“A radical self-love world is a world that works for every body. Creating such a world is an inside-out job. How we value and honor our own bodies impacts how we value and honor the bodies of others.” – Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body is Not An Apology (a Black woman who be knowing)
Hey Errbody and Happy Third Full Week of the New Year! It’s been a hectic 2020 and we ain’t even a month in yet. We got this sociopath in The White House playing with buttons and our livelihoods. The earth is pissed at us (as Mother Nature should be) as we’re experiencing all kinds of wildfires and earthquakes (solidarity with our brothas and sistas in Australia and Puerto Rico.) Overall, it’s been a little rough to be in the world.
With everything going on, I had to talk to someone dope and positive. I’m talking with my homegirl, Keshia about body positivity in a sometimes negative ass world.
As always, read, comment, connect, discuss and share. Listen to the full interview above and on Soundcloud.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
BWBK: Black Women Be Knowing, episode 10, first episode of the new year! I’m here with my homegirl, Keshia who I’ve been trying to drag on this fucking podcast for God knows how long. Hey baby!
BWBK: So I think this is the appropriate time because as I said before, I try to put people on episodes that I know they’re gonna fucking smash. I decided to do this episode, “Because Black Women Be Making Y’all Respect What Our Mamas Gave Us,” about body positivity and I decided to speak with Keshia. I mean, she could talk about a whole bunch of other shit but I go through her Instagram photos and she’s fierce as fuck, super smart and a full grown ass adult with adult ass opinions.
Keshia: With adult ass problems, LOL.
BWBK: Keshia and I have known each other for like 15 years. We were both undergrads at Hunter. Shout out to CUNY!
We were classmates and then our relationship changed when I became her Academic Advisor. Then we both went off to grad school and went off to do other adulting things. So I’m really happy [you’re here] and you’re gonna start us off… the way we always start… and you’re gonna describe yourself in 5 words.
Keshia: I’m personable. I am loyal. I’m shady cause everything about me is “mmmm”. I would say I’m powerful and my last word is I’m crazy because I say the most randomest things and do the most randomest things. That’s the part of me you get to see once you get to know me and I move from the silent phase.
BWBK: So we gotta earn the crazy?
Keshia: Yeah cause there’s scales. I don’t want you thinking I’m that crazy. I am crazy but not that crazy.
BWBK: We’re gonna get deep into who you are but before we do that, I want you to define what body positivity means to you.
Keshia: Body positivity is feeling positive about your body whether you always believe it or not. Society plays a role in how you feel about your body and you play a role by doubting the beauty of your body. Sometimes you may compare yourself to someone else who is skinnier and more fit. [In order to be] positive about the body, you have to be positive in the mind.
For me, it’s up and down. Sometimes there are good days and sometimes there are bad days. I cannot necessarily say I’m 100% body positive but I’m damn near close to 90% . I’m learning to love the creaks, curves and my love handles understanding that everyone is not meant to be a size 2.
BWBK: Y’all gotta see Keshia’s IG. She over her talking about it’s not always 100% but you can’t tell by looking at them motherfucking poses. Those poses be on 10,000%. I’m glad that you’re saying that too.
I just finished listening to Layla Saad’s Good Ancestor podcast and she was talking to a woman named, Leah Vernon, whose book I’m reading called Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim. She talks about still having moments where she does compare herself to others because she knows that the world still sees bodies like hers as undesirable.
It’s not like you wake up and say “I’m cured. I’m body positive and everyday is a good day.” And also, a misconception about body positivity is that it’s about big girls or big people embracing themselves. There are a lot of smaller people who aren’t body positive for various reasons. I don’t want there to be this misconception that you’re on this show cause you’re [plus-size] cause that ain’t it but we do know that certain bodies are more preferred than other bodies.
So I’ma go backwards now: Who was Keshia growing up? I don’t know the answer to this y’all because I didn’t meet Keshia til she was like 19. I didn’t know young Keshia.
Keshia: I think Keshia growing up was still trying to figure herself in the world. It was very difficult because I [was] a big girl growing up in Brooklyn. I’m tall. I’m light-skinned. I have freckles and red hair so growing up, people would ask me, “Are you an albino?” “Are you white?”
It took me a long time to love my freckles because people would say, “Connect the dots” and you see girls with the smooth face and you want that. [Also,] you’re big and you’re tall so you have to stand at the back of the line. Meanwhile, all the girls who are desirable are at the front of the line.
