+

Locating Your Fabulous Fat Lineage

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on October 12, 2008

Even though I do this work all the time, I still have body image slip-ups — moments when I feel self conscious or have a momentary desire to limit something I do b/c of how I look.

I recently was asked to join a musical improv comedy group. I love doing musical improv (we basically improvise a 40 minute musical every week) so I was really excited to join. (Utterly shameless plug: If you’re in NYC, please come check us out every Monday night at 8PM at the People’s Improv Theatre, 154 West 29th Street, 2nd floor, b/w 6th and 7th Avenues.)

But then, I had one of those moments of self doubt that can be so compounded for those of us who have or have had body image issues. I started thinking that I’d be the biggest woman in the group, and that just snowballed into a whole cascade of insecurities, like, “What if I’m the fattest woman in the group and my voice is off/I sing wrong notes/I’m not funny….”

So I did something that I often tell my clients to do. I found pictures of some of the greatest women comedians and singers and actors who were also fat and fabulous. Immediately, I thought of ones who are still around — Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Camryn Manheim, Kathy Bates, Adele, Aretha Franklin. But then I decided to dig a little deeper, and I found some more outrageously gorgeous and talented and fat women. [All quoted info is from Wikipedia.]

Lillian “Diamond Lil” Russell — “One of the most famous actresses and singers of the late 19th century and early 20th century, known for her beauty and style, as well as for her voice and stage presence.”

Lillian

Sophie Tucker — “Singer and comedian and one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first two-thirds of the 20th century…. She was billed as The Last of the Red Hot Mamas, as her hearty sexual appetite was a frequent subject of her songs, unusual for female performers of the era.”

Sophie Tucker

Willie Mae (“Big Mama”) Thornton — “American Texas blues, rhythm and blues (R&B) singer, and songwriter. She was the first to record the hit song “Hound Dog” in 1952. The song was #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for seven weeks. The B-side was “They Call Me Big Mama,” and the single sold almost two million copies.”

Big Mama Thornton

Kate Smith — “
American singer, best known for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”. Smith had a radio, TV and recording career spanning five decades, reaching its most-remembered zenith in the 1940s.”

Kate Smith

Mahalia Jackson — “American gospel singer, widely regarded as the best in the history of the genre, and is the first “Queen of Gospel Music”. With her powerful, distinct voice, Mahalia Jackson became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world. She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds” million-sellers.”

Mahalia Jackson

I’m not saying I sing like Mahalia or photograph like Diamond Lil, but doing this exercise helped remind me that the cultural moment in which we’re living is really just a blip. It helped me see myself as part of a lineage of beautiful, talented, outrageous and larger-than-life women who were beloved by audiences for decades.

If they can do that, I can make people laugh in a little theatre on 29th street, even if I go off key sometimes.

Try This: Find images and information about fabulously fat people who have done what you’re feeling discouraged about doing. (Trade magazines and web sites are good for this sort of thing when you’re looking for people who are not always in the public eye.) Do a collage, journal entry or blog entry about them. Paste your own picture in there for good measure, so that you can see yourself as part of this heritage. Let me know how it goes!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Brigid Keely October 16, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I’m very lucky in that I can turn to family photos going back a hundred years or so and see women who look exactly like me. Same big eyebrows, same dress size, same big eyes, same weird hair line. Hard working, active, strong, capable farm women from a hundred years ago are just as fat and sturdy and awesome as I am. I think about those photos every time I read or see something about the “fat epidemic” that is “sweeping the nation/world/globe/universe/etc” or how “Americans are OMG fatter than ever!!!1!”

Reply

Lady Jaye October 13, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Another great singer and inspiring fat woman of the past was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. One of the pioneers of electric guitar, she sang gospel, blues and rock n roll. She was an amazing lady — search for her on youtube, I’m sure you’ll love her.

Reply

Golda October 13, 2008 at 9:08 am

Thanks, everyone! It was as fun putting this together as it was inspiring.

Reply

Patia October 12, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Great post and gorgeous photos of gorgeous women.

Reply

Shinobi October 12, 2008 at 9:34 pm

Awesome!!! I needed this today! (I’m in a show where i”m the biggest girl BY FAR, it is kindof discouraging.)

Reply

Lisa October 12, 2008 at 2:59 pm

What a great post! Those pics are gorgeous.

Reply

deeleigh October 12, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Awesome post and pictures. Very inspiring.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

SUBSCRIBE

Sign up for your FREE weekly updates, special offers and free giveaways.

Plus, you'll get my Top 5 Tips For Consistently Feeling Great In Your Body.

Just enter your email below and click "subscribe."
+