’ve never not lived without constant reminders of my “unacceptable” body. Living in the constant reminder of “you’re not good enough” doesn’t always set one up to have swimmingly high self-esteem. Therefore, I’m currently undoing years and years of self-doubt and pain.
The industry puts plus size at about an 8 tell us your thoughts on that.
I’d say it’s a big ol’ lie! There’s a new wonderful campaign out called the 67% Project that highlights the fact that 67% of women in the US are a size 12 or larger. 67%! Only 2% of women in the US actually look like and/or represent the type of women we see in magazines and advertisements. I would say that if plus size retailers and designers really wanted to represent plus women, they’d start featuring models who are size 18 and up. That’s their profitable market, and honestly, that’s how you break barriers.
Do you feel you are treated differently in your profession? I felt like i was before I lost weight.
In my current position? No, not at all. Have I in previous jobs? Absolutely. Since fatphobia is everywhere, I experience it in many different capacities. I’ve learned over time to never allow my appearance to affect my dreams and goals. I’m deserving of anything I want and/or desire in life!
How do your friends treat you? Do they overly compensate or do you feel like because you embrace it more it makes them a little more relaxed?
I’ve learned over time to only surround myself with people who are authentic and genuinely love me for who I am. A component to self-love and self-care is spending time with people who energize and love you, rather than people who deplete your self-esteem and worth.
I see that you post a lot of Instagram images not hiding your body at all. I think that’s how you plan to reach people by doing this. Quite frankly who do you want to reach?
Two words: representation matters. When I was a young girl, all I ever wanted was to feel like I could connect and resonate with the women I’d see in media. I would have loved to see a plus-size woman living her life confidently. I think seeing that would have helped me feel less alone and isolated! I put pictures of myself out there showing my curves and demonstrating vulnerability, as a way to not only make my younger self proud, but also to provide a visual representation of various body types in the world. I put myself out there so other women can witness a visibly plus woman who is confident, happy, emotional, and real.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
First and foremost, my biggest inspirations have been my mom and my aunt. They’re the epitome of women who embody strength, boldness, and intelligence. Additionally, I’ve been inspired by women such as Roxane Gay,Brene Brown
, Jes Baker
, Dana Falsetti
, Dani Galvin
& Virgie Tovar
. These are women who have led the pathway. Women who have provided perception
I frequently hear other people taking issue with plus size women showing sexy images. What do you say to the naysayers?
I say, “my body, my choice”. What I want to do with my social media platforms, my body, and my life is not up for discussion. It’s MY decision. That’s where I think real confidence and freedom sets in; when you no longer need approval from anyone else but yourself. There will always be naysayers, it’s how you interpret those comments that makes a world of difference.
Why does our society have an issue with people in general that don’t fit a certain mold?
It simply boils down to one simple word: fear. We’re afraid of people, things, and changes that may interfere with what we’re comfortable knowing and understanding. It’s risky putting yourself out of that comfort zone. It’s risky being around someone you’ve been taught to hate or judge. It’s kind of like, if you get close enough to realize that person might be similar to you or you enjoy their presence, that completely risks your current thought processes. That forces you to think differently and use a different mindset. We like stereotypes, stereotypes give us control, comfort, and direction. Stereotypes are safe. Fear is what drives all hate in this world, therefore without eradicating that fear, we’ll always have some form of hatred. So how do you start to change your mindset? Spend time with people who don’t look like you. Listen and learn from them. Choose to be in that uncomfortable space. I promise it’ll change your perception, it will build empathy, and I promise you’ll start to recognize just how similar we all are in this world.
How much of being in this made you want to go in a profession where you can help people? Tell us about that.
I chose to become a Mental Health Counselor, because I wanted to help people. I wanted to be there for someone who had no one to turn to. I wanted to enrich lives and assist others in being their best self. Little did I know that along this journey, my reasoning behind why I chose this career had shifted. In addition to helping people individually, I want to facilitate change in my community. I may not be able to change the world, but I’m able to influence my local community. I want to build empathy, kindness, creativity, and awareness.
How do you feel about the person who says, “Wow good for her! She is beautiful just not my cup of tea”? Do you still see that as a compliment or a slight because they are only basing that on what they see outwardly.
If someone legitimately says, “good for her! She’s beautiful just not my cup of tea”. I’d be shocked and jumping for joy all at once lol. I don’t think anyone has ever said something so honest or eloquent. Most of the time people aren’t that nice in their comments, but in those instances, I completely understand and admire someone’s honesty. I’m not asking for someone to find me attractive, I’m asking for human decency and respect.
Is this a social problem in America or everywhere?
Since I reside within America, I truly can only speak on American culture. I’m certain fatphobia and low body confidence occurs in many cultures, but in America, I know it happens every single day. Pick up a woman’s magazine just once and you’ll witness the lack of body diversity and representation that lies within each page. We’re influenced daily to think we’re less than, therefore, we must purchase a new product or change our appearance to somehow miraculously “fit in” or become “beautiful”. Unfortunately, this is a genuine systemic issue in American society.
Do you think people who make comments are trying to be mean or do they have a real concern for health?
I think anyone who believes they have the right to comment on another person’s appearance or body never has the “right intentions”. There’s not a standard definition of health, it’s individual to each and every person in the world. Therefore, in knowing that, there’s no amount of “concern” a stranger can try to justify with “good intention”. Unless that person is my doctor, please keep your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions to yourself.
Are you concerned for your health?
Currently, I’m not concerned, because I’m in strong health. It’s important to emphasize that fat and being deemed “unhealthy” are not synonymous. I repeat, not all fat people are “unhealthy” and not all thin people are “healthy”. We’re trained from birth to think the exact opposite, but I promise you, health is not always defined by body weight. To me, health is a holistic experience. Health is not only finding foods that nourish your body and movement that makes you happy, but health is also how well you take care of your mental wellness and ensure you’re focused on being a kind person. Health to me is derived from mind, body, and spirit wellness. Personally, I strive to move my body in ways that make me feel alive (yoga, swimming, hiking, etc.) and I’m currently working toward creating a more positive relationship with food. Food is such a joyous component to life, but I recognize that certain foods have various affects on me personally. I’m still figuring that piece out. In the meantime, I’m living my life without restrictions and with more intention.
Lets say you were to write a letter to a 12 yr old girl who has a similar issue, what would you say to her?
You are absolutely wonderful and intentionally meant to be here, just as you are. I promise you it gets better. Focus on finding one thing you like about yourself, whether it be your intelligence, your giving heart, your sense of humor, etc. and remind yourself every day of how much you like that trait. Remember, your worth isn’t defined by what you look like, but rather by, how good of a person you are. Confidence and beauty shines bright in girls who care less about what makes other people happy and content, and more about what makes them happy and content! Keep shining and I promise the world will see your light!
Here’s to another year of empowering people to love their bodies, building mental health awareness, and striving to show representation for ALL. Thank you to each and every person who’s joined me on this journey, I can’t wait to work on these goals moving into 2018!!
May you experience joy and peace within your mind, body, and soul throughout the rest of the week.