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Tess Holliday is known for being unapologetic, with a platform that preaches fat-positivity and promotes the hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards. But after starring in a new campaign for a tanning brand — a seemingly superficial industry outside of the plus size model’s realm — Holliday is also reminding people that she doesn’t need to defend herself against critics.
The 34-year-old Mississippi native tells Yahoo Lifestyle that even she was “skeptical” when she was approached by Isle of Paradise after maintaining the mindset that tanning “wasn’t for girls like me” for so many years.
“Every time I heard people talk about tanner they were saying, ‘Well I just do it to hide my cellulite and to smooth things out.’ And I thought, why would I want to tan because people are still gonna know that I’m fat,” Holliday explains. “You can dress it up, but I’m still gonna be fat. So I kind of thought, why do I want to do it?”
However, when she encountered this specific brand, she knew that it was the right fit. Especially because she felt that the people behind the “Get Body Posi” campaign — which includes a downloadable guide that walks people through how to “own your glow” to feel confident and strong — were actually dedicated to body positivity rather than using it as a “watered down” marketing ploy.
“Body positivity and diversity, it starts within the core of the company and I think things are changing,” Holliday says. “But if we were all to start loving ourselves, there are a lot of companies and industries that don’t want us to and that would freak out. I think that the smart ones are realising that they need to start catering to a wider audience because that’s what we want to see and that’s what we need.”
And while she’s taking advantage of the fact that more brands are embracing a new standard of beauty, Holliday also says that many people seem to have a problem with it.
“It’s literally every aspect of my life I’m constantly feeling like I have to defend,” she says. “Like who thought that I would have to defend being tan? It’s just another way that societally we use to help ourselves feel better. But even when I shared that I got my lips done or that I’m working out, people are like, ‘Oh I thought you loved yourself, why are you changing yourself?’”
The model goes on to explain that the idea of body positivity has been misconstrued. Although she says that, put simply, it’s the fact that “you have the choice and ability to do what you want with your body and understand that it’s really nobody’s business.”
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“I’ve been told lies my entire life about what was perceived as beauty and what was acceptable, and I was always told from a young age that I wasn’t allowed to feel sexy, to be beautiful, to feel seen, to be wanted,” Holliday says.
“So to now be on the other side of it where my job is literally, I’m literally a model and in an industry that has never traditionally been kind to plus size bodies, that’s why I’m using my platform obviously to change things.”