Introduce yourself! Tell us a little bit about you?
I’m Jess! I’m a body acceptance advocate and copywriter living in London! I’m 23 and have been encouraging and teaching others how to accept and appreciate the skin they exist in since I was 18. When I’m not creating fun content for Instagram, you’ll find me fussing over cute animals and making earrings for my small business Bee and Bloom Designs.
What first inspired you to set up a positive platform online?
Growing up, I despised the way I looked. I’d been influenced from such a young age that if a body wasn’t skinny and delicate, it was bad. I was never skinny or delicate. I spent 15 years of my life hopping from diet to diet, starving myself, exhausting myself at gyms, and hiding behind baggy clothes and self-deprecating jokes (before anyone else could make them first). After dropping out of sixth form when I was 17 because the thought of being seen was terrifying to me, I basically became a recluse. For six months I didn’t leave my house — not even to go into the garden. Then, I started university. I had to push past the agoraphobia I had developed and treat myself not as the fat human that I detested but as a person who lived and breathed and didn’t want to waste away in the corner of a dusty bedroom. So, I started @je.ssicas on Instagram. I posted photos of myself without editing them and strived to be positive about the person I saw in the images. I didn’t want to go through the rest of my life hating who I was.
What is the main goal of your platform?
It began as body positivity; loving every inch of yourself. After a few tiring years of this, I realised it wasn’t realistic. Nobody loves themselves 100% of the time. So, it became about body acceptance. Accepting your body for the fact it keeps you alive and not treating it as some fashion statement. That’s my goal now. Both body acceptance for myself and those that join me for the journey! I want to be that ray of sunshine that brightens up their day. I want people to look at me and not feel so alone in their feelings towards their skin. I want to make people happy.
I want to be that ray of sunshine that brightens
up their day. I want people to look at me and not
feel so alone in their feelings towards their skin.
I want to make people happy.
As you advocate for body acceptance, what are the main obstacles you face when doing this on social media?
As a fat person, you’ll find there are always a myriad of people (usually faceless spam accounts who feel the need to hide) who want to make you feel awful about yourself. There are people that believe you shouldn’t exist. People that feel inclined to let you know you’ll be dead before you’re thirty. People that scream at you for promoting obesity (sorry, I didn’t know I was a walking, talking advertisement!). And people who are hell bent on making you feel like the gluttonous pig they believe you to be. Posting a photo of myself smiling with a caption that even hints at being appreciative of my plus-size body invites a hoard of these hateful strangers to attack like hungry dogs. At first, this was my worst nightmare. I remembered each and every comment. Filed them away in my brain so I could nit-pick them whenever I felt bad about myself. Now, they’re just bothersome. Sometimes they hurt because a fat body, healthy or not, has every right to exist as a thin body (again, healthy or not) — some people just refuse to acknowledge this.
As you focus on body acceptance, how is this different to promoting self love?
Self love can be wonderful. Getting to a point in your life where you actively adore the skin you exist in is the dream, right? But it can also be toxic. Putting that much pressure on yourself to adore every freckle, lump, bump, and roll can be a death sentence. Accepting your body, I believe, is the first step to living in harmony with yourself. The point is, you don’t have to love every last inch of yourself. It’s not realistic. What you should do, if able, is accept the fact that this is your body. It has kept you alive your entire life. It has allowed you to inhale wonderful smells and see honey-coated sunsets, and hug your favourite person. It is you. You don’t have to adore it to be kind to it.
The point is, you don’t have to love every
last inch of yourself. It’s not realistic.
What you should do, if able, is accept the fact
that this is your body. It has kept you alive
your entire life. It has allowed you to inhale
wonderful smells and see honey-coated
sunsets, and hug your favourite person.
We chatted a bit about toxic positivity, what tips would you give to people to avoid getting drawn into toxic online trends?
Toxic positivity is everywhere and is often celebrated by well-meaning people trying to cheer others up. The good intention is there but when it’s constantly shoved into our faces, it can be hard to ignore. It’s the constant smiling, the rose-tinted Instagram lifestyle, the loving your body even when you don’t. It’s harmful not only to yourself but to those around you who, upon believing how positive you are, might be afraid to show the fact that they’re struggling. Toxic trends are the exact same. You have socially accepted bodies manipulating their skin by sitting in bizarre positions to create a couple of thin rolls on their stomach, captioning the photo ‘all bodies are good bodies!!!’. There’s the dreaded before and after diet pictures that tell your fat friends that their body is nothing more than something to be changed. There’s a whole host of well-meaning toxicity out there. My biggest tip is not being afraid to unfollow or mute. The online space you create is your space. If a friend or a mutual follower posts something that makes you uncomfortable or invokes harmful thoughts, it is your prerogative to remove that toxicity from your life. If you don’t want to unfollow them and create a rift, the mute button works wonders. Another way to avoid being sucked into toxic trends is to avoid taking part. They can be harmful, often focused around beauty or changing the way you look or fast-fashion. You don’t always have to do what everyone else is doing. If you think it might negatively affect your body image or mental health, drive a nail into that coffin and move on.
Do you think that online communities are more positive than they are negative?
Absolutely. Finding your community, a group of likeminded people, is so beneficial. I have made a plethora of friends from Instagram — people that look like me and feel like I have felt and understand the struggle of high street shopping or fear of eating in front of others. Everybody needs support and while some parts of a community can be harmful (like the constant competition that some people feel necessary), being part of a niche and developing long lasting relationships with people like you is never not a good thing.
