I was thinking recently about something Catherine Deveny, writer, comedian and social commentator said a while back. She said:

Photo and quote  from Catherine Deveny on Facebook

Photo and quote from Catherine Deveny on Facebook

In light of what I have read recently about the new success of plus-size model, Tess Holliday, I think Catherine Deveny couldn’t be more correct.

Tess Munster, aka Tess Holliday, has made headlines for being signed to a mainstream modelling agency. At around size 22-24, she is the largest plus-size model to be signed with a major agency.

Tess Munster embraces a retro/pin-up/rockabilly style and is famous for her amazing makeup (she is a makeup artist by trade) and her prominent tattoos. She’s also famous for starting an online movement with the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards because she revels in the act that Catherine Deveny describes. She exists in a society with a narrow definition of beauty and she doesn’t fit the mould and if that’s not bad enough- she has the temerity to not hate herself for it.

Tess Holliday

Tess Holliday

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In fact, Holliday is a passionate advocate for body positivity and for reminding us that our size does not define us. She refuses to discuss health beyond pointing out that fat doesn’t always mean unhealthy and she’s correct. Just like thin doesn’t always mean healthy.

Her recent success has been widely reported and while many people are overjoyed for her and can see the positive message she projects however, as expected, many people have simply taken the opportunity to express their concerns.

The most common response in this light is to make assumptions about Holliday’s health and to frame these assumptions as concerns for her wellbeing.

Firstly, unless you are Tess Holliday or her doctor, you don’t actually know much at all about her personal health.

Secondly, her health is no one else’s business.

Even if you feel your concerns are well-intentioned, you don’t really have any right to raise them with a stranger. I found an excellent blog post that expresses what I think about this far better than I can here.

Another common worry that I have seen expressed is that Tess Holliday is promoting obesity. I have scoured her blog and news articles about her and  her social media and I cannot find any point in which she actively tells other people to be obese. Other than being large herself I literally can’t find her actively promoting obesity anywhere.

It’s not like that time supermodel Kate Moss said that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” was one of her personal mottoes– if you aren’t familiar with the expression it’s hugely popular on pro-anorexia blogs (yep, that’s a thing).

Along the same lines as the obesity-promoting questions are those asking what kind of role model Tess Holliday is. From what I have read about her achievements, she was told she’d never make it as a model. So, she went out and became exactly that. That reminds of something Emma Watson was applauded for saying on twitter recently:


Tess Holliday makes no bones of the struggles she had in overcoming how she felt towards her body. She’s now in a place where she feels love for herself and her body, even though it’s outside the narrow confines of beauty that our media constantly reminds us of. As a role model, I’d say she’s pretty bloody good.

Getting behind the #effyourbeautystandards ideal doesn’t mean you stop improving or maintaining your health. What it means is loving the body you have RIGHT NOW- whether it’s a work in progress or a finished piece. That sort of self-love is something we could all benefit from. If we treat ourselves to that level of kindness, perhaps it won’t be so difficult to extend it to others.






And linking with Maxabella Loves for Weekend Rewind.

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  • LydiaCLee

    I like the civil disobedience quote. It’s funny how much we are told to all think, regardless of age…

  • Hugzilla

    Yes, the faux-concern about other people’s health that gets thrown around in these discussions is just the moral-panic about obesity in another form. Judgement masquerading as concern.

  • I’ve never heard of the #effyourbeautystandards ideal, but I love it. With two impressionable young girls, I am constantly spruiking body positivity, being true to yourself and love who you and how you look not how society deems you should look.

    • It’s a pretty darn positive ideal, I think!

  • Lucy @ Bake Play Smile

    I love the idea of ditching body standards. Everyone should have the right to love their own body and not feel judged by some ridiculous ‘standards’. How boring if we were all the same size and shape!!

    • Exactly! Variety is the spice of life, after all 🙂

  • She is gorgeous! Good on her. She’s changing the world. Wish I had her confidence.

    • Even half her confidence would be amazing 🙂

  • You go TESS!! Love reading this today.

  • She’s a great role model for having a positive body image regardless of being a fashion model. And loving the body you have right now is the only place you can change from – if that’s what you want to do. I read something about how fit and strong is gaining traction as a model for women, and I love that.

    • I like fit and strong if that’s your thing. I bloody love happy and confident, too 🙂

  • Well ain’t Kate Moss a bloody idiot! Never could see the selling power of that model. (Except maybe for the druggie look that no-one really wants to emulate.) This gal is great – natural, normal and I adore her hash tag. Another great post.

    • Thanks Jody, yes it wasn’t Kate’s finest comment!

  • Bring on more Tess Munsters on the world to hopefully start to change the tide on accepting our bodies no matter what our size.

    • Exactly- too many people spent 3/4 of their lives dieting and being unhappy. Being healthy is great and being happy is a big part of that!

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    nothing nicer than being happy with yourself Kate Moss you idiot. We all come in different shapes and sizes and just because you are skinny that doesn’t mean you are healthy.

  • Oh yes, couldn’t agree more!