I was trying to conform to what’s considered normal and by junior high school, I was kinda like, fuck it. Because it was so hard for me to conform: I can’t change the color of my skin. I can’t change the color of my hair. I can’t change these freckles. I’m always gonna wear glasses cause I’m blind.
Growing up in the late 90s, early 2000s, there was just so much compounded on you to be normal and be the center of attention. Growing up was just a mess for me. It taught me to be cognizant of my thoughts and the behavior I was exhibiting to myself and others.
So now, when people say they wanna lose weight, I ask why? What’s the reason? Don’t lose weight just to be the next Megan Thee Stallion or Kim Kardashian but because you wanna be healthy or prepare for motherhood or just for you. So my childhood was really a whole lot of learning and figuring out my place in the world.
BWBK: I try to be timely when I drop certain blogs and it’s January. It’s resolution time; everybody trying to be in the gym. People are pissed cause they were able to be in the empty ass gym in November/December. Now they in the gym and can’t get a damn treadmill.
So much of New Year’s resolutions revolve around weight loss. Why does this trend maintain given that we know the average woman/person is not a size 2?
Keshia: I think there’s a myriad of factors but I think one of those things is time. People wanna be able to say they achieved something that year and want they want to make their progress visible. So they can say in January, I was 255 pounds and now in December 2020, I’m 205 pounds.
A second connection is the physical appearance. A lot of people have low self esteem and that low self-esteem sometimes stems from a past lover or family member who questioned their body or made them feel fat and ugly.
I think people who go to the gym [sometimes] is to be able to show the people who called them fat that “Hey, I can lose the weight. I am disciplined and I can change my life and you’re gonna want me.” At the end of the day, the question is, Why couldn’t they want you right now?
BWBK: You said a lot and I wanna circle back to some things you said. But one thing is that we aren’t aware that anything is “wrong” with our bodies until someone points it out to us. You out here living your best life eating cupcakes and then somebody says, “Oh wow, you’re filling out” or some other weird shit and then you start thinking, ‘How are people seeing me?”
Keshia: It becomes triggering. I remember visiting my grandma and she was like, “ooohh, look at your hips!” And I was like, “Right, they’re beautiful.” And she went on to say, they’re getting bigger and I was like, “Well you know, your perception is not my reality.”
But I think it’s particularly triggering to women because you start having thoughts like, “Maybe that’s why he left” or “Maybe that’s why I’m unhappy.”
But I want to be a mother. I want to chase my kids around and then drop them off to their grandmother so I can still party. [Losing weight] is for health reasons. It’s not for me to say, look at me now and for some people, that’s why they’re going to the gym in droves.
BWBK: One of the things you said that I liked is “Your perception is not my reality” and that needs to be on a fucking shirt. I want you to talk about what you began to say and answer this question: What are the top three misconceptions that people have about plus-size women, specifically Black women because I do think there’s a distinction? One of the things is don’t think you’re healthier because you’re smaller. Let me be clear: Keshia be running half-marathons and shit.
Give me two more examples of misconceptions that people have about Black plus-size women?
Keshia: That we’re unhappy. I get a lot of questions like, “Are you unhappy with yourself because you’re big?” Then I ask, “Are you unhappy because I’m big?” Stop projecting your feelings onto me. Is there something you wanna talk about? I mean, I’m not licensed yet but give me til May and I will become licensed and we’ll talk about it.
The third misconception is that we are unable to find love. Again, because of the body image [and the standard being] the Kim Ks and the Megan Thee Stallions and the other “beautiful” women in entertainment. My past lovers have had no complaints but you’d be surprised how the most handsomest man be going after the plus-size girl and people say things like, “What does he see in her?” He might be thinking, she keeps me warm in the winter and I prefer the warmth of her thighs.
We may have other issues as to why we’re single like trust issues or lack of smart men but it’s not [always about our bodies.]
BWBK: You say things that just lead right into my other questions. I remember a while back on social media, there was a post that went viral. There was a guy who posted two pictures- one of a skinnier woman and one of a plus size woman- and the caption under read: the girls I want vs. the girls who want me. Apparently, the plus size woman is a model and saw the post and commented, “I don’t want you.”
Stop sir! One of the things I’ve heard a lot is that women get very annoyed because in private, these niggas is all in your DMs and then in public, they wanna make it seem like they only fuck with the Megan Thee Stallions. Men need to stop carrying all that shame about their attraction to plus size women. They don’t wanna tell that story cause that ain’t the Bar Story- the story you wanna tell your dudes when y’all are out having a couple of beers after work.
