August 2011

Let it Start with Ashley

Ashely Fink (of Glee fame) is by no means the largest girl on television, nor was she the first fat actress to gain nationwide recognition. Still, she remains one of the most widely viewed fat actresses among Americans, and her beauty and charisma—and let’s not forget her bad-assness—is proving to people (teens especially, who perhaps need to know this more than anyone) that fat people are more than just fat, and that these characteristics that she portrays can be found in anyone—not just the blonde beauty queens.

We need more people like Fink in the media—more people who look, as she’s said on the show, “like America looks.” I think by having The Glee Project contestant Hannah on the show we could start the ball rolling. I read in some ridiculous comments about Hannah that some people don’t want her because she’s “just like Fink’s character Lauren, and we don’t need another character like her.”

Not only is this wrong in the fact that we do need another fat character—on every show, not just Glee—it is also wildly assumptive and false. Sweet, endearing Hannah is nothing like bold, daring Lauren, in her features or her personality. What this comment does is further the assumption that all fat people are alike, lumping us all together as one big blob to be forever shunned and ignored or ridiculed.

On my road to fat acceptance, I have come across many bumps. One of my own hurdles has been accepting that fat is beautiful. Sure, I always thought that Camryn Manheim and Queen Latifah had it going on, but that is very different from accepting the average fat Jack or Jill as being beautiful. To start, I tried drawing my favorite comic book characters—mostly X-Men—as big and beautiful versions of themselves. This sort of worked, except for the fact that I really didn’t know how to draw fat well, and they all just looked like they were holding their breath.

What I know most about trying to live a life that’s not what the status quo would have—from homeschooling to working from home, from being a fat activist to refusing to be a consumer as much as possible—is that it’s very, very hard to overcome what’s been drilled into your head your whole life. In this case, that translates to fat being bad and ugly and unwelcome. Once you see past the paradigm set up by society it gets easier, but sometimes you have to work really hard at it—especially if it’s something personal you’ve already struggled with.