The first time I ever heard another woman confidently refer to herself as fat, my insides smiled. I’d always been given the impression that the word was so shameful. But there’s something incredibly refreshing and empowering about being able to say, “Hell yeah, I’m fat and I’m beautiful.” This is what’s so amazing about the Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCAs). Last Tuesday, September 9, I was honoured to celebrate the International Day of Beauty at the second annual BCCAs. In a room with a killer view, 51 floors above the city at Toronto’s Panorama Lounge, I mingled with dozens of smiling, beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, who proudly declare themselves confident. Together, we toasted this year’s four winners and listened to some incredibly moving and inspiring speeches about what it means to be truly body positive.
“Our BCCA recipients do not buy into the idea that there is one body ‘norm’ nor do they buy into the myth of ‘perfection.’ Instead, BCCA recipients actively strive to challenge the status quo and to re-imagine diverse bodies that are perfectly living as is,” says co-founder Jill Andrew. She and Aisha Fairclough, her partner and co-blogger at Fat in the City, were inspired by the UK’s Campaign for Body Confidence five years ago and their inaugural UK Body Confidence Awards in 2012. ” We decided it was high time to bring this gem to Canada! Recipients are helping to build a community through their work that inspires these same body confidence ideals in others. The BCCAs are heavily influenced by critical media, race, disability, fat studies, queer and feminist theories.”
Read on for more of Aisha and Jill’s thoughts on confidence, role models and what the future holds.
On recognizing body-confident women:
“When we feel confident in and about our bodies, we are more likely to engage in healthier relationships (intimate and otherwise). We are also more likely to have the esteem to pursue career opportunities that we truly want and not the ones we feel we’re only ‘good enough’ to get. The more of us who adopt body confidence, the more we can pool together to address the systemic discrimination that causes body shaming and exclusion in the first place.”
From curbing one’s own fat talk to beginning a routine of self-love and adoration, to supporting body-positive community events, projects, activisms, to yelling out loud ‘I’m fat and I’m proud!’ to anyone who will listen… It all counts!
On inspirations in the body-positive community:
“Dr. Carla Rice, who was also the 2014 recipient of our Honorary BCCA; Dr. Charlotte Cooper (Obesity Time Bomb), Marilyn Wann (Fat!So?). Our winners from 2013 are right up there as inspirations to us both. For instance, Glenora Joseph started the Miss Canada Plus Pageant (MCPP) way back in 2003/2004 about the same time that Angell Kasparian started GRAND Woman, a plus-size fashion magazine… The BCCAs allow us to award these trailblazers who otherwise might not be known.
It’s no secret that the fat activist/body positivity movement has been historically one without much racial diversity, so this is another huge reason for us starting the BCCAs… Being at its helm. We are taking up space as active leaders in the body positivity movement and we hope to inspire many racialized young women and men coming after us to do the same! We are also inspired by fashion bloggers everywhere.”
On the most rewarding moments of running the BCCAs:
“Hearing the BCCA recipients’ speeches has been the most exciting and touching time for both of us! People share such intimate parts of their trajectory—from before they were part of the body positivity movement all the way up to what their current work entails… It’s also amazing to see our winners’ family and friends in the audience cheering them on. The personal thank you messages we receive pre- and post-awards are also so very touching.”
It’s no secret that the fat activist/body positivity movement has been historically one without much racial diversity, so this is another huge reason for us starting the BCCAs… Being at its helm. We are taking up space as active leaders in the body positivity movement and we hope to inspire many racialized young women and men coming after us to do the same!
On how we can make a difference:
“Do exactly what feels right for you. There is no rule book on what a powerful contribution looks like. From curbing one’s own fat talk to beginning a routine of self-love and adoration, to supporting body-positive community events, projects, activisms, to yelling out loud ‘I’m fat and I’m proud!’ to anyone who will listen… It all counts! The key is to surround ourselves with people who are challenging dominant beauty and body narratives. Whether it’s in regard to size, weight, shape, race, sexual orientation or disability… EveryBODY counts, everyBODY has a story and we’ve got to not only acknowledge them but celebrate them!”
On future Awards:
“[We’re hoping to get] a larger venue! This year we were packed. We also had amazing standup comic Catherine McCormick—our first ever BCCA live performer. We’re definitely going to incorporate more live performance in future shows. We are also introducing 2 youth awards for children 12-18 years old who are also making an impact in the body positivity community. And of course, there will be some surprises!”
We can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year! For more info and to nominate future recipients of the BCCAs, click here.