RECLAIMING THE WORD 'FAT'
The body positive movement champions self-love and urges us to be kinder to ourselves and our bodies. It has gained momentum over the years in the fashion industry and beyond, a way for us to break the mold in a stereotypical society and embrace and celebrate who we are. Many fashion brands have finally begun catering to all shapes and sizes and giving us the freedom to look our stylish best with a wider range of choices. However, we still have a long way to go and take collective action on our journey to owning ourselves in this system that has still not eradicated unrealistic beauty standards. We had an inspiring conversation with model and body image activist Isold Halldorudottir about her journey of owning her beauty, building self-confidence, and reclaiming the word ‘fat’ with her beautiful work.
For how society often perceives us, many of us grow up with several insecurities in our younger years before we get on a path to begin embracing and loving ourselves just the way we are. We’d love to learn more about your journey of owning your beauty and how you got yourself into a safe and secure place in a stereotypical system.
When it comes to building my own self-confidence, I try to remind myself of what's really important. Instead of worrying so much about how I look, I try to put focus towards how I feel, but I think ultimately it takes a lot of patience to figure out what makes you feel good and how to be content with yourself. It's definitely a work in progress.
It’s so easy to get stuck in your head over all the things you hate about yourself, but once you realize that your insecurities are merely a reflection of how the media tries to sell you beauty in a box, it opens your eyes to a whole new perspective.
One of the things that helped me move forward was to shave my hair off. It made me face my fears of hiding and opened my eyes to what beauty stands for. I now see myself for who I am, without any distractions.
With the existence of unrealistic beauty standards in the fashion industry and all around us, the word ‘fat’ has garnered a negative meaning. How did you reclaim it with your work and hashtag #fatgirloncam?
For me, it's always been about facing the truth. All my life I’ve been fat, and all my life, people have tried to use that against me, but I think what helped me reclaim it was to say it as much as possible so that it becomes normal.
I think when we use terms such as 'curvy', 'plus size', 'voluptuous', or 'full figured' we’re hiding away from the truth which only sets us back.
It's fair to be afraid of the word 'fat' but to really celebrate inclusivity, we have to let go of the misconception that it's a bad word.
#fatgirloncam is a way for me to present myself in an honest way and it gives me the chance to say what I want to say without compromise.
Art is a way for us to express ourselves and reclaim who we are. We love your work and how beautifully it’s centered around photography. How did being in front of the lens help you stand up against cultural norms and strengthen your role as a body image activist?
Thank you so much, that really means a lot to me!
Being an artist allows me to see things from an artistic perspective including my body, so when I step in front of the lens, I try to let go of any fears of looking a certain way because I know deep down art can be whatever you want it to be.
We love the beautiful campaigns you’ve been a part of from the beginning of your career. Which is the one you feel has made the most difference for you and impacted everyone around you? Is any collaboration closer to you emotionally?
Looking back at my career so far, the one that stands out is the Marc Jacobs 'Perfect' campaign. I’ve always been a huge fan of Marc Jacobs and working with him and his team was such a dream come true.
The message behind the campaign was to celebrate your own individuality and stay true to who you are, which felt very personal to me. Some of the people I met on set are now my friends, and I can't imagine what my life would be without them.
How has your sense of style changed, and how do you like to experiment with fashion now?
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a sense of style. Growing up, I got used to wearing things that fit me rather than something I actually liked.
Lately, I’ve been trying to challenge myself not to wear so much black, but I still struggle to find the courage to explore more options.
While there’s an emergence of size inclusivity, many brands still have a long way to go. How do you feel about size choices now while shopping, and what can they do to improve the experience for us all?
Shopping for clothes as a fat person is terrifying to me. I think overall, there is a need for more options when shopping offline. It baffles me that I can't go to the mall and find my size in any of the stores. It needs to be more accessible.
Even when shopping online, I find it very complicated and overwhelming. It’s hard for me to imagine what something will look like when I’m not able to see it on a similar body type. I would love the option to see something in multiple sizes worn by different types of models.
Being a model, what change have you seen in the fashion industry over the recent years while working with the designers, and is there any positive shift in the attitude? What are the changes you want to see going further, and what are the future goals you want to achieve with your activism?
It’s hard for me to see a positive shift in the fashion industry as I still feel very much left out when it comes to representation. I think it's great that the conversation continues, but there needs to be a lot more action.
We’re barely scraping the surface of what fat beauty looks like, and my goal is to just keep pushing those boundaries and make sure that everyone feels included.
Interviewer and Writer PRERNA MALHOTRA
Layout and Graphic Design VEDHIKA HV
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