BuzzFeed Life asked 13 top plus-size models and bloggers to share their experience with online bullies and how they stay body positive on the internet today. Here are their stories.
1. Jennie Runk, Model
The hater: “A few years ago, I posted a picture to Facebook of myself in a bikini while I was on vacation. I wanted to share an unedited, unfiltered photo for my fans in order to show that most images in the media are altered and that models have real bodies, too, with our fair share of stretch marks, dimples, and jiggly bits. I can’t remember the exact comment, but it was something along the lines of ‘If it jiggles, it’s fat and should be covered up!’
It was shocking to see something so negative on a post that was intended to help people who may be struggling with their own body image. Many of my fans have similar body types to mine, and I was worried they would take the comment to heart. I didn’t want this kind of negativity visible where my fans could see it and possibly be influenced by it.”
How she overcame: “At first, I was shocked and hurt. I even talked to my mom about it. Through talking to her, I realized that I value her opinion much more than some stranger’s on the internet. Why should I care what this random person thinks when I have a ton of friends, a fiancé who thinks the world of me, and a loving family who all think I’m perfect the way I am?”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “My advice to anyone dealing with online bullying is to think about who that person is to you. If they’re a total stranger, why bother worrying about what they think? Instead, consider your friends and family, the ones who spend the most time with you and know you the best. Also, no one knows you better than you know yourself, so it’s your own opinion of yourself that is the most valuable.”
2. Nicolette Mason, Blogger
The hater: “It was a comment that someone put thought and time into writing, and it stung. The negative comments I receive are, thankfully, few and far between, but when they’re so specific and go beyond ‘you’re fat’ (yeah, I know) or ‘you’re ugly’ (so subjective), it’s hard to just ‘ignore the haters,’ like we’re so frequently told to do. I think it’s easy to forget that the person receiving these comments is a person, and even if it’s among dozens of other positive comments, it’s going to stick out.”
How she overcame: “The thing that has helped me get over it is just knowing that no happy, adjusted person would ever go out of their way to write something mean about a stranger; it’s usually out of a place of deep insecurity, fear, jealousy, or other internalized issue. Once I’ve gotten over the initial sting, I just feel bad for the commenters, because there’s obviously something going on in their lives and this is how they’re dealing with their emotions.”
3. Essie Golden, Blogger
The hater: “A friend of mine had tagged me in picture on one of those ‘curvy’ shout-out pages on Facebook. I knew I shouldn’t have read the comments, but I couldn’t help it. Some of the comments were nice, others were mean, but one in particular really hurt my heart. A man I had never met in my life said someone should kill me because I was fat and didn’t deserve to live on this planet. I couldn’t believe someone I had never done anything bad to — or even met — said I should be killed just for existing in a fat body.”
How she overcame: “It took me a long time to get over people who didn’t know a thing about me being so opinionated about me. Then it hit me — these people don’t know a thing about me. How could I ever take their opinions seriously?”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “As far as dealing with hateful online comments, I don’t. I delete and block anyone who has something horrible to say about me or any of the awesome women I choose to post on my social media pages. I refuse to give them any of my attention or energy. I only focus on the positive comments I receive.”
4. Georgina Burke, Model
The hater: “People have said so many horrible things to me from behind a computer screen or face-to-face. I’m fortunate to say that at this point in my life, I can laugh it off. I was bullied as a teenager, so I know firsthand that words can be extremely hurtful, but as I’ve grown and become comfortable and confident in my skin, words written on the internet no longer have an effect on me. I think people waste too much time worrying about others, when they should be concentrating on themselves.”
How she overcame: “I look past the bullying. Bullies bring others down to make themselves feel good, and if someone wants to leave a hurtful comment about me to boost their own ego, that’s on them. At the end of the day, I’m trying to empower women, and I don’t care what anybody else thinks.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “My best and personal advice is to put yourself in the bully’s shoes and ask why they’re wasting time coming up with all these crazy, mean things to say. I think it’s best to delete the comment so you aren’t tempted to go back and read it a few more times, or if you can, laugh it off. At the end of the day, I refuse to give a bully the satisfaction of a reaction. I focus on the people who support me rather than the small group who want to bring me down.”
5. Tanesha Awasthi, Blogger
The hater: “‘Beautiful but too fat’ was the comment that will always stick with me because it’s something I was made to believe almost my entire life. Growing up, people always told me I had the height, the hair, and the face to model — if I could just lose some weight. Those opinions were always validated by what I saw in magazines and on runways, which led to self-hatred, overexercise, and years of battling eating disorders.
Seeing a comment like that today, though, makes me giggle inside because as a woman who is confident in her own skin, I’m not defined by my physical appearance. I’m so much more than my weight or my size.”
How she overcame: “I took a step back and realized that putting myself out there on the internet is helping others. I’m showing girls and women they can feel confident and amazing, regardless of size.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “Focus on qualities that make you uniquely beautiful, inside and out, and build your confidence by focusing on the positives. Once you appreciate yourself for who you are — not strictly what you look like — the labels others place on you will have no meaning. The only labels that matter are the ones you give yourself.”
6. Chanté Burkett, Blogger
The hater: “Earlier this year I was featured in Target’s swimsuit campaign, and it went viral. I received so many negative comments such as, ‘She’s so fat, she can’t be confident’ and ‘Look at her inner thigh meat.’
