Last August, when Cathleen Meredith launched Fat Girls Dance, a female-led online movement focused on body positivity through dance, her goal was simple: perform and post a new dance every week on YouTube for 1 year to show the world that curvy women can actually dance and have fun while doing it.
It started as a research project and has since evolved into a movement that has shifted the paradigm of society’s standard of beauty. “It truly wasn’t about me,” says Meredith who claims so many women don’t see themselves as beautiful.
Now more than halfway though the experiment (they only have 15 out of the 52 dances left), Meredith never imagined Dove would ask her to participate in a short film, and she definitely didn’t think she would meet one of her favorite celebrities, Shonda Rhimes. It became more than Meredith imagined, and surprisingly, for Rhimes too.
“Working with Cathleen was more than I expected—in a good way,” says Rhimes, who partnered with Dove as Creative Director to launch Real Beauty Productions, a collaborative studio that creates stories based on women’s lives and experiences. “The concept of finding women and telling their stories sounded great, but I was very much blown away by the people we found. Cathleen was 10 times more exciting that I expected. She’s smart, funny and interesting. Her personality makes you want to be her.”
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It’s true—her dancing is infectious. Just take at her team’s YouTube videos of choreographed dances from the classics like, Janet Jackson’s “I Get Lonely” and David Cole’s ‘90s hit “Gonna Make You Sweat” to Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s “All the Way Up.” It’s impossible to watch without moving in your seat.
“When fat women tell me they can’t move, I tell them to look the fear in its face,” says Meredith who believes a woman’s body positivity journey is individualized. “You get to decide what your reality is. If you decide that you can’t move or dance, then that’s what it is.” Ironically, helping real women define their beauty has been the Unilever-owned personal-care brand’s mission for 60 years. Particularly with its "Real Beauty" campaign that aims to address the 69% of women Unilever said don't see themselves as adequately represented in the media.
“I like the idea of looking at women and saying they are beautiful just the way they are,” says Rhimes. “We have a huge self-confidence problem in this country and we need to change that.”
Watch the Liz Garbus-directed film (above) and to find out when the next Real Beauty Productions’ film debuts, visit Dove.com/RealBeauty.