So what’s your experience with men who say weird shit like this?
Keshia: [I’ve had men say] “I never dated a girl as big as you.” “If you would just lose a little more weight or if you were a little skinnier, you would be more attractive.” I’ve heard it all but one of the things I say is “What about you is what I want?”
What do you have that I need? Let’s remove the physical. Where are you emotionally? Mentally? What are your ambitions? And I get it, I get it, because I’m attracted to tall, bearded men- they arouse me. But I’m not gonna be dismissive of you because you might not fit that criteria. I might be dismissive because I’ve seen the bullshit before.
Then I also have to think, If I get in the gym and lose this weight for him, what does that mean? Does that mean he won’t cheat on me? Does that mean he won’t mistreat me? I can’t fit the aesthetic of what people want me to be. I have to be what I deem as aesthetically pleasing.
BWBK: I was one of the Black delegates who was extremely happy when they announced the Miss Teen USA, Miss World, Miss Universe and so forth but I also was like, Damn, there’s no plus-size women/variation of bodies in these competitions. It almost seems like in order for that to happen, they’d basically have to do their own thing which isn’t fair.
Sometimes doing your own thing is good. There’s times when I love being around other Black women/people but understand that this happens [a lot of the time] due to exclusionary [practices.] We have to start our own shit because we’re not accepted in the main shit.
These pageants are seen by millions. Blogs, posts and media are all over it and then the pictures drop and there’s still that sense of erasure because certain bodies still aren’t represented.
What are your thoughts on what needs to happen to change that?
Keshia: My thoughts are it’s gonna take a while for it to change because a lot of people are uncomfortable with change. Let’s say Miss World was a plus-size woman, would she be going viral the same way? It would take a while for us to normalize that and understand that a size 14 is not the only plus size type. There’s a range of plus-size bodies.
Would I like to see someone plus-size up there? Absolutely, but I highly doubt it because although we know that there are plus-size women and men around, the question is, do we want those plus-size women and men?
Monique had her own plus-size women pageant on OWN [network.] A lot of people were criticizing it saying she was glamorizing obesity. Like I said, the heaviest could be the healthiest. She did that lane because she got tired of waiting on society to say, Ok we accept you. Why would I wait for society to accept me when I already accept me?
Even with Lizzo- Jillian Michaels said that she should be worried about getting diabetes. I’m like, You should be worried about getting diabetes too. It could be a family trait or a lifestyle trait. You can’t criticize someone about their weight and then honor them and say things like, “Oh I love her music.”
BWBK: You brought up Lizzo so I’m gonna stay in that vein. She’s on top of the world right now. She just won Entertainer of the Year in Time Magazine but she stirred up a lot of reactions when she came to the Lakers in her ‘fuck you niggas’ outfit. People said things like, I would be mad if Cardi wore that too and I’m like, Would you be, though?
What do you think about what Lizzo [wore], how she was received, what is your position on that?
Keshia: I was a little upset because her bare cheeks was on that dirty bench. Germs are real people! If Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion had done that, people would’ve been like, Oh she’s sexy; she’s powerful; she’s shooting her shot.
Lizzo should be put in her lane and see herself as undesirable. It’s trippy for people because they don’t understand why anyone would want the undesirables. I think she was standing in her truth…When you listen to her music and her interviews, she says that she wanted to be like Beyonce and then she had to realize that she had to make her own lane and learn to be [herself.] I think people project their own insecurities onto Lizzo.
I actually was looking for the dress she was wearing (LOL). So my position was like, get your bare cheeks off that seat. You don’t know those germs.
BWBK: I wanna go back to Leah Vernon and some things that she mentioned in her conversation with Layla Saad. She said she wanted to be a white woman because those seemed like the women who were winning.
Did you ever wanna be like a White woman growing up and what role do you think White supremacy plays in the perception of plus-size Black women?
Keshia: So no, there were no White women I looked up to or wanted to be like. I did think that Angelina Jolie was beautiful because her face was so different. Her face was rectangular, and her lips were full and I hate using this word, but she was kind of exotic and I liked her bone structure. I didn’t like her for her body. But there were no White women I wanted to be like growing up. I wish I had some of their money (LOL.)
