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Clad in naught but silky, sheer nighties, lace thigh-highs, and sparkling lingerie, an entourage of women armed with mimosas and false eyelashes run through the home studio set prepared with crisp, white bed sheets, a fur rug in front of a fireplace, a chaise-lounge chair, and bright photography lights. “Two minutes left in make-up!” the ringleader shouts into the room. I pull on my brand new Calvin Klein bra and panty set, trying to shake the nerves away from my fingers and toes. I feel like I am a supermodel waiting for my Victoria’s Secret fashion shoot… except I am not a Victoria’s Secret model. Instead, I am in fact a 5-foot-4-inch, 212-pound writer surrounded by more women with jiggling thighs, plus-size panties, and excited smiles. We are all here to show off our beautiful, sexy bods in a little NSFW fat-positive boudoir photoshoot… and don’t give a fuck about what you think.

One of the sultry members of Fat Babes posing at the photoshoot.

Credit: Bridgette Nann Photography

I am fat.

It’s only three words – six letters altogether. An adjective to describe the physical appearance of something. Tall, short, hairy, green, loud, quiet… I could be any of these adjectives, but somehow, “fat” has become a dirty word for many people.

Aww, no you’re not! You’re beautiful!”

“Ugh, I know, me too. I hate it.”

“Why don’t you come to the gym with me sometime?”

For some people, it’s a phrase used to fish for reassurance from friends. Other times, people use it followed by a hefty, defeated sigh. But for some of us, it really is only just a small descriptor of our physical appearance.

I have brown hair.

I have tattoos.

I am short.

I am fat.

I’m not asking for you to reassure me with compliments. It’s not a dig at my appearance or self-esteem. It’s simply just because… I’m not thin. And that’s OK.

We’ve all been on a big body positivity kick in recent years, but even so, much of that lovely goodness doesn’t feel like it always extends to fat girls... except when used in “Well, if the fat girl can feel good about herself, the rest of us can too.” The hardest part is when being fat becomes the only thing that matters about you to other people. The bigger you are, the more you somehow become the in-house spokesperson to speak on behalf of “the fat people.” You become some sort of fat girl martyr who has to preach positivity with every breath, and it’s obnoxious as hell.

This member of Fat Babes is vibing Victoria’s Secret so hard!

Credit: Bridgette Nann Photography

Every movie and television show ever made with a fat protagonist has a reason why that person is fat. Hairspray is all about a fat girl who wants to dance, but gets made fun of because she’s fat. Shrill is all about a fat girl who learns she’s pretty even if she’s fat. Drop Dead Diva is about how a model gets stuck in the body of a fat person and learns to accept herself. We already know we’re hot and don’t need a two-hour movie or television series to teach us that. Give me my fat treasure hunter. Give me my fat, secretly evil robot lady. Give me my gushy romance with a fat girl and a man who thinks she’s the fuckin’ sexiest woman alive. Give me all that super unnecessary full frontal, male-gaze nudity! Give me anything where being fat and learning to accept it or getting some big makeover is not the main point of the story.

I realized I’m not the only fat girl who has had similar frustrations in life. Several months ago, I joined a Facebook group called The Fat Babes Social Club, a fat-positive club based in Metro Detroit for women who identify as being fat. Since moving back to the area after living away for several years, I figured attending the brunches and activities hosted by the group might be a good way to make some new friends in the area. I saw the next upcoming event was going to be a fat-positive boudoir photoshoot, and being the bougie, vain Millennial I am, I knew I had to sign up.

Upon first joining this group, I still had a bit of a difficult time saying “fat.” In most public, nonfat company, I got stuck on calling myself “curvy” or “plus-sized” in fear of triggering the “awww no you’re not!” commentary, or even worse, becoming a target for trolls who carry on about how I shouldn’t be OK with being fat and pushing people into believing it’s all right to have an unhealthy lifestyle (since some people have no idea how to mind their own goddamn business). Calling myself “fat” sometimes still struck a tender nerve, but when I first met Kali, the brain behind Fat Babes and the organizer of the photoshoot, that idea began to change for me. The curly-haired, blonde, middle school teacher with a gold septum ring and a schedule in hand used this “f-word” without hesitation. Her “Yeah, I’m fat, so what?” attitude was so different than any other treatment I’d seen of the word. I asked Kali why groups like the FBSC (Fat Babes Social Club) matter, and here’s what she had to say.

“The Fat Babes Social Club is born from a place of fierce rebirth and recovery. And as long as we live in a society that puts so much emphasis on the outward appearance of women, as long as that is so closely connected to our sense of self-worth, the FBSC needs to exist. Fat women deserve a space where they can thrive, grow, and celebrate each other - without the constant fear of body shame or the pressure to shrink. The FBSC is my way of setting aside a place where fat women can take up space.”

This tough chick from Fat Babes is tapping into her sweet and sassy side.

Credit: Bridgette Nann Photography

It felt surprisingly awesome to be in a room surrounded by other fat women of varying degrees of fatness. Not only were there different body types, but there were also so many different personalities and other qualities to take notice of. Suddenly, when being fat became an equalizer, other parts of us were able to shine through that might otherwise be ignored in different company. I found myself wondering, “Is this how it feels to be a thin person on a regular day?” It was like being in some kind of awesome alternate reality where the other things I like about myself are noticed before my size. I never thought about it much before, but the difference was almost glaring between being in a fat-positive space and my everyday life once I saw how it could be. I almost had a bit of an identity crisis when I got home later that day; what if I woke up tomorrow and found myself a hundred pounds thinner or if all of the women in the world became fat? When so much of my identity and personality is built around being the token fat girl friend, what would happen if I didn’t have that anymore? Who am I without that? It seems like a silly question to ask, but having been a big girl my whole life, I needed to learn how to protect myself while living in a thin world. This is one thing I hope to continue to ask myself and explore while being a part of the Fat Babes group. When all of us become “the fat friend,” what other kind of friend are we? The loyal friend? The well-dressed friend? The friend who knows everything about sex?

Stripping down to my birthday suit for a photoshoot was extremely liberating, but at the same time, surprisingly super casual. To be fair, I’m not a total stranger to public nudity. That sounds weird, but if you read my article on being a nude model for an art class, it’ll all make sense. Hey, I just really like being naked, OK? But not all fat woman (or women in general) are comfortable with being naked. I know plenty of grown-ass adult women of all sizes who refuse to have sex with the lights on because they think they look gross naked. You do you. Whether or not you like people seeing you nude is all up to you, but if you are doing it only because you think people will judge your body, that’s horseshit. Embrace your saggy tits and lumpy thighs; they’re part of what makes you you. But I totally understand why getting naked in front of a bunch of strange women with cameras can be rather intimidating at first. Even me, Captain Nakie of the USS Full Frontal, had some nerves going into it. After all, photos are forever, and there’s a fine line between posing in a non-sexual way for an art class and posing in a way that is way more sexual. Although there is certainly an even bigger difference between a tasteful boudoir photoshoot and straight-up pornography.

Anyway, having your boobs out while a photographer tells you to bite your finger and look naughty can make any sexy photo newbie feel silly, but I tried my best to dive in and channel that Victoria’s Secret model vibe. The photographer, Bridge Nann, another member of Fat Babes, made me feel super comfy and ultra sexy during my session, giving a hand when I got a little lost with poses.

When I got my finished photos back, I was amazed with what I saw. Who is that girl? She’s a hot underwear model? When did that happen??? What is this witchcraft? Here is my final product: