Tess Holliday, who recently covered People magazine, is a plus-size model on the rise. That attention has led to interviews, one of which got her into some trouble: she told The Guardian last week, “I do admit that black men love me. I always forget that, and then I come to a black neighbourhood and I remember.” People did not like it.
That quote sits in this paragraph in the profile:
We’re in a cafe, finally sitting down after a six-hour shoot that’s had Holliday traipsing blocks in oppressive heat and then a rainstorm. Throughout, she’s been a hilarious corrective to the notion of models as mute and biddable clotheshorses. At one point, an African American guy, middle-aged, said something appreciative as he walked by. “What do guys think they’ll achieve by yelling something?” she asked, shifting her weight and adjusting the cape primly. “They’re like: ‘She’ll love this, I’ll definitely get her number.’” A pause, and then she added, with some satisfaction, “I do admit that black men love me. I always forget that, and then I come to a black neighbourhood and I remember.” And no one quite knew what to say. Later, finally and effortfully manoeuvred into some lethal-looking Christian Louboutin stilettos, adding height to her 5ft 5in, she’d calmly told the photographer: “If you’re not shooting my shoes, I will fuck you up.”
Contextually, it should be noted that Holliday had earlier been dealing with some shocked/surprised looks during this shoot, so it seems like some positive response was something she welcomed.
“Keep driving, assholes,” she yells, making a scornful, chivvying motion at the dawdling cars and their gawking drivers. “Never seen a fat girl in her underwear before?”
Holliday’s comments weren’t received well by some. “Um ... ‘Good for her’?” The Root’s Danielle Belton wrote. “I also want to add that ‘black guys like me’ too, if we’re only basing this on who hollers at you on the street.”
In response to the comments, Holliday wrote on Facebook this week:
recent interview from The Guardian has upset some people, and I thought I needed to address it publicly to try and clear the air.
Firstly, I apologise for any hurt that my flippant comment has caused. I’ll try to provide some context which hopefully will change the way in which it is being viewed, but I have to also accept that being followed and quoted is something new for me and I am going to occasionally say or do things that make people unhappy. For that I am sorry, your opinions are important to me.
The incident in question occurred when I was on the street, feeling rather exposed in my underwear for the shoot, and an older black man cat called me as I was walking behind the team. I replayed the incident to the team once we were set up for the next shot, and jokingly said some semblance of what appeared in print. It was in relation to being cat called by black men significantly more than by white, but perhaps my tone and wording didn’t convey this clearly. It was also meant to play into the idea that black men like bigger women, but the humour of that doesn’t come through. To further add context, the team included two talented black women - so it was clearly not something intended to cause offence.
Effyourbeautystandards is for everyone - every colour, every race, every sexuality - for all genders and all types of bodies, physically able or not.
I am not a perfect human being, I am still growing and learning, and the title of “role model” is not one that I have chosen - it was thrust onto me, despite my reluctance. I am doing my best to live up to what that means, but at times I will slip up. I don’t speak for everyone, but I will continue to try my best to speak UP for everyone.
A pretty thoughtful apology, as far as things go, and Holliday went further, speaking up for a woman who was expressing criticism over her apology on Facebook, telling her fans not to call the woman a moron “when she is just expressing how she feels.”
It does seem like the criticism has gotten to Holliday a bit, however; her Instagram account that the Guardian article mentions so breathlessly has been made private to all but her existing 800,000-plus followers.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Tess Holliday/Instagram.