I recently revisited one of my all-time favorite movies starring America Ferrera, Real Women Have Curves. I was first introduced to this film back in high school, summer of my sophomore year by my prima. She recommended the film, hinting that I should be confident about my body, that my curves were something worth celebrating and embracing.
As a teen, I struggled with body image issues that continued into my adulthood. It didn’t matter if I was a size 10 or a size 22, I couldn’t see the beauty reflected in the mirror. It was pleasure to see this film again with a fresh set of eyes. I take away more from the film at age 31 than I did at 15. I do wish I would have started my journey to accepting my body in all its glorious splendor at an earlier age; it would have made a world of difference to me. At times, I would beat myself up about it. But, this is my journey and reaching this level of confidence is not easy. No one is perfect and there’s beauty in that; it makes us unique.
Here are the six lessons I took from Real Women Have Curves:
1. Eat the Flan – Ana defiantly eats the delicious Mexican flan that her mom says will make her fatter. She tells Ana, she would look so beautiful if she lost weight. Ana’s stand-off with her mother reminds us that it is a personal choice regarding diet and meal choices. Often, people who have bigger bodies are ridiculed by family and strangers when eating in public spaces or gatherings. There’s the stares, the giggles, and the “You’re still hungry?” or “¿Otro plato, mija?” comments. I say, “Eat the flan girl!” You are allowed to enjoy this and you shouldn’t feel guilty. And, you can’t tell what a person’s health is like by their appearance or what’s on their plate. We are not privy to other people’s medical history, nor should we be. These are conversations that happen between the individual and their nutritionist or physician. Watch out for personal judgments and biases by those in the health professions. While they may have good intentions, there are many stories about bullying or harassment from physicians.
2. Pretty Dresses Aren’t Just For Skinny Girls – Ana’s older sister, Estela, fashions a beautiful dress especially made for Ana. Ana stated earlier in the film that she admired the dresses they made in the atelier so much, but realized they weren’t meant for her, or more poignantly, they’re not meant for fat girls. If you love the dress, try it on, buy it, and rock it! There are many plus-size lines emerging with mad style. The fashion industry is taking note and making these fashionable pieces available to plus-size bodies.
3. Embrace Your Body – Ana makes a powerful move by showing her boyfriend, Jimmy, her naked body, full frontal with the lights on. “See, this is what I look like,” says Ana. There’s empowerment in seeing your naked body. You can stand in front of a mirror, your body in all its glory, and really take a look at the beauty in every curve, fold, or shape. Some women find empowerment in a boudoir photo shoot or strutting on the
beach in a new bikini. But, whatever the choice, do it at your comfort level and when it feels right for you. Remember that this your body, your choice.
4. Form a Community of Women – Form a fat sisterhood! Ana decides to take off her clothes since it is so hot and sticky at the atelier. Her mother gasps, offended. Ana points out to her mother, “it’s just us ama!” Her sister Estela, and the other two seamstresses soon follow and strip off their clothes, unashamed to show their stretchmarks, cellulite, and lonjas. They feel comfortable and cheer each other on, poking fun at themselves, but quick to compliment each other. Who you surround yourself with is paramount. People who are overly judgmental and critical of others just might be talking about you behind your back. It’s the whole queen bee and wannabes of high school. That crap is so petty. Instead, surround yourself with women who are like you. Form a community of women that uplift each other, not a catty group that brings you down. Start a blog or online community, join a support group, read articles by body positive advocates, and watch movies that empower women.
5. Walk With Confidence – That’s the best outfit. There is much hate and criticism spewed on Ana by her mother, Carmen, but there is some good advice. Ana took what her mother said and either tossed it out or redefined its value. When her mother criticized her for walking sluggish like a pig, she also told Ana to “walk like a lady.” What does that mean? Well, for Ana, at the end of the film, it meant walking with confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22, the energy you exude is what makes you radiate with beauty. The world is your catwalk, mija! Strut.
6. All Women are Real Women – I struggle a bit with the title of this film. However, its message is empowering for curvy women. I read it as, real women are also women who have curves. I see it as inclusive, and I think ultimately that’s what the filmmakers intended. While real women have curves, real women are also slender, skinny, small butt, no butt, fat, flabby, short, tall, you name it. There are many body types and they are all worthy.