#sizecelebration: Natalie Merola-Garcia (Kitty)

All photos by Stef Atkinson

All photos by Stef Atkinson

#sizecelebration is a #bossbabesATX series of photos and interviews, featuring women of different sizes in dressing rooms, proudly disrobing to dispel negative body image. These portraits were taken by Stef Atkinson, in conjunction with and in the dressing rooms of SoLa.

So, goodbye, fat-shaming. Goodbye, skinny-shaming. Toodles, crying in dressing rooms. We're done with you.

Meet this week's #sizecelebration model, Natalie Merola-Garcia (Kitty).

Q: What's your current occupation?

A: Writer, Blogger, Videographer

Q: How old are you?

A: 27

Q: When did you first become aware of your own size? Was that a positive or negative experience?

A: I first started becoming more aware of sizes and shape in early childhood. When I was one of the only girls to wear a bra in the 4th grade, I started to see we all were shaping into our own forms. In middle school, more of us began to see curvy hips. Growing up in South Florida, curves are revered as beautiful, but that does not mean I was in the clear for positive experiences. Girls would tease me for having curvy hips, a big butt and larger breasts. Meanwhile, boys would stare or tell me I was not skinny, because of my features. I let them know how I felt about that when they’d try to touch me, and I was constantly sent to the front office. I was told to wear clothes that covered, when my clothes were not even offensive in the first place. I did not know being a woman meant my size would bring so much unwanted attention. Often times, I would be excluded because the others saw me as different. I couldn’t understand why appearances meant a lot, especially when in school, you are taught to focus on what is on the inside. I began to think something was wrong with me, even though I didn’t realize at the time that I was alright. It was always tucked away in the back of my mind and it hurt. It hurt a lot. People would also praise my looks, and it would make me feel uncomfortable. It took me a while to have a rebirth and unconditionally love myself. After years of taking my life back into my own hands, I feel like the person I’ve always been. I love my size.

Now, I am aware of the new me in a new role: mom life! Motherhood has taught me to face my fears, learn to love every ounce of myself and give all of my love to my child, husband and career passions. Being confident with my size has improved all aspects of my life, and I can finally say I’m free. 

Q: When did you first become aware of others' sizes?

A: High school and college brought up other women and their sizes. I never compared myself before, but others felt compelled to compare me in the mix. I did not want to be part of a group of women who humiliated others who did not look like them. I did not understand why they made comments to others like we were all in competition.

What did size have to do with anything in the first place? Dealing with the hate made me aware that size does not constitute someone’s character or lack thereof. While I did not hate the girls who hated on others, it disappointed me that they could not at least respect each other. It just made me analyze myself and others around me. Were other women always the way those women viewed others: fat or skinny? Is this how the world views me? How should this make me feel? It’s weird coming to the realization that we may view ourselves one way, while the world tells you to think and feel another way. It made me angry. I did not understand why it was okay to promote self-hatred and shaming. Instead of looking to start a real life version of “Mean Girls” like these women, I wanted to have girlfriends who could genuinely talk about anything and everything with me. Befriending other women across the country with the same ideals, I knew I belonged to the counterculture.

2015-11-09_0009.jpg

Q: As you've grown, what have you determined to be true or untrue about size?

A: Size does not determine happiness. It’s unfair to assume others are happy or unhappy, because of their size. Loving yourself unconditionally and enjoying your unique size is the beginning of a life-long commitment to yourself. Whether you start now or later, well, that is only something you can decide. I can tell you the best way to take a load off your mind is to start living in the now. Right at this very moment that you’re reading this, please know that you are the perfect size. You are your own size. Happiness is celebrating your size, respecting other women and honoring yourself with love. 

Q: How do you celebrate yourself?

A: I celebrate myself with fashion. Until recently, the fashion industry wouldn’t budge to acknowledge the diversity in women and sizes. Size exclusion has driven me nuts. Although I’ve been all sorts of sizes ranging from three to 10, I have experienced positive and negative experiences on all sizes of the spectrum. In my junior year of college, my digital theories professor told me the best way to help overcome something is to be an agent of change and lead others out of the same perils. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time, but it clicked and popped in my head, when I was brainstorming for my blog. With the strength to tell it like it is, I’m not afraid to voice my opinion on women and empowerment. My blog Ginger Me Glam helps me celebrate the things I love beyond fashion and beauty. I celebrate myself and embrace my size unapologetically. Throughout my size-celebrating entries, it’s like a style therapy session. When you style, it puts you in touch with yourself. Reminding women that they are in control of their thoughts and feelings is a good thing. The world needs to be overwhelmed with size celebration, and my #redhotthoughts aren’t going anywhere! 

Q: How do you think the world (society, etc.) should change the way it celebrates beauty?

A: Celebrating only one type of beauty and woman is wrong. All types of women should be celebrated! If beauty is truly only in the eyes of the beholder, we should take back ownership of all sizes, and let us decide for ourselves that we do represent our own individual version of size and beauty. Because of size discrimination, it is time to change the script. It’s easier said than done, but society should stop parading women around like objects in beauty pageants and encouraging pop culture that praises the trophy [insert any label here]. It is possible for all women to possess beauty and brains, but why is it that society thinks one exists without the other? That type of thinking is so weak. It’s long overdue, but I’m happy to live to see us women claiming our identities—beauty and size included. 

Q: What are some immediate, day-to-day things we can change in our lives to better appreciate our own unique bodies? As well as others’?

A: To create any change in the dialogue, behaviors and expectations, I think we need to first start recognizing that all women are all real women. If we do that, then we need to stop comparing each other. Society tells you to be one way, but don’t be different than what is expected of you. That is harmful, but we must be stronger and overcome that. Words do hurt, but we can change the language we use to help improve body positivity. 

Society needs to remove harmful phrases like these, but not limited to: “You look great for a _____”, “If you would lose weight, you could ______”, and “Gosh! Eat a cheeseburger! You’re so ______.” We want to feel valued, but the only way to do this is to allow ourselves to validate our own identity. Taking control of our peace and size, it first starts at home.

I choose to wake up each day and dress myself to look and feel the way I desire. The choice to live happily in your own way helps encourage others to do the same. When we also make a commitment to create a safe space to talk about body image, people can connect and engage in a community of love and support. Well-being is the result of an involved ecosystem. We must all help each other better appreciate our own unique bodies together. 

Q: Why are you participating in this shoot?

A: While editing my body-positivity and women empowerment documentary, Project Lady Lines, I was invited to add my girl power to this fun shoot. I’m participating in this #SizeCelebration shoot, because I love the girl power behind it. We need to love ourselves, take care of each other and lead by example. It’s a community effort, because this is an issue that affects the lives of one of the largest communities in the world: women.

Q: What does #sizecelebration mean to you?

A: Celebrating your own size is honing in on that untapped unicorn-rainbow-magic-type girl power. It is all about giving women the strength and courage to love their shape. This allows us the ability to reclaim what beauty means. #SizeCelebration is taking self-control of beauty, self-love and empowering other women to create worldwide positive change.

Jane Claire HerveyComment