Hey Bold readers! We’re so excited to bring an amazing and unique interview experience to you! Mary Damiano is one of the newest members to join the Bold Team. She comes to us with years of experience in writing, events, and media. Damiano has been covering arts and entertainment in South Florida as a feature writer and theatre critic for 18 years and has published more than 2,500 articles. Mary is managing director as well as a judge for the Carbonell Awards, which recognizes excellence in South Florida regional theatre. She is the co-founder of MiamiARTzine.com, for which she worked as editor for five years. Mary has been published in the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, New Times, The Express, South Florida Gay New, She Magazine, Project Destiny, Miami SunPost, BroadwayWorld.com, etc. etc. Wow! You can read all about her on our Meet the Team page as well as on her own site, here!
We recently connected with Damiano on our very first Plus Professionals Networking Boat Event outside of Miami last month! And the rest was history. We have had so much fun working with Damiano to exchange ideas and figure out what our next articles are going to be. And, we can’t wait to share them with you. But, first, meet our Associate Editor, Mary Damiano, and Be Bold!
Bold Magazine: Mary, this all began for us when we met on the Bold Plus Positive Boat Event. Run us through how you found out about it and what it was.
Mary: I believe everything happens for a reason. The event popped up on my Facebook page as an event a friend was interested in attending. I clicked on it and saw Plus-Size Professionals Boat Party Mixer, or something along those lines. I was intrigued—I understood those words separately but not how they fit together. The event was the next day, and I had plans, but I was interested enough to email and ask to get updates on future events. Then my Saturday plans fell through, and I got an email that there was one spot left on the boat, so I took a chance. I didn’t know what I was getting into—I’ve never worn a bathing suit to a professionals’ mixer and tucked business cards into my beach bag! It turned out to be one of my best decisions ever. The boat was docked behind the captain’s house in a beautiful section of Fort Lauderdale on the New River. The other boat party guests were friendly and fun. I’m usually standoffish when I don’t know anyone until I observe for a while, but that didn’t happen—I felt welcomed and accepted from the start. The captain was a hoot who peppered our trip with bits of Fort Lauderdale history and fun facts—it was like getting a backstage tour of my city. We cruised south down the river and then out into the ocean, mooring near Hollywood. We sang along to Prince, and laughed and talked and ate and drank and enjoyed each other’s company. And we learned how Bold Magazine came to be and all about its mission of body positivity. And you couldn’t have conjured up a more perfect day to go sailing. I had had a rough week—really a rough few months–so the party was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries and refresh my perspective.
Bold Magazine: Mary, we loved the energy you brought to the event! And, we’re now so excited that you’re joining Bold. Tell us about your new passion for body positivity.
Mary: Passion—my favorite word! It’s been a journey, that’s for sure. Most people who know me would describe me as confident, but I haven’t always been that way, especially about the way I look. I began developing at a very young age—I hit puberty at nine years old and my first bra size when I was 10 was a 34B. My body garnered a lot of attention from men, the kind of attention that no child should get. I was sexually molested by a neighbor and family members, and those things shaped the person I’ve become. They also shaped how I felt about my body. I didn’t yet know that sexual assault is based in the assaulter’s sick need for power, so I felt at fault. I was ashamed of my body and determined to keep from getting more unwanted attention. But at the same time, I was a teenage girl who liked boys and wanted to be liked back. It was difficult to reconcile those two feelings. It wasn’t a conscious decision to gain weight, but I know now that it was my way of making sure that people liked me for me, and not my body. I tried over the years to lose weight and had varying degrees of success, and I have always done my best to dress my body in flattering ways—I am a big fan of showing cleavage—but it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve felt comfortable with myself. For one thing, the clothes and the lingerie are better. There are sexier and more fashionable options for plus-size women, and when you look good, you feel good. And attitudes have changed somewhat with role models like Amy Shumer, for example, and conversations about too-skinny fashion models and magazines that Photoshop women’s bodies to promote impossible standards. I’ve learned that healthy, beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes. At the Bold boat party, a woman took a full-body photo of me in a bathing suit—I rarely let anyone take a full-body photo of me—and I liked it so much that I posted it to Facebook. The comments and response were all so flattering and enthusiastic and it even prompted some enlightening conversations with those close to me. It gave me a new perspective on how others see me and how I view myself.
Bold Magazine: Well, expect some more! You’ve written a ton! Give us some highlights!
Mary: I’ve always identified, first and foremost as a writer. I was editor of my college newspaper and had some articles published along the way. My focus has always been arts and features and people doing wonderful things. I’ve always been determined to show the good things that will in some way enrich our lives. My career as an arts journalist kicked into high gear in 2000, and things happened quickly. I became the cover story writer for an African-America magazine called Project Destiny, associate editor and writer for a lesbian magazine called She, and the arts and entertainment editor of the largest gay newspaper in Florida, The Express. It’s important to mention that I am not African-American, lesbian or gay, yet I found acceptance of both my writing and myself in each of these diverse communities. In 2005 I co-founded an online arts magazine called MiamiARTzine.com, which I edited for the first five years and is still going strong. During my career I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Barry Manilow, Margaret Cho, Cyndi Lauper, Lea Delaria, Valerie Harper, Debbie Reynolds, Janet Reno, Sharon Gless, Betty Buckley, Joan Rivers, Eartha Kitt, Bea Arthur, Sophie B. Hawkins and may other talented artists and wonderful people. I’ve written scores of theatre reviews and many fun features. I’ve been honored with a few awards along the way, but I believe my greatest accomplishment is figuring out how to get paid to be entertained.
