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.
And I didn’t because I wanted to show people what women in this country look like. And I can be confident and desirable at this size. There’s nothing shameful or ugly about me at all. I’m a mother. A mother three times over. I know, I look young, but I am. I have three kids. And I’ve earned every single curve on my body. And if that’s not sexy, I don’t know what is.
So the tech guys are going crazy back there, they’re so scared about what’s going to happen – so walking back to the hotel, I was like, “I have no idea what’s going to happen, what’s the fallout going to be of this?” Oh, you’re freaking out. Don’t worry, I’ve got it. Stripping went way easier in my head. Am I going to get hate mail? Am I going to be judged? Am I going to be told over and over again that I am not pretty because I can’t shop at Forever 21, and honestly, I don’t know anybody who can. But it turns out, none of that happened. Click. I don’t have my clicker.
OK but you’re going to see right now — I don’t have a clicker so you’re going to have to keep going with it — these are not just pictures of women in bathing suits. These are voices. Over 300 voices. Women who saw me on TV and they saw themselves in me and in my movement. That day I got 300 pictures of women in my inbox, in their bathing suits. They felt so inspired that they put them on, and they took a picture of themselves and they posted it on the Internet, which, incidentally, is way bigger than Times Square.
So was it worth it? I don’t know right now. How many of you hate your bodies? You can raise your hand. Have you untagged yourselves from Facebook pictures? Has somebody asked you when you’re due when you’re not even expecting, and then you go to the car and cry and eat your feelings all day? Have you ever felt like guys pass you over for your much thinner friend? I did this for you. And I did this for my daughter, and your daughter, and your mom, and your friends, and your sister and all of those people. So if I can inspire you enough on this stage, in my bathing suit, that you can get up in the morning and hate your body less than you did the day before, then it was worth every second next to that hot nut cart.
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