With mainstream media on a constant mission to promote unrealistic body standards, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many young girls end up growing up with negative body image issues. One look at Instagram, and it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming population of bikini-clad influencers promoting skinny tea. But fortunately, some women have been stepping up and telling the world that it’s okay to embrace your natural self. That said, here are five icons helping to pave the way for the body positivity movement.
By now, you must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Lizzo. The singer, who was born Melissa Jefferson, might have stellar vocal chops, but she is most known for her unapologetic individuality and self-assurance that allows her confidence to emanate everywhere. Through her music, Lizzo celebrates her individuality and body — something she has struggled with since she was little. In a recent panel discussion hosted by Dia&Co., Lizzo even detailed the growing pains that she had to go through, emphasizing that she grew up feeling constantly excluded and under-represented. Today, the 31-year-old artist has grown to be her own role model, while also giving the younger generation one that she never had.
On the small screen, Jameela Jamil plays an heiress with a penchant for the finer things in life. But in real life, Jameela couldn’t be more opposite to the character she plays on The Good Place. In the past year, Quartzy explains that the actress has made a name for herself as a stark voice of the body positivity movement, openly rejecting the narrowly defined beauty standards held by mainstream society. She has even launched an Instagram account (@i_weigh), dedicated simply to fighting fat-phobia and teaching girls (and boys!) to love themselves as they are.
For the past 20 years, Emme has been a pioneer for body positivity before the movement even had a name. The plus-size model is an icon in the fashion industry, having walked numerous runways and graced the pages of many magazines, despite being noticeably “bigger” than the petite models of the traditional fashion world. Currently, WWD reports that she is one of the faces of a body positive site called Woman Within, which is an online retailer that caters specifically to plus-size women. Unlike most other brands, they believe that women of all sizes deserve to look and feel good through their clothes. Even Woman Within’s cover ups are designed not to conceal, but to give its wearers a confidence boost through beautiful colors and prints. The pieces are a sure standout from the crowd, which is why Emme is absolutely perfect for the brand.
It’s a common misconception that bigger women don’t exercise. When we think of working out, images of lean girls in candy-colored sports bras and form-fitting leggings might come to mind. However, hardcore yogi Jessamyn Stanley is challenging that notion and proving that plus-size folks care about their health, too. True enough, their market is pretty under-represented in the athletic and wellness world, which is why Jessamyn also strives to educate others and shed light on plus-size fitness. As a yoga instructor, hers is a body-positive approach that is grounded in how the body feels, versus how it looks.
Pop star and plus-size model YUMI might have grown up in a famous family, but the 22-year-old Japanese-American is building an inclusive platform on her own terms. For International Women’s Day, YUMI partnered with Forever 21 to launch their “Forever Female” campaign, an effort to celebrate female diversity in music. Of course, it included her highly empowering song Camouflage, in which she sings about her love/hate relationship with her body growing up and eventually rising above it. In line with this, Forever 21’s collection of slogan tees and other accessories exuded the same girl power energy, while encouraging women to support other women.