Always For Me asks Reality TV Star, Author, and All-Around Body Positive Diva Whitney Way Thore about Fame, Her #NoBodyShame Campaign, Swimwear, and Living Life to the Fullest Regardless of Your Size.

Interview and article by Sarah Jankowski

 

Whitney Way Thore is the star of her own reality TV show on TLC called “My Big Fat Fabulous Life”.  The show focuses on Whitney’s life as a plus size woman in today’s world. From the first episode, it’s clear that Whitney is determined to live a great, body positive life, regardless of her size or what haters have to say.

Whitney is the leading force behind the #NoBodyShame movement and is truly an inspiration for people of all ages and sizes.

Always For Me recently chatted with Whitney to pick her brain on what it means to be plus size, how she deals with haters, her newfound fame, and what she loves about plus size swimwear.

photo credit: Joseph Bradley

Always for Me:

You started as a YouTube star, what made you first want to post videos?

Whitney:

It was actually kind of by mistake.

I was working at a radio station at the time. We were starting YouTube channel and the station needed content. Someone at the station suggested I post a video of me dancing, since I love to dance, and title it “A Fat Girl Dancing”.

One of these videos went viral overnight, and suddenly I was asked to appear on news outlets and talk shows.

Always for Me:

How were you first approached to do your reality show?

Whitney:

A month after my television appearances, in March of 2014, an executive at TLC who was watching emailed me about collaborating on a project and the rest is history. I was very lucky.

Photo credit: Joseph Bradley

Always for Me:

What has changed since the first season as far as dealing with the media and people knowing who you are?

Whitney:

I thought dealing with the recognition from the viral Fat Girl Dancing video and television appearances was pretty rough, but after season one of My Big Fat Fabulous Life aired, all the attention, both positive and negative, really exploded.

 Being on TV definitely added another layer, and it became harder to avoid the negativity.

 Even though I never seek out the nasty comments; I only look at my own social media, you can never completely avoid them all.

 I definitely can’t read YouTube comments!

Always for Me:

What about fans?

Whitney:

It’s weird to me to even call them “fans,” because I just feel like a regular person.

 I try to interact with them online as much as possible and I always take time to have conversations with people I run into in public.

 If I’m on a real tight schedule or running late (which I always am), it can get a little tough, but I know that it means a lot to people and it means a lot to me.

Always for Me:

How about paparazzi in particular?

Whitney:

I don’t deal with paparazzi at all at home, which is a perk of living in North Carolina.

 I remember standing outside of my hotel in New York when I was doing press for the first season, which hadn’t aired yet, and there were paparazzi photographing other people at the hotel.

 I thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder if they’ll be wanting my photograph too in a week or so once the first season airs…”

 My first real paparazzi experience was in London, and after that in New York and LA. But when I’m home, I am left alone.

Always for Me:

Do people change their “tune” when they hear your story about how polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) changed your life and lead to your weight gain?

Whitney:

I actually never talked about PCOS much until I started doing interviews, and PCOS seemed to be an important part of the story.

 Even when I was thin, I’d always thought I was fat, so to me, not a whole lot had changed.

 I’ve had so many women and even doctors thank me for shedding light on PCOS.

 A lot more women are getting diagnosed who had never heard of it before, which is unfortunately common. PCOS affects roughly one in ten women, but so many of us are completely oblivious about it.

 Of course, now that it’s out there, I also get all the comments like, “But my brother’s girlfriend’s sister-in-law has PCOS and she’s not as fat as you!”

 PCOS is a contributing factor with my weight, but not the sole reason I am as big as I am.

 PCOS can look different on everybody; it’s a collection of symptoms: insulin resistance, thinning hair, extra body and facial hair, ovarian cysts, irregular or absent cycles, acne…I’m lucky enough to have all of them, but you can have just a few symptoms and still be diagnosed.

Photo credit: Joseph Bradley

Always for Me:

What was the inspiration behind your #NoBodyShame movement?

Whitney:

About six months before the initial Fat Girl Dancing video went viral, I’d written a blog post about my newfound acceptance of my body (but I’d never even heard the phrase “body-positivity,” and I hash-tagged it with NoBodyShame.

 After that, I kept getting asked about it in interviews, so I thought: “okay, I better really commit to this and make it a thing.”

 I decided to make it my life’s work to help others feel happy and confident in their body, no matter what specific challenges they face.

Always for Me:

How has the response to the #NoBodyShame movement been?

Whitney:

The response varies. There are people who will never understand it and accuse me of promoting obesity, whatever that means.

 But then there are all the other people, old, young, fat, thin, differently abled, every color of the spectrum, people struggling with their sexuality or gender…and those people tell me that it’s really helped them to see a person who is not conventionally attractive or acceptable on television and that it’s helped them so much.

 Visibility is important, and at the end of the day, My Big Fat Fabulous Life is a vehicle for me. It puts a fat woman who is not on a weight loss journey in people’s living rooms all around the world and shows them that if I can be happy, confident, and loved, they can too.

Always for Me:

I’m sure you’ve received your share of love and hate being a public figure.  What do you tell your haters? Or what would you want them to know?

Whitney:

I absolutely see a lot of hate on social media and in real life.

 I can’t lie and say it never gets me down, but I really do try to focus on the positive.

 I know that people who are so nasty are miserable inside and my highest self really hopes they can shed their own shame and develop some compassion and acceptance for themselves.

Always for Me:

What would you tell a young man or woman who is being bullied for their weight?

Whitney:

There’s no magic answer, really, but I think the best you can do is find people who support you. It takes a village.

 From there, focus on doing things that help build up your own confidence.

 We can’t change how other people will treat us, but we can change how we feel about what they say and how we feel about ourselves.

Always for Me:

What are your thoughts towards swimwear?

Whitney:

I actually love to swim and used to be on the swim team!

That being said, even when I was 120lbs in high school I didn’t love my body.

I think shopping for a swimsuit is hard at any size. I think when you’re plus size it can be especially difficult to find styles that are appealing and that actually fit you properly.

I feel it’s really important plus size women have access to all plus size fashion, especially swimwear. As a plus size woman, sometimes I feel like we don’t have the “tools” to do things we WANT to do such as swimming.

When I say “tools” I’m referring to things like: plus size bathing suits and cover-ups, great sports bras or leggings, and running shoes that offer support.

In fashion, I think it’s the most important for plus size people to have options in active wear and in swimwear. We can’t DO those things if we don’t have clothes that perform.

Always for Me:

Is there anything that draws you to a swimsuit when you’re out shopping for the upcoming season?

Whitney:

Honestly, I didn’t wear a bathing suit for years!

It’s been exciting to see more plus size swimwear options on the market.

I tend to like classic suits with a hint of something special like sexy mesh inserts.

 Bikinis are the most comfortable for me because the less material that is on my body, the more comfortable I will be.

 Right now I’m loving supportive plus size bikini tops paired with a plus size high waist bikini bottom.

We started hosting a #NoBodyShame cruise, and the turnout has been really great. For many of these women, this cruise might be the first time they’ve worn a swimsuit in YEARS!

Our next cruise is from November 11th – 18th of 2018 so I’m looking forward to that! To learn more about the No BS at Sea cruise, go to www.nobsatsea.com

For me, it’s been very liberating to put a swimsuit on again!

Always for Me:

Thank you so much for your insight and taking the time to chat with Always For Me. It was a really fun interview!

Whitney:

Yeah, the time flew by! Thank you for having me.

 

Photo credit: Joseph Bradley