Brittany Gibbons, the author of New York Times Best Seller, Fat Girl Walking discusses Courageous Beauty at TEDxBGSU conference. Below is the full transcript of the TEDx Talk.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Courageous beauty by Brittany Gibbons at TEDxBGSU
I get to follow two guys in a robot. This should be good. OK. Hello, I am a writer. I’m a storyteller. I’m really passionate about it, it’s in everything I do, unfortunately; because my dad really wants me to be a more productive member of society every month as he signs my student loan checks. But that is not the case.
I’m a humorist. I get to be funny for a living every single day. I get to be raw and uninhibited. I get to share my life and my stories with my readers. And I get to write about silly things like losing my virginity in the back of a 89 Hatchback to Tears for Fears or how much Xanax it takes to get me on an airplane or walking into the wrong room at a sperm bank. A lot of things.
So, for five years now I have been tapping away behind my computer screen eking out a living as a professional writer when the weirdest thing happened. I turned 30, and I became a swimsuit model. I know, I don’t look 30, but I am. And I’m also really a swimsuit model. It’s shocking, but I know what I look like. I’ve looked this way since I was 8, early puberty, and when you are curvy and overweight, everyone really likes to remind you of that. Kids at school, your parents, the fitting room girl at the GAP, just in case you had forgotten, all the reasons you’re supposed to be hating yourself.
Now I spent elementary school and high school being bullied. My first few years of college I spent bulimic. The last ten or so years, I’ve really been trying to come to terms with how I really look. And I’ve done that, give or take. I’ve learned to like my body overall. It just kind of seems that other people still have a problem with it. For example, I get comments like this. I write a humor blog, and I often get, “I have no idea how someone as obese as you managed to land a husband.”
Or “Maybe instead of writing about food, you should go on a diet.”
Or “I’m not sure why anyone is telling you you’re pretty, I just see another fat girl on the Internet.”
The shocking part: all from women. Every single one of those comments. And they stung, but I’m used to hearing them, and they don’t disable me anymore. I’m really good at compartmentalizing them, but then, I had a daughter and everything kind of changed. The thought for one moment — you’re getting scared right? — that anybody would tell her that she was worthless based on how she looked made my stomach drop, my heart stop. Every single emotion I felt when I was 8 and being mooed at in elementary school came back to me.
I needed to change the way that women saw their bodies. Magazines, ads online, absolutely any of the 500 Kardashian shows on E! I did not look like any one of those women. I didn’t relate to their lives. I didn’t relate to their stories. So I decided to launch Curvy Girl Guide, which is a magazine, aimed for women of all sizes to come and share their lives, share their stories, and talk about everything that all the glossy magazines were talking about, but just with a more realistically-sized perspective. It took off. Huge readership skyrocketed. We’re coming up, on our first year, to half a million readers per month. But it didn’t really feel like it was enough.
So I decided that talking about change is really great, but what’s more important is being the change that you want to see. So that’s what I had to do. I had to be the change. I had to redefine what ‘normal’ and ‘beauty’ looked like in this country.
So last spring, I joined up with the great company Lands’ End, and we decided to create a body confidence campaign to try and get women comfortable and talking about feeling good in their skin and in their swimsuits, which sounds frivolous, but if you’re a woman, you know you would rather take a rusty nail to the eyeball than be seen in public in a piece of Lycra.
So we started it. Great. The discussions started. But I wanted to take it one step further. So on May 26th, at 7a.m., with five of my friends in the middle of Times Square, on “Good Morning America”, between Emeril Lagasse and a cart selling hot nuts, I stood in my bathing suit on national television. And I thought, “Huh, so this is what it feels like. I’m a little cold. I’m kind of uncomfortable.” Every single part of my body wanted me to find my pants and get the hell out of there, but I didn’t.