Big, bold and beautiful

Photos by Willyverse

[S]tomach rolls, stretch marks and cellulite filled the walls of the Fat in Public Art Show, presented by Fat Girl Food Squad (FGFS). Co-founders Ama Scriver and Yuli Scheidt were pictured lounging outside in their bathing suits in the centre piece of the show.

The art was all about embracing your plus-size body.

Scriver and Scheidt’s confidence and love towards their bodies was intoxicating. The Toronto foodies embraced every inch of their bodies. The greater message of the art collective was not what media tends to focus on in a negative light, like stomach rolls. Instead, the show focused on the smiles across their faces—proof that one’s emotion rules over one’s physical appearance, a trend growing in popularity with the fat-positive movement today.

The exhibit, held at the 2186 Dundas gallery, featured the artwork from 12 artists who demonstrated the beauty within people who are plus-sized. The show aimed to communicate that everyone should be viewed in the same respect no matter what their body weight is.

Scriver and Scheidt first started their blog—and the art show that followed—to spread the message of body positivity. Running posts about anything food-related, fashion and body positivity, FGFS inspired a collective of some Ryerson students to break the stigma of fat-negativity.

Ryerson student Megan Stulberg showcased her water-coloured pieces: hand-drawn patterns of eggs, fruit, bacon and croissants–her favourite breakfast food. Stulberg’s piece called for an appreciation of the body and what goes into it.

Megan Stulberg, Ama Scriver and Yuli Scheidt pose outside of the 2186 Dundas gallery. Photo by Willyverse.

Megan Stulberg, Ama Scriver and Yuli Scheidt pose outside of the 2186 Dundas gallery. Photo by Willyverse.

That the gallery even exists is an inspiration— it’s a direct challenge to the stereotypical and societal norm of how people should look, act and dress. A one-of-a-kind exhibit, the FGFS is leading the body-positive movement.

In my own experience, the cafeteria table in high school was where girls would share in conversation about the flaws of their bodies. The topic of weight was a daily reoccurrence.

Back then, and even more so today, that same stigma around the word “fat” exists, which over time has been deemed socially unacceptable and insulting. It connotes that being fat is far from perfect. The media is in part responsible for this, glamorizing the idea that the perfect woman is 100 pounds. At the same time, women who are skinny are demonized for their weight, dubbed “anorexic” and a part of the problem. It’s a paradox: we’re told that to be fat is to be “gross,” while to be skinny is equally bad.

FGFS challenges this paradox because they aren’t afraid to use the word “fat” and are trying to show people that you can be fat and love yourself at the same time.

“Fat in Public” didn’t shy away from that ideal, visually exposing everything a woman might be self-conscious about regarding her body: from the fat on her body to the food she eats. One piece by Kristina Groeger, for instance, that shows a sketch of a woman devouring a handful of Doritos, is proof. The details of the huge grin on her face to the orange cheese powder stuck to her fingers drove the message home: perhaps women’s relationship with food should be a happy one.

Sookie Bardwell’s installation, too, challenges the convention of typical dolls on the market. Unlike the average doll, typically built with long slender body frames and perfectly toned stomachs, Bardwell’s plush doll instead featured stubby hairy legs, a plaid shirt and a round stomach. It’s a blatant reminder that these are the types of bodies we’re going to see in everyday life; not everyone is a stick-thin doll.

According to Statistics Canada, 52.5% of the adult population in the country is overweight or obese. That means that people who are plus-sized are just as prevalent in society as thin people, and should be included more in the media in a positive way.

From Lena Dunham flaunting her plus-size body on the television show Girls, to organizations like the FGFS, women are challenging the idea of beauty. This trend—one that is slowly but surely making ripples—should continue to grow and spread the message of self-confidence.

So move over, Dunham. Toronto’s FGFS is upping its A-game.