I’ve been gordita all my life and I was bullied growing up. I found myself playing make believe at an early age that I was like Selena Quintanilla Perez. I remember dancing to Selena y Los Dinos songs in my room as a little Tejanita with hair brush in hand, boom box blasting Como La Flor. I would tell myself that one day I was going be like her and that my life would be very different. I just had to wait until I was older and skinnier. Well, I got older and fatter. And, for a long time I hated my body. I hated myself.
I was twenty-seven when I started modeling and it helped build up my confidence. But, I found that after three years of modeling, I still had a lot of work to do on the inside. Taking pretty pictures doesn’t fix everything, it doesn’t make you hurt less. You can only see yourself differently when you change your perspective. Now let’s make something clear, body positivity and self-love are two different things. Being body positive is political and self-love is the individual journey. Here is a brilliant article that eloquently describes it better than I can.
While my belief surrounding fat people and our rights to live freely and happily, including myself, changed, I was still working on my personal journey to self-love. Something that I learned through body positivity was the right to wear what I want despite my weight, body shape, size, height, etc. When Selena’s birthday month rolled around on April 2018, I told myself I was going to pay homage to the Queen of Tejano by recreating some of her most iconic looks. For so long, I thought I couldn’t be one of those super fans that could dress like her because I am not Selena’s body type. Then, I remembered that Selena was a curvy woman. She would have wanted me and so many of her fans to live authentically and embrace the beauty that we are inside and out.
And, what happened was magical! The Selena series resonated for many people who follow me on social media, in my opinion, because it felt like the most authentic in a way, a Tejana representing a Tejana. And, that’s powerful.
I thought I could never pull off that purple jumpsuit. And, I was scared of that low-cut top that showed my bra. It reminded me of that unforgettable scene from Selena, the movie, where her dad, Mr. Quintanilla, played by Edward James Olmos, was like “busti-caca de la menta! Es un bra!” It’s like that in our culture. You get shamed for what you wear as a woman, a plus-size Latina at that because people tell you that you’re too gordita for that, and that’s just caca to be honest.
For a week, leading up to Selena’s birthday on April 16th, I dressed like Selena to challenge this ingrained belief that gorditas can’t wear certain things, but also to show myself that I look damn good doing it too! Sheer tops, bustiers, pleather, midriff showing, you don’t have to cover up because you are a woman or because you’re fat like me. I get to decide what I wear, when, and where.
I strutted my way to the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX for a special screening of the movie Selena on her birthday in my purple jumpsuit ready for my finale. We sang along, took pictures with Selena look-alikes, ate pepperoni pizza, shook our maracas, did the washing machine move, and sang happy birthday to Selena while the room was lit with candles in honor of La Reina.
Photography: Tommy Kim at tommykim.net