Six Lessons from Real Women Have Curves

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

I dressed like Selena for a week and this is what happened

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.

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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.

 

Miss.Shelo

IG: @miss.shelo

Photography: Tommy Kim at tommykim.net