Hot and Heavy: An Interview with Virgie Tovar

virgie-tovar Many people struggle to embrace and love their bodies. This is particularly true for women. Society has created a standard of beauty that most of us feel we can’t meet. Fortunately there are body love activists who are working to redefine beauty and help people love themselves.

One of those activists is Virgie Tovar, editor of the book Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, & Fashion, a collection of essays dedicated to “all the fat girls who feel they must apologize, and to all of us who don’t.” Many of the authors explain why they believe that loving your body is a political act, and that fashion is a form of resistance. I caught up with Virgie to talk to her about her book, and some of the forms of activism that are described in the essays.

1. How were you able to recruit other women to share their stories with you?
Because body size is such a vulnerable topic and fatphobia is so rampant, often fat women are suspicious of people they don’t know asking to hear their story. I got to know many of the women in Hot & Heavy throughout 2010 and 2011 because I had been studying fat in graduate school and every week someone new would ask me, “have you heard of (insert somewhat secret fat positive event/pool party/conference/clothing swap/craft night)?” As I was doing the research I was going on my own personal journey as a fat woman, farther and farther into body positive politics and fat community – what I call the “Fat Underground,” a loose collective of activists and allies who have amazing politics and ambitions around ending fatphobia. I fell in love with these people. They became my friends, and I was able to ask them directly to contribute to the book and then they asked their friends. I really wanted to introduce the world to these women who had really changed – and saved – my life.

2. How can body love activists start their own Fat Girl Flea Markets?
Fat Girl Flea Markets or Fat Girl Clothing Swaps can require a minor or major effort depending on the scale of the event. I know friends who put together small clothing swaps in a week. The easiest way to do this is to (1) choose a date and location (your home is the easiest location), (2) make a Facebook/e-mail invitation and invite people, (3) get friends to bring clothing the night of the event, (4) Have fun!

You can turn a clothing swap into a flea market fundraiser by charging admission or asking for donations from attendees. If you want to plan a larger scale event you will need to set a date far enough in the future to accommodate finding a large space that you can afford, getting the word out, and enlisting volunteers to set up and take down the event, act as cashiers, help attendees, organize clothes, and take care of the remaining clothing donations once the event is over.

3. You give fantastic fashion tips in the book. If you could tell Stacy & Clinton from “What Not To Wear” one thing, what would it be?
“The Tag Says No But The Stretch Says Yes!” This is my ultimate mantra. Don’t let the tag stop you from trying on a garment you love. Don’t let the size of a dress determine how you feel. Clothes are meant to work for you. So play with them, alter them, add color and accessories, wear feathers and glitter and mini-skirts! Feel the fashion fear and do it anyway!

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