Big girls are finally getting the love they deserve on the small screen.
“Make room for the big girls!”
If you’re from the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area (DMV) like me, you immediately know where that line is from -- a Baltimore club classic that has been lighting up dance floors long before I was of legal age to hang out (over a decade ago). It was a rare call to celebrate women with a lot to love.
Though I haven’t heard the song in years -- I don’t do clubs anymore, and it’s oddly missing from my iPod -- the song popped into my head recently as I was watching clips from TLC’s new three-part series, “Big Sexy,” which debuted on Tuesday. The show features five plus-size women trying to make an impact in the world of fashion. The ladies prep for runway shows, hit the beach, and go “boy hunting” all while celebrating and being wholly comfy, not lamenting, their figures.
Hold up. When was the last time you saw that?
More often than not, when plus-size women are shown on TV, it’s more along the lines of "Celebrity Fit Club" or "The Biggest Loser," both of which revolve around shrinking frames to a more “acceptable" size. There are restrictive diets, grueling workouts and the self-loathing tears at being unable to shed pounds fast enough to fit in. But "Big Sexy" bucks tradition showing that -- gasp! -- women can be happy and healthy wearing double digits.
MTV’s latest reality star, 324-lb. Chelsea Settles -- billed as “a new kind of MTV heroine -- follows this trend. A recent super trailer for the upcoming show, which drops in October, shows clips of Settles as she uproots from her hometown in order to chase her dreams of making a name for herself in L.A.’s image-conscious fashion business. Though she does struggle with her weight (especially after her boss reminds her, "We're in an image business... the fashion industry is very weight-conscious”), she’s presented as a bubbly, mostly confident 23-year-old.
“Big Sexy” and “Chelsea Settles” come along at a time when fashion, notorious for celebrating rail-thin figures even as the average U.S. woman carries a size 14 frame, is expanding to embrace plus-sizes. Marquita Ping, a gorgeous Black model signed to Ford+, has booked two Levi's ad campaigns and walked the runways for high-end designer Jean Paul Gaultier. “Every week I’ve got something,” she told "New York" magazine earlier this year. “If not every day, then three to four days a week.”
With all the recent criticism about Black women (and American women in general) and their weight, we need these images of real women celebrating their beauty and themselves in every size.
I know I often write about Black women and our collective weight issues; a plus-size friend pointed out that she was disappointed in the number of articles, but I tackle the issue because I care. Not about aesthetics, but because I want Black women to lead long and healthy lives. No matter their size -- big, small, and in between -- I hope you all know that you are worthy of being loved and celebrated for the skin you're in. I’m glad the networks and the runways are catching on.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. She has recently been nominated for an African American Literary Award. Today is LAST CHANCE to vote for her on literaryawardshow.com