“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” – RuPaul
As a former plus size model and a global artist at Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC, I meet models and celebrities and just regular “thin” people daily. I worked with photographers who would complain that the light reflected off my cellulite or agencies who claimed I wasn’t “plus size enough.” I work on models who don’t eat for three days before a shoot and their skin looks like it’s about to fall off, yet they are labeled the most beautiful women alive. I often post personal photos and use Snapchat or Instagram filters to smooth out my wrinkles (hey, I am turning 36 next month) and I have no shame that I wear a full face of makeup daily. It’s not about what I project out to the world as far as my appearance, it’s my acceptance and pride in my appearance that shows through, regardless of size. It’s always been like that for me.
At 402 pounds I could look into the mirror and feel beautiful. I didn’t hate myself or my body. At 300 pounds I was in print magazines, on the walls of my favourite store and even one tiny billboard in LA.
Beauty isn’t about the number on the scale or the size on the tag of your pants. Beauty is so much more how you feel about yourself and thus what you radiate out into the world. But feeling beautiful at 400 pounds was going to kill me. Pride, even in my size 32 Lane Bryant pants, wasn’t going to save me from heart disease, or diabetes. We are all here because medically we had a problem – and the weightloss needed professional help. Although my pride took a hit asking for that help – it saved my life. And believe me, I struggled to feel beautiful after WLS. I felt like a melting candle for awhile, unsure of how people would react to thinner legs that knees moved on their own like a Sharpei. I wasn’t sure if I was “allowed” to feel good about my body since it had changed so much. Yes my weight was ALOT lower, but my body, it wasn’t like those girls you see in magazines or on TV. I still looked different. And it took alot of self reflection, and alot of honesty to see that I was still beautiful, just a new style of beautiful! Plus seeing my body perform the miracle of pregnancy was absolutely INCREDIBLE! I’ve been up and down with regain and I’m finally back to where I was before I decided to have a baby.
But I’m struggling again now that I’ve lost all of my regain (98 pounds so far) I don’t know where to end my loss because I could keep going. I look in the mirror today and I feel beautiful. I’m still obese class 2 — but my body looks good to me. Yes, I have loads of loose skin, and saggy bits. Yes, I’m not a size zero or wearing an extra small. But I feel good because I like being a bit on the curvy side. People at work exclaim how “tiny” I am — which is only in comparison to how I looked before I lost weight — not in relative terms to cover models or actually skinny people. My pants fit and I shop in regular clothing sections; my feet no longer hurt after 8 hours in heels, and I proudly wear a bikini to the pool, so am I done? Am I beautiful “enough” now?
Who gets to determine your beauty?
It’s not about a magazine telling us perfect proportions, or a music video showing the “thick” girls or even your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner/family/friend/etc. It’s you. It’s not about what plus size means or doesn’t mean, or the normalization of skinny or fat.
I think it’s time we celebrate the beauty in all forms – we here at BE are supporting your change for a healthier lifestyle, a better quality of life, and a path to help you see the beauty in yourself – but you need to look in the mirror and see it too.
I’m incredibly proud to have lost 256 pounds, and almost 98 a second time. I’m proud that Italian Vogue had the courage to show women who aren’t size zero, and that Ashley Graham showed the world that the cover of Sports Illustrated isn’t just for the ultra thin. But in reality, I hope each of those women feel beautiful in their own right and are not looking for justification from a society that just doesn’t quite understand yet.
Kelsey is now Lead Admin on No More Bariatric Regain, our Facebook Support Group specifically for Regain. If you have experienced Bariatric Regain, there is hope! We can help you get back in those skinny jeans!