All Worthy with Hunter McGrady is Yahoo Life’s interview series in which model and body positive advocate Hunter McGrady speaks with celebrities, influencers and friends about equality, confidence, curves and so much more.
As a plus-size woman in the fashion industry, my weight has always been a part of my identity. Not necessarily because I make it that way, but instead because of the ways in which I’ve been labeled. For Queen Latifah, an icon in her own right, it’s been a similar journey.
Before Melissa McCarthy or Rebel Wilson entered mainstream media, Latifah was who I looked up to as a source of inspiration and representation when it came to curvy women who seemed at home in their bodies. All along, however, the queen herself was being encouraged to change the way that she looked.
“I have felt that pressure and I’ve literally been asked to lose weight, through my people the word came,” Latifah says. “Luckily I have people who are like, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen. She’s not losing weight for you.'”
While we’ve seen people speak out about pressure to lose weight within certain industries and even have those standing for body positivity and acceptance within Hollywood, these conversations weren’t happening at the height of Latifah’s fame. And still, she wasn’t going to change for anybody else. More importantly, she knew what showing up as herself meant for young women like myself.
“It made me angry because I felt like I was fine. I’m what people look like,” Latifah says while reflecting on the pressure that she faced. “You want me to lose weight? Why? So there’s a whole bunch of women out there who won’t have someone to relate to on TV, is that what you’re trying to get at? Honestly, I knew by me standing up, I was actually standing up for some other people.”
Latifah’s motivation is similar to my own when I think about my start in modeling, the journey that I went through to not only accept but also to love my curves and the work that I put in to make sure that I could use my body and voice to make a change within the industry. For me, that’s looked like appearing in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, launching an inclusive clothing line with QVC and hosting the Model Citizen podcast in an effort to create a safe space for conversations about the struggles that so many women continue to go through as they navigate life in a bigger body.
For Latifah, she’s used her talent to be the leading lady that so many people needed to see. Now, she’s joined Novo Nordisk’s “It’s Bigger Than Me” campaign to use her voice to educate people about obesity and remove the stigma attached to it.
“A lot of it is just that people are misinformed or uninformed,” she explains. “If they could understand what is really underlying it, including ourselves. Judging ourselves, shaming ourselves, saying we’re not good enough, we haven’t worked hard enough, we didn’t try enough. No, sometimes it’s not you, it is your genetics. It is your DNA. It’s your body.”
When it comes to her body, Latifah wants to “look good, feel good” and “be healthy.”
“Get to know yourself, not just in the mirror, but on the inside,” she says. “So now you have even more power to make decisions about your own body and how you really feel about it.”
–Video produced by Stacy Jackman
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