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Identity

'Plus-Size Kim Kardashian' Is Out to Fight the Haters

Nadia Aboulhosn, the Lebanese-American plus size blogger, designer and model talked to Broadly about creating positive spaces, dealing with haters, and her quest for sartorial domination.
September 6, 2015, 2:15pm
Photos courtesy of Nadia Aboulhosn

"I 'll be the first to say ima [sic] feminist & I'll also be the first to say that lately, I've seen more women bashing other women then men doin [sic] it", tweeted NYC-based Lebanese-American plus size fashion blogger, designer and model, Nadia Aboulhosn. Time and time again, she has been referred to as the "plus size Kim Kardashian" by major news outlets, but there's something about her admirably brash and frank attitude that screams Kanye more than Kim. Aboulhosn doesn't take shit from anyone, and she will subtweet the shit out of you until you get the message. As a plus size woman of color making herself visible on the Internet of all places, it's vital she builds up a powerful form of defence—something she evidently excels at. Her self-made Internet presence has garnered significant attention—with just under 300,000 followers on Instagram, she is a powerhouse; a might of force edging closer and closer to dominating the fashion scene. The rise of fashion bloggers like Aboulhosn forces major fashion companies to reassess their designs and availability for plus size women. On September 12th, Aboulhosn launches her second capsule collection with Addition Elle, a Canadian plus size clothing chain. Alongside this, Aboulhosn has previously collaborated on a capsule collection with Boo Hoo, and Evans on a jewelery edit—she's even modeled on the pages of Vogue Italia, all with that brown girl glow white people would kill for.

Aboulhosn doesn't let fighting against backlash permeate her blog though, which she reserves as a positive space to solely express herself. Her latest blog post, a teaser for her upcoming collection, starts off with a quote by Leonardo Da Vinci: "It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." Aboulhosn is in the routine of beginning every blog post with an encouraging quote, either embodying the spirit of the post, or her general mood. She sought to make it her personal mission to be as positive a force and influence on her fans and readers as she can be: "I saw women commenting saying they finally had something to relate to or that I gave them inspiration—I knew it had become my responsibility [to be a positive influence]. It was less about me and more about being strong for them. All of us are so different; we have different upbringings, and different experiences that all shapes us into who we are today."

Even in today's climate, where body acceptance is slowly increasing, there's not enough happening to cement it as a vital factor in fashion—The Fashion Spot found that roughly 19 percent of models who walked the runway in 2014 were models of color, and that's only regarding skinny people. A study conducted by the University of Lepzig, Germany found that among obese women, 33 percent exhibited signs of suicidal behaviour and 27 percent attempted suicide—without taking into account how race skews the results. Models of color like Aboulhosn have somewhat of an obligation to keep pushing for the end of negative attitudes towards plus size women of color, not by their own volition, but because if they don't do it, thin white people won't. Having certain attributes can not only make you feel like an outcast, but make you feel ugly, and this does not sit well with Aboulhosn: "One thing all of us want is the feeling of belonging whether it's to someone or some thing," so she decided to be that someone. "It is harder for women of color to feel more comfortable with themselves because we didn't see it and still don't see it as often in the media. Just like there's not a lot of body diversity either, and when you don't have something to sort of look at and relate to, it makes you feel like an outcast."

"The standard of beauty is expanding and it is really refreshing to see more women of color in the media but when I was growing up, I didn't realize these things as much as I do now." The majority of visible plus size women on the Internet, magazines and fashion campaigns are white—the Ashley Grahams and Tess Hollidays are important for the plus size movement, but like many feminist movements, their presences seek only to empower white women; take Rebel Wilson's embarrassing attempt at satirizing the Black Lives Matter movement during the VMAs. The salient presences of the likes of Aboulhosn and Gabi Fresh, however, are powerful statements and forms of activism in their own right. They challenge Western 'normalized' perceptions and notions of what it means to be beautiful, and as a result, women of color who look like them feel more comfortable with themselves and their bodies. As a child, Aboulhosn was fortunate enough not to have experienced the worst that kids can direct at plus size women of color, and she has a supportive family that made her into the person full of self-love that she is today: "As a kid and teenager it didn't really matter who I was around, I never really identified myself with any one group in particular because I always felt like I was an outcast no matter what. I was always exposed to different things at one time. Because of that I didn't feel any type of stigma."

As with many celebrities, Aboulhosn represents more than just herself: she is a brand. As all of us with an active Twitter account know that there are a lot of aspects we share, and a lot we conceal. Notwithstanding a balance of representation and overt positivity being a much-needed force in plus size girl's lives, Aboulhosn believes in conveying a accurate portrayal of herself. "I try to show all sides of me and not glamorize my life—it's okay to go through things. My life isn't all photoshoots and traveling to pretty places." The human experience is varied and nuanced, and Aboulhosn wants people to be comforted, as opposed to scared by that, "I feel responsible to show not only the good parts of my life, but also bad parts so people know they aren't alone. I try to let women know it's okay to look however they want." In turn, this representation is another manifestation of her aim of positivity.

This positivity has come about as a result of overcoming the many setbacks and obstacles striving to stop her from achieving her dreams, and the road has certainly not been easy: "It's never been in my character to give up. If something doesn't work out one way, I find another way to make it happen." Aboulhosn had dreams of attending fashion school and acquiring the skills to design, but there was one problem: she couldn't draw. This, however, did not stop her from designing. "When I got rejected from fashion school, I gave myself a few minutes to cry but then, I focused all of my energy on making it work another way," and it worked out rather well for her—she's going to Toronto soon to promote her capsule collection with Addition Elle. "I want more for myself, I want more for my family, and I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to do something that I loved doing and be rewarded for it, and never have to struggle as much as I have. There are so many factors to why I kept and keep going." But this doesn't necessarily mean she's immune from lethargy and creative bumps in the road, "It gets tiring trying to outdo myself, though—I can be hard on myself sometimes if I don't reach goals."

The price of being a well-known plus size woman of color takes its toll too—dumb shits on the Internet, rather frivolously known as "trolls" will make vile comments about whoever they can. "It's very very rare for me to respond to someone who calls me ugly, fat, whatever—very rare." It's attacks on her character that rile Aboulhosn up, "When someone calls out my character, I recognise that it's not worth my time, then block and delete them. But, if you catch me on a day I'm feeling grimy, I'll respond. I tend to keep really supportive people who are down for me around me though. I stay focused and try to think about positive things in my life and focus less on that."

Hustling, however, is one of Aboulhosn's mantras—being able to provide for herself is a gratifying benefit of doing what she does. Another aspect she loves is how she's "able to inspire and help others who are going through whatever they're going through and let them know they're not alone." For her, the real benefits of her Internet fame are tangible in many people's lives, and not only her own. "People contact me and tell me I've changed their lives. They somehow get confidence from me; strength. I'll get women saying they used to be anorexic and I've helped them start a new lifestyle, or that I've inspired people to be creative and work hard. Nothing feels better than helping people become the best versions of themselves." Aboulhosn's ambition extends beyond fashion too, "I'm working on a documentary about refugees in the Middle East," and she has no idea where the future holds for her, but she knows what she wants: "I kind of roll with the punches—I don't really know what is coming next, but I'm working towards the end goal of my own clothing collection." And nothing will stop her from getting there.