At Camille Styles’ we love nothing more than providing a platform for important conversations. So, today, we’re handing over the mic to plus-size models and thought leaders, Chelsea Francis and Beth Hitchcock (be sure to read our interview with her too) to talk about their journey to self-acceptance, how it inspired their new body positivity platform, and advice on how to love your body, right now!
From a young age, women are told how they should look, think, and act. As two women who grew up in bodies that did not fit in with society’s ideal, we know a thing or two about acceptance. From navigating the fashion world as fat women to paving our own path in an industry that never includes us (while battling the ups and downs of our own self-image), we’ve finally come to a place where we love the skin we’re in.
We strive every day to value ourselves just as we are, at this moment.
It’s safe to say we’ve all been through a lot this year, so now is an opportune time to focus on self-love. But it doesn’t always come naturally. So, we both sat down to have an honest conversation about loving ourselves (and our bodies) fully, our thoughts on growing up fat, and how that impacted our self-acceptance.
Drop-in on our chat and chime in with your comments below.
On growing up fat…
Chelsea: As you know, growing up fat has given us a different experience to most. With that being said, I think the experience of learning to love yourself is something that everyone can relate to. How did growing up fat shape your self-image? How did that make you look at yourself?
Beth: Growing up fat shaped my life in such a strong way—I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I turned 30. That’s when I realized it was affecting how I dated, how I was approaching my career, and how I was interacting with other people. The story I told myself was, I’m not attractive to men, I’m just not one of those girls that men like.
I never would have imagined back then that I would become a model because growing up we didn’t see girls that looked like us. Most brands didn’t even carry our size.
An example of something that seems small, but I still carry with me, is when I forgot my pajamas at sleepovers. Your friend would say, “oh just borrow mine” and I was like, I can’t!
Chelsea: Then you have to wear their dad’s T-shirt!
Beth: Yes! It’s the most embarrassing thing. I became so diligent, even into adulthood when packing for a trip. Bringing extra bras and backup pants. If my bra breaks on this trip I can’t just go to a store and buy a new one. Or if the crotch of my jeans rip, I can’t just go to a store and buy a new pair of jeans because they’re not going to have my size.
Chelsea: For me, growing up fat was a lot of the same. It manifested more into being a maximalist, which I still am. I joke about it all the time and I do a lot of purging of stuff that no longer serves me. As a kid, any time I could buy something that fit me, I would. As a child that didn’t grow up with a lot of means in rural North Carolina, in a city where the mall went out of business very, very early in my childhood, I didn’t have a lot of access to clothes that were cool.
I remember all I wanted in high school was to wear American Eagle jeans and I would fit myself into the biggest size that American Eagle sold. I think it was a size 16, knowing damn well I was an 18 in high school and I would just force these clothes to fit on my body. I would still buy anything that would barely fit in high school just to try and fit into this mold.
Also, I desperately wanted to be friends with everyone in high school. I did that as a defense mechanism because if everyone was friends with me, then no one would notice that I was fat and no one would bully me because the popular kids liked me, the Goth kids liked me, the cheerleaders liked me, and the jocks liked me. Everyone thought I was funny and cool, and so I rarely got bullied but I felt like I was putting on a four-year show. I felt exhausted. I carried a lot of this behavior into adulthood.
On dating and navigating relationships…
Chelsea: It’s made me put up with getting treated poorly in friendships and I’ve stayed in friendships longer than I should have. It’s made me unclear about what friendship should even look like. It’s made me feel like I was a bad person or a bad friend because I set boundaries in friendships. I feel like this is a universal fat-in-high school thing and an aspect of this experience that we don’t really talk about a lot.
Beth: Yes, I very much relate to that, especially in my dating life. It took me a lot of dates to recognize my behavior around it and where it was stemming from. And I mean, I went on 50 first dates within two years. What I learned from it, was that I was such a people pleaser.
If a man found me attractive, I was going to fit myself into whatever mold he wanted so he would keep dating me. I never even asked myself, Do I even like this person? I just wanted to be validated that I was “dateable.”
Chelsea: It’s crazy that for so many years of our lives, we had no clue we were hot. I think about that all the time. I did not know that a person who could call themselves fat (and feel neutral about that) would also be able to call themselves hot—and know that was a fact.
I love that we have begun to redefine beauty standards. We haven’t gotten far—there are still a lot of messed-up standards of beauty in the United States and worldwide—but I love that now we can all agree anyone can be hot if they have the confidence to own their hotness. It feels like code to some degree.
On when we started loving our bodies…
Beth: I love that too! When did you truly start looking at yourself as hot? At what age or what event really sparked you to start looking at your body in a healthy and loving way?
Chelsea: When I was 26, I started taking photos of myself naked just for me. I wouldn’t even send them to my husband at first because I just felt uncomfortable. Slowly I started sending them to my husband and then to all my girlfriends and then slowly I started to post photos of me in bathing suits and cute underwear sets online.
Somewhere in there, I realized, not that I loved myself or that I was hot, but that it was a nonissue. For a while, no one else’s standard of beauty was being forced on me because I was defining that for myself.
