(An Article by Kristie Storms)

Just a few weeks ago a memory popped up on my snapchat, a memory that made me pause and smile.  It was a selfie I had taken with model Tess Holliday at a book signing in Chicago.  I began to reflect on that experience and I have a few thoughts to share:

The Exploration Group, complete with Accommodating Husband!

A year ago, I made the trek to the “Windy City.”  I met two of my close friends (and a very accommodating husband).  That weekend we would be crashing in my friend’s beautiful one-bedroom apartment near downtown, they have a view of Navy Pier out their window!  While there were no specific plans, it was to be a weekend of exploration, reconnecting, a little romance (in the form of a date with a promising Tinder match from a previous adventure), and of course tons of great food!

With little planned on the agenda, one of the items on my “things to do list” was a stop at the Tess Holliday book signing.  I had noticed that she was going to be in Chicago that weekend and put it on the list.  As luck would have it, it was at a mall very near where we were staying.  I had been following Tess for a while on Instagram, and appreciated her perspective. I was charmed by her truly feminist husband.  And, I wanted to know more!  Also, the signing was being held at Eloquii.  I had been shopping the website, and I NEEDED to shop there in person!  I convinced my friends that it would be a quick stop, and if there was too long of a line, we would just snap a creepy photo from a distance, do a little shopping and move along.

But, when we arrived, there was only a handful of people in line! I immediately bought a book and joined the line.  My friends joined me in line, but they weren’t willing to commit to the book.  As we waited in line my friends questioned me about why I liked Tess.  I started telling stories about her, and then those around us in line started joining in.  It was apparent that the lady behind us was a “super fan”.  She started gushing and talking excitedly about the book.  At one point she was even in tears telling us about how much she connected to the book, and Tess.  I was surprised at how passionate she felt, and how much inspiration Tess gave her.  I also was noticing that almost everyone in front of us in line were walking away wiping tears from their eyes after talking with Tess.  My skeptical friend couldn’t help it, she jumped out of line and bought a book, she had been convinced that whatever what happening she wanted to be part of it too!

When it was our turn to meet Tess, she was lovely.  She took the time to visit with us and gave accolades to my friend’s husband (nod to his accommodation…) who was patiently waiting for us right outside the store.  She told a few cute stories, and then let us take as many photos and selfies as we wanted.  Ever the PhD nerd, I mentioned that someday I wanted to research the kind of influence she was having on the plus sized community.  She giggled and said, “does that mean I will be in a textbook someday?”  Well Tess, yes, I hope that it does!

Now a year later as I reflect on that experience, I have a few takeaways.

  • First, I am proud to have met someone who has created a space for plus sized women to see themselves as beautiful.  This all happened before she was a “cosmo girl”, which has opened the door to so many conversations about the role of plus size models in the media.  While I may not agree with all of Tess’s ideas, and sometimes think that she is silly.  She is always quick to show what her life is really like, and is honest about her struggles with mental health, and the struggles of her job.
  • Secondly, I was glad to get to share the experience with two of my friends that are also plus sized.  It was empowering to be a in a store that has GORGEOUS clothing for plus sized women.  There have been very few times in my life when I have been able to go to a store and try on WHATEVER I wanted.  Getting the chance to shop in a plus positive atmosphere is great, but getting to shop with Tess Holliday, commenting on your choices is AMAZING!  Thank you Eloquii for creating that experience.  It shows to me that you are a brand that understands its customers.
  • Lastly, I hope that people like Tess Holliday (along with Jes Baker, Chrissy Metz, Whitney Way Thore, and Sarah Sapora, just to name a few!) do make textbooks someday.  I hope that the body positivity movement is so empowering that it has its own chapter in textbooks.  I hope that someday it will seem odd that people of different sizes weren’t represented in media.  I also hope that the women that come after me can see more “cosmo girls” that look like them!