You'd have hoped, by 2020, that the days of spewing hatred towards plus-size women on the internet might be gone. But it seems there's no such luck, as 29-year-old Chloe Elliott knows all too well.
Online creator Chloe runs a successful Instagram account, Chloe In Curve, spreading positive messages of self-love far and wide to her 82,000 followers. But after a photograph of herself dancing was shared on social media, she became inundated with trolls hounding her about how 'plus-size women can't dance'. Thankfully, Chloe knew just how to call BS on it.
Having enjoyed dancing since she was a child, a diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis in her early 20s meant Chloe has only been able to manage more gentle and low impact forms of activity in recent years. "I started with yoga, which then morphed into stretching and then onto ballet and barre," Chloe tells Cosmopolitan. Not only does she find that ballet strengthens her muscles, but there's a positive mental benefit Chloe finds through dancing, too. "It helps me to focus, and I feel so much self worth when I can see myself improving," she says.
Over on social media, Chloe began sharing more insights into her dancing, and a ballet page eventually reposted one of her pictures on Instagram. But what followed was, inexplicably, a barrage of abuse over Chloe's body.
"I was told that I was too big to dance, that I would never be able to go en pointe, that I wasn’t graceful enough. There were comments telling me I didn’t deserve to dance because of my body. I even received death threats, all because I am a plus size woman who dared to show herself trying something new," she recalls, adding: "The irony isn’t lost on me that I am constantly body shamed whilst exercising."
While being a woman working on the internet means Chloe is used to her fair share of abuse, it didn't make the cruel sentiments any easier to digest. "The comments made me feel worthless; horrific about my body. I felt like I didn’t deserve to dance or find enjoyment from it," Chloe tells Cosmopolitan. "I wanted to delete my dance content. I didn’t want to put myself out there any more."
One particular message really grated on Chloe. "Because of the sheer size of you you will never achieve to get up en pointe shoes," it read. "It is impossible. Ballet is an elite sport, this is a fact."
It hurt, but it also sparked a determination in her to prove this person - and the rest of the trolls - wrong. So when Chloe managed to get up en pointe, she took to Twitter to post a photograph of it alongside the hateful comment - and it went viral.
More than half a million likes later, Chloe felt empowered. "There was a lot of love and support in the thread. I realised that if it even boosted the confidence of ONE person to go out there and try to do something that society told them they wouldn’t be able to do - then it was all worth it."
While Chloe has been exposed to awful abuse for doing something she loves, her willpower to persevere sends out an incredibly inspiring message. Because why should anyone be shamed out of doing an activity they enjoy? "Ballet, barre and dance is not reserved for one kind of body. People are not used to seeing a body like mine do it, so I let my image be shared as far and wide as possible," she says.
"There is so much unnecessary judgment about plus size women. I'm criticised when I exercise, but also criticised when I don't. It's as if we aren't allowed to be visible whilst fat. We have such a long way to go before society realises that the amount of respect you give someone shouldn't depend on the size of their body."
A-MEN to that.
Follow Chloe on Instagram.
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