So, the fact that I can take a photo of me naked in a mirror in New Orleans and send that to 10 friends and all of them be like, “holy shit, you look incredible” was enough. And if I could feel confident enough doing that and confident enough to believe them, then that was my own small miracle. That changed the way I looked at myself. How about you?
Beth: I was about 30 when I basically started looking in the mirror and liking what I saw. Up until then, I really, really struggled. I was styling a lot more with some plus-size brands like Lane Bryant and Eloquii and becoming friends with a lot of the plus models. They were all so successful, so beautiful, and so confident. I would watch these women on set and then we would go get drinks afterward and I would observe how confident they were in their bodies. I was like, wow! It had such an influence on me, more than I realized.
I too can show my cleavage and just because I have big boobs, doesn’t mean I should hide in a turtleneck. So, I started embracing that sexuality.
Around the same time, there was a guy I was very into who seemed to date anyone but me. He would never ask me out and in my mind, it was because I’m fat. I beat myself up about it, I tried losing weight—all of the things to get him to like me.
Finally, I just snapped. I looked in the mirror and said out loud “I’m so tired of hating myself. I am so tired of looking in the mirror and not liking what I see. I’m tired of this story I’ve created. I’m done!” I stopped avoiding pool parties, started talking to guys at bars and posting sexy photos of myself online.
It’s definitely a daily struggle. Some days when I get rejected or my pants are tight, I can easily revert back to negative body talk and I’ll have to go back to the mirror and say those healthy things to myself again.
Chelsea: The thing that triggers those feelings for me is just wishing I was different or that I looked different. This is always loosely mental health-related for me, too. When my anxiety is very high or I’m feeling really low, it’s really, really easy to look in the mirror and be like, this is wrong, too. I think a lot of that is a holdover from high school because high school is where my anxiety really kicked into high gear for the first time. I never really fit in enough to get invited to all of the things, so I would often feel very left out, even though I was all over the place all the time. If I was at a football game or something, I was still not invited to a number of other things I wish I was invited to. I was discontent a lot of the time. It was really isolating and really lonely. Oftentimes, I would feel that it was because I was a fat kid or I didn’t meet these standards of beauty that the popular girls in my high school met. So, I feel like that’s where it’s rooted for me.
How we stay on our path to self-love:
Beth: I have implemented some personal spiritual practices in my life that help me stay grounded and keep me on track. One of those things is a grateful journal. I try to start every single day with at least a 10-minute meditation and then I journal, writing things that I’m grateful for or things I want to manifest into my life.
Some days I don’t feel grateful at all, but ultimately I have to keep showing up for myself. The modeling industry can be hard, rejection happens constantly, so I just have to keep coming back to that same place within and getting back on track.
Having those practices in place has helped me to keep looking at the good in my life, even when things feel really crappy.
Chelsea: Similar! I feel like I couldn’t love myself until I got to know myself. I’ve been through a lot of therapy and through a lot of self compassion and forgiveness. It’s a daily practice of investing and reinvesting into my own knowledge of self. My spiritual practice has been helpful. Meditation, morning pages, coming up with a creative practice outside of what I do for money, that has been tremendously helpful.
Taking naked pictures, taking non-naked photos of myself, and being able to look at those and be like, wow, this is on par with the nudes that my friends are sending, especially as someone who is married. I never went through feeling sexy in the dating world. I started dating my husband when I was 16 and we got married at 21. I feel very, very grateful that we are still people who tend to like each other most of the time. I feel very fortunate for that.
Discovering my own sexuality and the things that make me feel good and look good has been wonderful. I can buy a dress where my boobs look great and wear that anywhere I like. Giving that to myself has been really vital.
On advice they’d give others who are struggling with self-love…
Beth: Take the nudes! Even if it’s just for yourself. It doesn’t even have to be nude, you could just take a beautiful selfie, set up a self-timer, and go take an awesome outfit photo in front of the sunset. Come back to it and look at it when you need an extra boost. Write yourself mantras, my favorite is “I am worthy” or “ I’m beautiful at any size”. Ultimately, you have to find what works best for you, but something that helped me was surrounding myself with other women that looked like me, women that are considered bigger women. Most of the women that I follow on social media are bigger women or women that are similarly sized to me. So I am inundated with women that are bigger than a size 12. I love seeing them in cool outfits, being sexy, living their best lives, and being in happy relationships. Experiencing all of the things that I want in my life.
That’s what I am trying to do now, to be a positive influence in the world as a big girl, being honest, being vulnerable about it, and hoping that it resonates with people.
Chelsea: Definitely, I would agree wholeheartedly. Taking naked photos of yourself, taking great photos of yourself in general, and then texting those to friends and letting them gas you up is so important. So is following people that look like you and people that don’t on social media. I’ll also add following people with different lived experiences, and letting them inform the way you view the world. Caring about the people around you and the problems they face is important work for the soul.
You can’t feel sexy without your soul.
Those are the things that have made me the most confident in myself. That’s also a lot of why we do what we do at Fluffi. We want to help expand that view of beauty for everyone.
To learn more about Fluffi and to join their community, visit lovefluffi.com