As a model, you experience body shaming first-hand before you even know that body-shaming is a word. Don’t get me wrong, this is not an “Oh, help me… I was body-shamed” article. This is an “Oh Lordy Lord! I CAN NOT BELIEVE (S)HE SAID THAT?! *Insert exaggerated, horrified palm-to-the-chest gesture just before you reach for the tea and ask the “gister” to tell you more.
Fashion models, generally are very aware of their bodies and insecurities and will (more often than not) voice out what they consider imperfect about themselves. They will scathingly point out what they consider imperfect about another colleague. Like if you get “fat” by the fashion industry’s standards.
The way my people throw around the word “fat” is comical and concerning. If you are a model and you go up one dress size, you are FAT. If you walk and your bum jiggles – you are FAT. Christian-Mama-arms? Jesus, please don’t show up. Same goes for extra-large breasticles, and that whole FAT-folding business in your tummy and back – especially when you sit.
Please don’t ask someone to help you zip up that couture dress- it means you got FAT. The moments where three frail models are panting over your FAT BACK, twisting and struggling to squeeze you into couture… is not for the emotionally unstable. You will be asked to remove couture. Couture will be given to lekpa with plenty breeze between her back and the zip. If you are lucky, there is something wide and shapeless for you at the just-in-case rack. Everyone will stare, and many will ask you, “What happened to you?” See ya life outside. Next time you will choose paw-paw over puff-puff.
Yes, my industry is brutal. No judgements. Just facts.
But you see, two of the most extreme, body shaming episodes I have witnessed with my koro-koro eyes were not by models, but were against models by non-models.
In early 2003, I was walking home from Model School with a male model who wore dreadlocks. That was not the issue. The issue was when we decided to cross the road from one side of Maryland bus-stop to the other. The issue was that somewhere in the middle of the road – where vehicles made U-turns – lurked a mad-man. A very unstable, volatile mad man. Walahi, as the mad-man sighted us, he zoned in on my colleague and went ballistic.
Shouting, “LOOKATEWWWWW! MADDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD MAN! SEE WETIN YOU CARRY FOR HEAD? WAZZDIS ON YA HEAD? IF THEY SAY YOU ARE MAD NA, YOU WILL SAY YOU ARE WELL? EH?”
I furtively cast a confused look at the aggressor, noticing the irony that the mad-man himself had matted-dada that hung like mangoes from his head. Omo, I quickened my steps.
“AND YOUUUUUUUU!” Ewo! The mad man now had my time, “OF ALL THE PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD, NA MAD PESIN YOU SEE FOLLOW WAKA, EH? WAIT, MAKE I CATCH YOU…” He made a dash towards us.
FIAMMMMMMMMMMMM! I took off! Ehhhhhhhhh? Wait for where? The male model did not slack. He put his long, muscular legs to good use and gapped me sef – in crossing to the other side.
Bobo Maddie yi ko mo pe emi iyalaya runner. As we dey run, the whole bus stop scatter. I gave one Incredible Hulk leap into the next available bus – abeg, who wan die – and was relieved when we finally left Maryland behind.
Jesus! That was really intense. Na wa o. On top say pesin no like anada pesin hair. Hian.
That was most dramatic episode of body-shaming 1.
Number 2, was also with another model. This one was a friend. Although we were both fashion models, we fit into different niches. She was ultra-thin and I was lean but curvier than a typical model. I had never been stick-thin or board-straight as a model. Ezz not like I could slice off my body-parts. And while the stick-thin/board-straight was the more common model look, we both fit into peculiar niches, which meant we kept working together on many of fashion shows.
And then one day, my friend and I were taking a walk. I think I had gone to visit her at home, and we were walking together to buy something at the next street from hers. There were five guys seating/hanging by on a low fence ahead of us, and once they saw us, they started pointing and laughing. They waited for us to be in perfect hearing range and then one shouted, taunting my friend,
“Ewo, wetin be this? Na ‘uman being abi na skeleton be this wan? See leg like chewing stick!”
Another interjected, “Chewing stick abi na fish-bone? Nothing dey this wan body again o! Kai…”
“This kain dry body no be normal thing o. Maybe na AIDS.”
The five guys erupted in a laughing frenzy. “Yeekpa. AIDS O! HIV PESIN DEY PASS O! SEE BONE WEY DEY WAKA O! Breeze go blow this wan go ground o!”
Hion-hion-hion-hion! HE-he-he-he-heeeee… They snickered and laughed. Obviously mightily pleased.
My friend went home and wept, tearingly asking me if I thought she looked like an AIDS patient. I told her no. That the boys were just silly.
We see it every day. Imperfect people in no position to shame you, choosing to do so in a demeaning manner. It is one thing for a mad man to go crazy at another for rocking dreads, it is quite another for a sensible being to mock another with AIDS taunts, or (oh, my… this is quite rich), for two orange albino girl-students to be pointing fingers and mocking a little white albino boy, because he was walking and squinting in the sun, under a raffia hat.
I am telling you, they went bat-sh*t crazy with laughter. Falling over themselves, slapping their thighs laughing. I was stupefied. I looked back and forth, from the two in front of me to the one they were laughing at until I told them. “I don’t understand why you are laughing at him. You do realize, that to most people, there is not much difference between you and him?”
Of all the people to mock that little boy, you would have thought that these two, who were older, who were themselves discriminated on by other students, would know better and have some empathy. But nooooooo. Dem dey laugh, say the boy no dey see road clear, say e dey waka bend-leg.
If you are one of those people who keep body-shaming other people, please stoppeeet. And if you know someone who sees you in a public gathering, hugs you and says something stupid like,
“Oh my gewd! It’s been so long, you have gotten FAT!” (For sure, the pesin would say such loudly. People will turn to you to see ya reaction).
Throw your head back in confidence, and laugh. Then say LOUDER-ER!
“I know… it’s deliberate. (Now smile and say kindly) Look at you my dear, you look soooooo old [and tired]. You look like you’ve aged every second of the last 2/4/6/10 years since I saw you last… It suits you. Hope all is well?”
And then you better sashay away from that mess. This is 2016.
Errr, or maybe you shouldn’t say that. Maybe you should do what Jesus would do.
Don’t let anybody use you to gba star. Thou shalt not be a cucumber. But in your quiet moments, face the facts. If you are uncomfortable with your weight/body and know deep-down that you need to change, then do it for YOU and start that fitness journey. Get a nutritionist, start a diet plan, exercise, research and if you don’t want stress you can simply read my first Isio Knows Better article, here for some quick/funny tips.
Don’t mind them, let them talk.
We gat ya!