Bold Magazine: And now your writing has brought you here! So, you’ll be attending Miami Curves Week in two weeks. What is it?
Mary: Miami Curves is a weekend devoted to fashion and body positivity for the plus-size community. It’s the brainchild of two women who wanted to provide a more inclusive event for an often overlooked group of women. Miami Curves will feature a marketplace full of vendors showcasing plus-size swimwear and resort wear and a runway show of plus-size models in the latest swim fashions. Bold readers can learn much more when my feature article on the event is published. And tickets are on sale now.
Bold Magazine: We hear you’ve had a recent run in with Lane Bryant! How was that?
Mary: I shop at Lane Bryant a lot—I’m on a first name basis with everyone at my Coconut Creek store. I went this past Saturday, and since Independence Day was coming up, I was getting my Fourth on, all decked out in stars and red, white, and blue, all pieces from their Americana Collection from this year and last summer. The store associate said she liked how I styled my outfit and asked if she could take my picture for the store’s Instagram. I was very flattered and consented, and it was fun to see the Likes on their Instagram account and my own, as well as my Facebook page. It was exciting, but also a big step. See, I’ve had my photo taken a lot over the years because of my career covering various big events, and I rarely let anyone take a full body shot. While I’ve grown more comfortable with my voluptuous body type over the years, I wasn’t comfortable with photographic evidence. I had an image in my mind of how I looked and liked what I saw in the mirror, but when it came to photos, there was a disconnection between what I saw in my mind, the mirror and in photographs. Although the Bold boat party was only two weeks earlier, the acceptance and positivity I felt that day has stayed with me and allowed me to say yes to the Lane Bryant associate. And I love the photo!
Bold Magazine: Mary, wow! You do a lot! What are your other day jobs?
Mary: I’ve been known to collect jobs, but I work in the not-for-profit arts worls, so cobbling together a living is common. In addition to my exciting new position as associate editor of Bold, I’m an administrative assistant at Florida Children’s Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, and I am managing director of the Carbonell Awards, which is entering its 43rd year of recognizing excellence in South Florida regional theatre and awarding scholarships to local high school seniors pursuing degrees in journalism or the performing arts. This means I see a lot of theatre—last year I saw 96 live shows! I spend a lot of time in the dark! As a volunteer, I was appointed to the Arts and Culture Council of my municipality, and am vice-president of the South Florida Theatre League. I like having more than one job. It keeps things interesting.
Bold Magazine: We were recently joking about the dating scene. Give us a snippet of what it’s like to be a plus woman over the age of 40 on dating apps.
Mary: I got divorced five years ago and ventured into online dating nearly three years ago. Before I got married I didn’t really date; I had several long-term relationships. And I work in the arts, primarily theatre, so I don’t meet an abundance of straight men. Online seemed the way to go. On the two sites I’ve used, I describe myself as voluptuous with Rubenesque curves. And I post face shots, still wanting to be liked for me first, I guess. The most surprising thing to me is that the men who contact me are almost always 7-10 years younger than me. With few exceptions, I won’t date a man more than 15 years younger because there’s not enough shared frame of reference for good conversation. And I’ve learned that many men like voluptuous women like me. I have had several dates turn into long-term things and a few guys ended up as close friends. I liken online dating to shopping for shoes online: You scroll through photos of shoes, read the description, and imagine how it might fit you and fit into your life. Then you get your shoes, try them on, and realize they don’t fit, or, attractive as they are, they hurt you too much to keep. And then it’s back online to search again. Shoes, men–it’s pretty much the same. If nothing else, I have a several cocktail parties worth of anecdotes detailing my adventures in online dating.
Bold Magazine: Hah! Shoes and men! We love it! Can you tell us a crazy story about it?
Mary: I’ve had every kind of date, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The sublime one ended up helping me through a difficult period and has remained a close friend. The ridiculous—where do I start? A guy texted me and after a few messages we chatted on the phone. He seemed nice and funny so we agreed to meet the next day at Starbuck’s. During the hour we spent there, he droned on about work, texted, took phone calls, and chatted up the couple at the next table trying to drum up business. He didn’t even spring for my hot chocolate. When he texted, he’d glance up at me and mutter, “You’re hot” or “You’re pretty”. I intended to send him a polite message when I got home that I didn’t think we had a connection, but there was a message from him that said I must not be interested because I didn’t give him my number. I replied with a polite message that I didn’t feel we had a connection and wished him luck. He told me I was a fat girl and shouldn’t be so picky. I fired off a reply, detailing all the impolite things he did—texting, taking calls, basically ignoring me. The next day I got another message from him, asking me if I wanted to meet him again, away from people, like at my place. The dude did not have a clue. In fact, I believe he was the most clueless man in the world. I was so insulted that he thought that because of my plus-size shape I should have to settle.
Bold Magazine: And, what do you plan to bring to Bold Magazine?
Mary: I’m so excited to be Bold’s new associate editor. My goal as a journalist has always been to let readers know about the wonderful things the world around them has to offer and about people doing things to help or inspire others. I plan on building on that goal and using my experience and talents to spread the Bold message of body positivity to help readers feel accepted, included, and more confident being themselves. Everyone has their own journey toward self-acceptance, but perhaps I can contribute in a way so that another woman’s journey can be easier than mine.
Mary: What makes me Bold, unique and awesome… I would have to say that I live my life in a bold way. I answer to no one and live by my own rules, even if they fall outside what society deems appropriate for a woman of my age, or size. I follow my instincts. Experience has taught me that sometimes, you have to take a chance, and even when all conventional wisdom is telling you to say no, you have to go with your gut and say yes. Because when you say yes, that’s when the magic happens.