It wasn’t so much that I was hurt, but I was surprised by all the negative comments. You guys hate my body that much? I’m over here like, ‘Damn, I look good.’”
How she overcame: “I say this: ‘People who aren’t happy with themselves always have the most to say.’ Don’t let their negativity ruin your day, moment, or how you feel. I learned that not everyone is going to love my body like I do, and that’s OK, but that’s not going to stop me from wearing what I want.”
7. Hayley Hasselhoff, Model
Advice on dealing with bullies: “My advice for anyone dealing with bullying is to know that they are not alone. Whatever someone says about you does not define who you are or what people think of you. Know you are beautiful, know you are loved, know you will get through this. Try not to read the negative comments, and surround yourself with family and friends.”
8. Chastity Garner-Valentine, Blogger
The hater: “My most hurtful comments always come from fellow plus-size girls who I feel know better than anyone else what it’s like to be torn apart. The comment was that legs like mine should never be seen at the beach. It was hurtful because my legs are my biggest insecurity — and the fact that she was a plus-size girl too.”
How she overcame: “You get past these things by facing your fears and insecurities head-on. I go to the beach often with just swimsuit on and don’t worry about what other people will think.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “Once you face something, accept it, and embrace it, then you take the power away from the bully. From the experience, I learned that people only get the power you give them, so remaining unbothered and living well is the best response.”
9. Allison Teng, Blogger
The hater: “I don’t get a ton of hateful comments nowadays — or maybe I’m just not sensitive to it anymore? — but back when I first started blogging, I remember getting an anonymous comment something along the lines of ‘How do you have so much confidence? If I looked like you, I would never leave my house!’ It was, of course, longer and meaner, but the gist is there.
There wasn’t anything specific about the comment that made it hurtful, but it was definitely early enough in my blogging game that I hadn’t already braced myself for the awful comments that come along with putting yourself out on the internet.”
How she overcame: “As much as the words hurt, what helped me get past it was knowing that the comments were from someone hiding behind a screen and an anonymous username, and who knew absolutely nothing about me. That’s the thing — hurtful comments like the ones I received in the past say a lot more about the person saying them than they do about me.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “If you’re dealing with hateful comments online, the best thing you can do is ignore them and not give the bullies the time of day. Ever hear the phrase ‘Don’t feed the trolls’? It’s probably the best piece of advice I’ve gotten!”
10. Diana Veras, Model
The hater: “The meanest thing anyone’s said to me on the internet was that I’ll never compare to my friends. At the time, I was struggling with self-image issues because I was being compared to them constantly, and it was because they’re 5 feet and weigh, like, 100 pounds. I was the oddball out, so at the time it was quite hurtful.”
How she overcame: “I got past it by ignoring it and writing.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “The only way to get over online bullying is by ignoring it, closing your laptop, locking your phone, and enjoying the world around you. The people around you are what matter, not what people say online. Those people don’t matter. I learned to have tougher skin.”
11. Sarah Conley, Blogger
The hater: “After an underwear campaign that I participated in with Dear Kate went viral, there were a lot of comments strewn across the web — things like ‘Sarah Conley in her underwear should remain a secret of the internet’ or, as one online editor added as she retweeted her own publication’s coverage of the story, ‘Ugh, gross.’
The worst was over a month after the campaign broke, I received a Google alert for my name on the first day of fashion week. It linked to an LSU football fan forum where men were discussing all of the women in the campaign photos, including myself. They had assigned us all numbers, and then ranked us in the order they would sleep with us (among other things) and described in detail what they would do to us. People making comments about my body or my size doesn’t faze me nearly as much as it has over the course of my nine-year career as a blogger. But the lewd commentary on this forum has stuck with me, even a year later.”
How she overcame: “Well, initially I’m there was some drinking (ha), but there’s nothing that you can do but continue to create a safe space for yourself and your readers.
We all have the right to be on our own journeys at our own pace, and someone else’s opinion of that journey is invalid, period. You get one body and one life, so you have no choice but to figure out how to love who you are today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “I call all of my social channels and my blog ‘my house,’ and I don’t allow anyone into ‘my house’ if they are going to disrespect me. I’m quick with the delete, block, and report functions on all platforms.”
12. Kelly Augustine, Blogger
The hater: “I’ve had people comment on photos of me and ask, ‘Why would she wear that? That’s so not flattering.’ It’s one of those things that just really stings, especially when you think that you’re killing it and felt super confident when you took the photo.”
How she overcame: “At the end of the day, I understand that the internet is not a reflection of real life. I’m able to shake off comments like that because I am happy and healthy, I have a job and a loving husband! I’ve learned that people say things on the internet that they may not necessarily mean or actually would say in real life, so I don’t really take them to heart.”
13. Erica Jean Schenk, Model
The hater: “The comment ‘Imagine how attractive you would be if you were normal’ carries so many hurtful undertones. Not only does this cause women to question, ‘Am I unattractive?’ but it also makes us categorize ourselves as abnormal and unable to fit in. This comment doesn’t use foul language, but it still hurts.
How she overcame: “I had to come to the realization that some people get it and others just don’t. Self-love and acceptance was my first step.”
Advice on dealing with bullies: “Surround yourself with men and women that challenge you to be the best you, but also love you for who you are.
I like Jodi Picoult’s quote, ‘When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.’”
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