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Saturday, December 12, 2020

Insyze Spotlight: Virgie Tovar

For this week's spotlight, we are speaking with Virgie Tovar. Virgie is an author, activist, podcaster and lecturer as one of the leading experts on weight-based discrimination. You may recognize her from her viral Ted Talk that sparked the #LoseHateNotWeight campaign.

Virgie newest book, The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color is a self-help book designed specifically for girls of color to navigate the world with confidence.

“In this important guide to self-acceptance written specifically for girls of color, Tovar skillfully blends calls to action, relatable personal anecdotes, and clear explanations of the forces that guide individuals’ understanding of themselves.... Tovar’s goal of guiding readers to recognize ‘the sacred gift in every person,’ regardless of shape, ability, gender identity, socioeconomic status, sexuality, or belief system, feels possible with her steady guidance on embracing and appreciating one’s body.”

Publishers Weekly 

Virgie's first book You Have the Right to Remain Fat is a memoir worth the read if you want to go behind the scenes of this badass woman. Virgie did not become a sensation overnight, she has put in endless amounts of time and work into making the world a little bit fatter with love.

We were initially obsessed with Virgie's fashion sense which lead us to follow her, but since then, we have learned so much on her work with the Fat Discrimination Movement.

When did you first start speaking out about fat discrimination? What was your first platform?

Oooh, I had to rack my brain for a second. I remember, though! My very first ever platform was a blog post in, like, 2008. A friend of mine was completing her MSW and her thesis project was a blog about body image. She asked me to write something for it, and I wrote this ranty, stream-of-consciousness essay called "Fatties of the World Unite!" I just wrote about all the crap I had to put up with for being fat - clothes not fitting, dating being so hard, randos giving me weight-loss advice - and it really resonated with people. 

What led you to writing You Have The Right to Remain Fat? Was it after receiving positive feedback on your public speaking or have you always wanted to write about your story?

I really wanted to write a book that was about the culture. I love writing memoir, but a lot of women are pressured to write memoir and bare our whole souls and darkest secrets - like that's the only thing other people can relate to. I had learned a lot from my years of researching diet culture and fatphobia. I knew it was a historical issue rooted in misogyny, colonialism and racism. I knew it was bigger than me, and I wanted to write about it from a sociological perspective. 

How has the Fat Discrimination movement changed since you began working in it?

Fat activism is still alive and I think it's as focused as it always has been on fighting for fat people's human rights, but it's not as popular as the body positivity movement. It seems like the body positivity movement is more like a collection of smaller movements. Some people who identify as body positive are pretty political and I'd probably consider them fat activists, and then there are some people who identify as body positive and they are actively pursuing weight-loss. That's a lot of range. I think that level of range feels new. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the fashion industry and Fat Discrimination, do you believe it is getting better?

I do believe it's getting better! I write about the plus-size market and I could fill my entire editorial calendar with just new companies serving the plus community or established companies that are extending their size run. That's a big deal! I mean, the fact that I can get 50 bikinis in my size during the summer now, that's huge. Like, I remember the first summer Forever21 Plus came out with their bikinis and I walked into the store, saw a wall covered in bikinis in my size and started crying. I never thought I'd see that in my lifetime. What's really missing at this point is the size runs that go past 3X, but as plus-size customers are speaking up, I'm seeing more and more companies stepping up. Like I just wrote about how Superfit Hero made the decision to stop making their smallest sizes so they could dedicate resources to extending their size run into plus. Whuuut!? 

Speaking of fashion, we can’t interview you without complimenting your style! How would you describe your personal style?

Oh thank you! I am having this weird style crisis because I find that the stuff I go to day-after-day in my closet is kinda the same: high-waisted jeans or leggings and a cute top with a cardigan or a blazer. But in my heart I am a maximalist. I love loud, gaudy, over-the-top, colorful stuff. If it were up to me, I would just wear cut off shorts, bikini tops, huge earrings, platform sandals and sunglasses and blow huge pink bubbles with gum as I walked down the street in slow motion 100% of the time. 

Where are your favorite places to shop?

Nooworks in San Francisco, Nettle Studios in San Francisco, Eloquii, Torrid, Rue107, Lafayette 148, Free People (like half the time their Medium is a 3X, girl!), Anthropologie Plus, I love a vintage piece from Lane Bryant, Pari Passu's butter leggings (!), and 11 Honore.

What advice do you have to our readers regarding confidence in their fashion and daily life choices?

One of the things I love about being plus-size is that I have more real estate to work with when it comes to creating a look. I think of Gaudi, the famous Spanish artist and how he designed these incredible huge spaces: everything was undulating, round, bright. This man HATED straight lines. People from all over the world go to Barcelona to see these fat buildings! I think there are so many amazing things that plus-size shoppers have: we got rolls, bumps, soft lines, we take up space, we wiggle and jiggle and stand out. These are ASSETS. These are ART. Lean in!

What are the first steps for our readers to start their fat positivity journey? 

Stop taking selfies from above. Start taking them from below. Become the giantess we need in this world. 

We loved chatting with Virgie and hope you enjoyed all of her insight and passion that comes through her words! Want to get over-the-top, bright clothing like Virgie? You can always take our style quiz to make a Collection for inspiration!