Are there any positive role models you recommend following?
Oh gosh, how much time do you have? @curvynyome is a must-follow – she helped to change Instagram’s policy on censoring nudity and is an absolute powerhouse of a human. There is also the phenomenal @felicityhayward who is a self-love queen without spreading toxic positivity. And for a diverse selection, there are great accounts like @nonairbrushedme who advocate and show off real, unedited beauty of every size and ethnicity and @theconfidencecorner who create a safe space for plus-size women to feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Surrounding yourself with pages like this helps combat internalised fatphobia (something you might not even realise you have!) and accept yourself by seeing others who look like you and exist happily.
What is one piece of advice you would give to those starting their body acceptance journey?
Take your time. Nothing will happen overnight. You’re changing a whole perception of yourself and that takes time and is difficult. Unlearning all the negativity that society has hammered into you over the years is never going to be easy. But it is possible. Take it one day at a time — one step at a time, even — and remember that whatever stage you’re at, you’re still worthy and deserving, good and loved.
Take it one day at a time — one step at
a time, even — and remember that
whatever stage you’re at, you’re still
worthy and deserving, good and loved.
How do you deal with down days? Is there something you do that helps you to feel more like yourself?
Down days have always scared me because they’re inevitable. Body acceptance and self-love is never the end goal, it’s an ongoing journey because of these down days. Allowing yourself to have them is always a good start. Don’t force yourself to be positive and happy when you don’t want to be. If you wake up and feel horrible in your skin, that’s okay. Just remember to be kind to yourself. Nurture your body. Make a cup of tea. Watch your favourite movie. Remember that all feelings are temporary and soon shall pass.
What would you like to see your platform achieve in the future?
I’ve never been about the whole influencer lifestyle kind of thing — having a high number of followers or likes doesn’t matter to me because I’m there to help and grow and nurture, not to become some product-sharing, discount-giving influencing machine. I’d like to think that as long as I am creating content that I and those who follow me on this journey love then I’m heading in the right direction. I’ll only do things that make me happy and right now running @je.ssicas makes me happy and that’s all I can hope for in the future.
As a plus-size woman do you feel that social media is helpful in increasing diversity of what other women see online?
One million and one percent! Media in print can be so stagnant when it comes to beauty ideals. They still believe that thin, soft, long, flaxen haired women are the only standard of beauty that is acceptable. Then, you venture online and there is a world of women from every walk of life, every ethnicity, every size, and every shape and it is wonderful to see so many people celebrating themselves and existing for themselves and not letting any time-tired stereotype or societal ideal hold them down. I wish I had a place to go to when I was 12 and felt like I was the only fat kid in my whole school. I wish I had a community like I do on Instagram where I can go and see that, actually, I’m not alone and I’m not bad and I don’t need to change who I am.
Do you think that brands are improving their inclusivity as much as they should be?
Not at all. There is a lot of work to be done in the fashion industry when it comes to being inclusive. I’m a size 24, the lower end of plus-size, and I cannot shop in the high street. Not one shop in my town stocks a curve section. And online is not much better. While most online retailers now have some sort of size-extended range — it’s not good enough. Either the pieces will be awful, made to hide rather than show off, with old-age floral materials and frumpy waist lines, or they’ll only stock up to a size 26, clearly forgetting that there are bigger people out there who would also like to wear nice clothes and feel both pretty and happy in them. Bigger people are excluded because these global brands don’t want a fat body associated with their image and it hurts.
What brands do you think are successful in creating inclusive campaigns?
There’s a few! Snag Tights (who have just started stocking clothes, eek!) are phenomenal when it comes to being size inclusive in every aspect. Their tights are, I’m sure, personally made by the angels themselves. Yours Clothing are also beginning to branch into the fashionable side of plus-size clothing, veering away from the navy florals and knee-length dresses and instead experimenting with exciting and pretty clothes that everybody would want to wear!
What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
Hating yourself won’t make your body disappear. It won’t change you in any way other than the way you regard yourself. Mini-Jess, you’re not worthless because you’re bigger. You’re not unlovable (I promise you!). And you will live beyond the age of 21. It’ll be a shock and it’ll be scary but there’s a whole world out there and it’s not going to stop spinning just because you don’t like your body. You are good, I swear it.
As you’ve worked with brands on Instagram, who would you like to work with in the future?
Ooooh, can I say all of them? After seeing @jessontheplussize’s recent range with In The Style, it’s become a dream to do the same. To help design pretty, size-inclusive clothes that I could wear and not feel like a frumpy woman in, would be… ugh… amazing.
What is your proudest moment?
Last year, just before the pandemic hit, I ventured into Central London and stripped down to my underwear for a photoshoot. We were right in front of Tower Bridge and there were SO many people watching. It was terrifying, cold, and liberating. Sure, we had the odd creepy man and honking car, but we also had women watching us with tears streaming down their faces and one who shoved her shopping bags into the arms of her reluctant husband and stripped down with us! I’ll never forget that feeling, of actually existing loudly and proudly and not caring who saw or what they thought. I felt totally infinite in that moment. It’s something I’ll look back on when I’m wrinkly and grey-haired and chuckle about.
Who is your favourite/most inspiring body positive online personality?
Though not strictly a body positive personality, I will never not harp on about Lizzo. Seeing a fat Black woman in the spotlight doing what she does without changing how she looks is world-changing for so many. A total role model. I wish I had someone famous to look up to that looked like me when I was younger. Body-positive lyrics, banging beats, and beauty never-ending. Absolutely iconic.