  • I agree with all you’ve said. Sadly, so many of us equate being thin with happy. I have had eating disordered clients who think being thin meant they would get a boyfriend and therefore, being happy. While there is a balance between being physically healthy and loving your body, you’re right in that we don’t know about Tess’ health issues. My sister was obese but {surprisingly to us}, her bloods, cholesterol etc were all fine. And she was more flexible than I was a decade ago. We make judgements based on only what we see. We don’t know the whole story. There are several skinny people out there who may not be healthy but once again, we just assume they are based on what we see.

    • It’s a crazy world. We make so many judgments based on what we see when there is always more to it. I hate this fixated idea people have that health is black and white- you are healthy or you are not. Health is a spectrum- a person like your sister may be big but healthy in all other way whereas a thin, muscular person might have high BP and cholesterol. You can’t tell by looking at a person.

  • Grace

    YES!! Isn’t it just incredibly hypocritical that the Kate Moss pro-anorexia doesn’t bat an eyelid yet someone who is a plus size and finally getting recognition is completely scrutinised?!!! I’m pretty comfortable in my body, most of the time. The only times I get really frustrated is when I’m not feeling strong or fit. Otherwise, being size 14 sometimes 16 is okay by me. Absolutely okay.

    • Many models are so thin you can see every rib- but that’s ok, right? :/

  • Mars Drum

    Well said. Gotta keep smashing the commercial false goddess myth, invented for misogynists, making money for misogynists.

  • Having positive body image is more important than having a ‘perfect’ body, and almost as difficult to obtain. I’m about to open the door on
    my 45th year and can finally say that I am comfortable in this body that I’ve been walking around in for 44 years. Complete with stretch marks, cellulite, cankles, pimples, wrinkles, grey hair, varicose veins… Perhaps I’ve got to the point where I just don’t care what anyone else
    thinks anymore, or maybe it is because I am fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. Maybe it’s because I’m ‘mature’ of age. Whatever.

    Catherine Deveny is spot-on. As a teenager in the 80s, I was conditioned to negative self-talk. After all if you verbalised anything good about yourself you were labelled as someone who ‘loves herself’. And not in a nice way. Ha! If only I understood then that loving yourself was an awesome thing to do. Shame it took me another two and half decades to get it.Tess Munster is an awesome role model, as is Robyn Lawley. Great post! 🙂

    • I remember that- oh, she loves herself *snigger snigger*. We are so hard on each other when we’re young.

  • How ridiculous to think that someone is promoting obesity by being a bigger size…or promoting anorexia by being thin. Just be what you are and chill out!

  • She’s stunning isn’t she. As you said, only she and her doctor know what her health status is.

  • How ridiculous to think that someone is promoting obesity by being a bigger size…or promoting anorexia by being thin. Just be what you are and chill out!

    • Exactly. Existing happily does not equal promoting!

  • I gosh I wish I had just an ounce of her confidence. It’s awesome!

  • I think you might be interested in this article: http://goo.gl/a2R2yP. It’s about a journalist and commentator who is a feminist and fat and happy and the abuse she’s suffered online. She confronts one of her trolls who goes on to reveal that the reason he trolled her so horribly was because she was happy. To love your body, to be fat and happy, really is a subversive act.

    • Yes, I read this recently! LOVED it- what an insightful and open-minded woman!

  • AllisonTaitWriter

    Great post Amy. The more we talk about this stuff, the better for all of us.

  • Tess is divine. All power to her. I’m more concerned about the image Kate Moss projects than Tess.

    • I know who I’d rather my daughters look up to!

  • Great post. I’ve not heard of Munster and wasn’t aware of the whole thing – thanks for the introduction. Can people start be less predictable with their reactions? If this wasn’t so ridiculous and anger-inducing, it’d be boring.

  • Tash from Gift Grapevine

    What a fantastic hashtag. Bravo to Tess (and massive points to Emma Watson for the Twitter reply – she is all sorts of awesome). I love your final sentence. You’ve put into words beautifully what I wish more of the world would practice.

    • Thank you Tash, I hope a few more put it in to practice

  • I love love loved that Emma Watson response. And wholeheartedly agree that we all need to be very careful about judging people’s health based on their size. It serves no one well.

  • Bravo to Tess. It’s not an easy thing to become comfortable with your size not matter what it is. Raising two girls, I love this and I hope I am able to raise my girls to be happy, healthy and confident regardless of their size and shape xx

    • Very important for parents to try to teach this- hard (thanks media!) but important!

  • I can just never figure out why people are so OFFENDED by someone who isn’t neurotic about being different. It really bugs the shit out of people, fat, skinny, whatever. It’s the “fuck convention” that gets them seething, not the fat. Because what that means is that all the excuses people use to stop themselves being truly happy are suddenly wiped away. And then… they are just unhappy. x

  • toddlers plus teens

    Great post. So great to see people putting it out there 🙂

  • braqueen

    Tess has done an amazing job and continues to pave the way towards positive bogy image!

  • All I can say about Tess is that she is brave and the confidence she exudes is amazing! Emma Watson nailed her response as well, more people (both men and women) in the world should approach life like that!

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    Nothing is as good as skinny feels – Oh I hate that.. Thanks for being nominated for #JustBecause.. first week is pretty good Amy.