Celebrating Body Diversity

I grew up in the 1990’s at the height of the supermodel craze. Size zero models were on billboards, in music videos and everywhere in between. Heroin chic was all the rage. It was a difficult time to be a plus size. There was no one in the media that looked like me. All you ever saw were tall, skinny people and I certainly didn’t look anything like that. Body diversity was just not a thing in 1990’s culture.

And it wasn’t just the media. Back then I had a really hard time just finding clothes. Hardly any stores carried fashions for people over a size 12. And even when I could find something, it was usually some hideous old lady style. Ruffles. Collars. Polyester. What I wouldn’t have given for a store like Torrid. All I wanted to do was go into a mall and shop like any other girl.

But look at how far we’ve come from the heroin chic look. Most stores now carry a range of sizes. Turn on the radio – Meghan Trainor is all about that bass. Lizzo’s thick thighs save lives. It is important to see different body types reflected in the media, as well as in literature. And that is the main goal of Skye Shin –for young girls to see a plus-sized girl the K-pop scene.

In the book I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee, Skye Shin is a talented, confident singer and dancer. She also happens to be a size 16. She auditions to be a K-pop star because she wants the world to see a girl who is comfortable in her own skin. It was refreshing to read about a character that has healthy self esteem and doesn’t view her size as a defect.

Body diversity doesn’t just mean plus sizes. My Eyes Are Up Here isn’t about weight but body shape. Greer has very large breasts and not in a sexy way. They hang down to her waist, with the nipples pointing down. She can’t fit into any normal style of top. She’s stuck wearing her Dad’s XL sweatshirts. By the end of day, her back aches so badly she has to lay down with her bra off to get relief.

There were so many little details in this book that resonated strongly with me. The way her bra rides up whenever she lifts her arms. How the straps rub her skin raw. The part when Greer watches her friends ‘coo’ over a rack of tiny, lacy bras while she quietly dies inside thinking of her grandma-style under garments.

Author Laura Zimmerman definitely wrote this book from personal experience. No one else could write a story this authentically. I wish that my teenaged self could have read this book. It would have made such a difference to read a story with a character I could so closely identify with.

Our bodies come in so many shapes and sizes. The more we see different body types reflected in the books we read and the videos we watch, the more normalized body diversity becomes. And that’s something worth celebrating.

— Lesley L.