I think White supremacy plays a role cause it’s considered ideal. Remember, the slogan, White is right. Many people think that White[ness] should be replicated and embraced because that it what is desirable…We have been taught to hate ourselves.
White women are seen as pure and fragile and men think they need to be protected. Then with Black women, we are seen as bigger and “stronger” and we can handle ourselves and our problems so we don’t need assistance. That’s how White supremacy works.
BWBK: You mentioned Monique earlier, Was there any woman, preferably a Black, plus-sized woman, who you saw growing up or now, that you thought was just so fucking fly? How has that woman influenced you?
Keshia: Of course my mom cause she is a plus-size woman and she exudes class. She always said, “When you leave the house, you represent me.” She was always classy, sophisticated in the way she dressed and I took that and added that with Monique and Countess [from the show, The Parkers.]
It was rare that you had this plus-size woman who was so stylish and went after Professor Oglevee even when he was like, I don’t want you. And she was like no, you’re gonna want me and you’re gonna love me. It took some seasons but she got the man. Throughout that process, you never saw her feel inadequate as a plus sized woman. She created a platform for women to feel beautiful regardless of size.
One thing my mother never did, as well, was complain about her size. She was like, If God made me this way, there’s no reason for me to deviate from that. And Monique was pivotal in that way as well. Growing up, I didn’t see much plus-size role models besides Monique.
BWBK: I like the point you make about Monique never feeling inadequate even when she was dealing with rejection. But part of me is like, What the fuck? When we gon’ see the episode with the nigga chasing the plus-size girl? That was annoying for me.
I think that The Parkers was important. It definitely sent a message. If you’re a bigger woman, you gon’ have to really work to get this man. Looking back, it was a little bit [problematic.]
Keshia: I can see that. That happens to me too. I’m not gonna chase anyone for them to see the beauty, worth and value in me and if you can’t see that, there’s the 2,3,4,and 5 train to take you to the path that’s right for you (LOL)
BWBK: N, Q, R, W train, nigga, LOL. What would you say to Keshia 20 years ago-Keshia going into middle school? And what would you say to Keshia 20 years from now, in her fifties?
Keshia: To middle school Keshia… EAT! I think you were so self-conscious and bothered by your own presence, it nearly destroyed you. You should be aware and speak up about the presence that you hold and the power that you stand in. You should be comfortable and loving and kinder to yourself and understand that you don’t need to conform to what everybody thinks is beautiful.
And to Keshia in her fifties… YOU MADE IT! You’re healthy; you’re strong; you got a couple of kids; you got a husband that you’re thinking about divorcing everyday (both laughing.) I want you to instill the beauty and the learning experiences you’ve had and pass it to your daughter because your daughter will be big and she will question herself. And you, as her mother, have to question her about why she’s questioning herself. You have to let her know that she’s dope; she has presence and she matters.
Also, there’s no reason to have her conform into society when you are a walking contradiction yourself.
BWBK: That’s dope. This is gonna be the biggest, boldest part of the conversation and I think I asked the right question. And on a final note, give us one way that you show yourself that self-love and self-care? What do you do to sustain yourself?
Keshia: How I sustain myself is by allowing myself to be myself. If you enjoy the company of yourself, you can enjoy the company of others. I get my nails done, catch a movie, take a walk around the city or even take myself to a restaurant or a nice cafe and just be with myself.
The self-love factor: everyday I have a list of tasks for work and before those tasks, I write a message: You’re powerful. Don’t let others’ opinions dictate your opinion of self. You can steal this if you want. When you have feelings of inadequacy, you can look back at the paper and turn that inadequacy into a level of greatness.
I just listen to music, my podcasts and just taking chances on life and taking opportunities. And also thanking God or whoever you believe in, The Universe, the Creator.
I also put my phone on Do Not Disturb mode from like 1-7pm on a weekend and just have me time.
BWBK: So there we go, first episode of the year. This conversation is not about the weight. It is about the self. I love the fact that we finally got this shit done. So with that being said, I love you and thank you so, so much.
Keshia: I love you too and thank you for having me.
BWBK: Thanks everyone for listening and follow Keshia on IG. What’s your IG?
Keshia: keesh1119 and that’s all cause I’m not on any other social media.
BWBK: And follow blackwomenbeknowing on IG and BWBK_ on Twitter.
Black women be embracing their curves.
Black women be loving their bodies.
Black women be making y’all recognize and respect the beauty both outside and within.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.