Saucye West: Fat Persistence is Resistance
This piece is sponsored by Friend of Marilyn whose generous gift on Kickstarter directly supported this creator.
Saucye West. The mere mention of her name makes our eyes light up. She is our heroine. She is our muse. She is our advocate. She is a pioneer. She is an impeccably stylish model in love with the world of fashion who enjoys being surrounded by all things beautiful and luxurious. She’s an inspiring light for so many of us in the plus-size community and beyond.
These amazing attributes aside, if you’re an avid follower of Saucye, you realize that you can’t separate her fashion influencer and model status from her passion for activism, especially her fight for fat folx, for black (often specifically dark-skinned) folx, and all potential intersections that may occur among these marginalized groups. This is who she is and who she has been for many years.
This is especially true with her ongoing campaign, #fightforinclusivity. She’s drawn a line in the sand in hopes that fashion designers, manufacturers, and retailers who claim true inclusivity, would actually cross that line with action and make quality clothing for sizes larger than 3X and beyond 6X. She believes that superfats and infinifats deserve to have the same options as all others represented in the Fatness Spectrum (created by @fatlip.ash). This is true inclusivity. Some companies are finally waking up and getting on board, thanks to Saucye’s labor.
We were thankful for the recent opportunity to speak with Saucye and to check in with her. We also discussed her daily fight for inclusivity, its intersection with blackness, the ever present effect of the white gaze, white supremacy, and what all of this means moving forward for superfats, infinifats, and plus-sized fashion in general.
Angel Austin: As is evident in recent posts, it’s been a rough few weeks (to say the least). I know you get this question a lot, but all of us who love and support you want to know: How are you doing?
Saucye West: I am doing ok. I’ve just been exhausted by trying to balance everything, but I have taken the time I need and plan to be consistent with posting and educating. This is a labor of love. Fat community means everything to me, so if I am able to help, even a little bit, I will have done my due diligence.
AA: Where are you in the evolution of Saucye West? Who are you now that you were not even five years ago?
SW: I know my worth now. I used to think that I was not worthy of sitting at the same table as some of my peers, but now I know that I have the knowledge and the experience to do great things, as well. I know now that my ideas can come to light. I am also stronger than I was. I was strong before, but when my mom passed away, I had to channel a whole different level of strength. Five years ago, I spoke quietly. I feared what people would say, so I filtered myself. I made everything really pretty in terms of how I felt about the treatment of fat people. I wanted to have a seat at the table, so I sacrificed so much, just to be seen. I am very different now!
AA: How has the social climate of the last two years (and beyond) informed your activism?
SW: I think that the social climate of the last two years has definitely made my activism more necessary. I think that the things that I always wanted to do within the community were so much more urgent, so I started being louder. I stopped muting myself, no matter how uncomfortable it made people. I had to say what was on my mind.
AA: How would you describe the importance of fashion in relation to fatness now vs. when you started?
SW: I think that fashion is absolutely necessary in terms of fatness. I feel like at this time, we are finally demanding to be what we want to be in our fat bodies. For so long, we have just settled for what the industry has given us. We have settled for the boundaries that this industry has placed on our bodies; boundaries inherently influenced by what is socially acceptable for fat people. This has made it increasingly difficult for us to really have an identity. It has made it so that we have been boxed in and not able to truly be free. Yes, we definitely have more options now, but we still don’t have the accessibility to everything that we should.
AA: Would you speak a bit about the racial origins of fat phobia and how race still plays such a huge role in how fatness is perceived both within and without the plus-size community?
SW: It is within this century that fatness has been demonized and seen as something that people are linking to everything that is wrong with our society. In the beginning, fatness was seen as a sign of wealth. We were painted and sculpted and seen as beautiful, sensual, and god-like. Now, fatness has been linked to poverty and low social status, and is automatically correlated with people of color (specifically black people). Within and without the community, fatness is seen as something we should be ashamed of. We are always made to feel like we need to shrink ourselves so that we will not get certain illnesses that are said to overwhelmingly affect black people (according to the medical industry). The stigma that is placed on fat black folx is so much more than any other race and the internal and external fat phobia within the black community is something that also adversely affects us fat, black people. It happens within our families, our relationships, our friendships, and especially in the (yes, you guessed it) medical industry.
AA: Would you talk about the difficulty of creating your own lane as a fat, black femme model and influencer when there are so few who are very well known, comparatively speaking?
SW: The difficulty of creating my own lane has come from not changing myself. I made it a point to be comfortable with saying how I felt. I began to put my activism first and made sure that my beliefs steered the type of work that I did. I began to turn down work that did not align with my activism. These things made it hard for me because I wasn’t a “yes” woman. I couldn’t just walk into a space and not be me. So, I think that is what made this road hard for me. If I would have just complied, I think things would have been a lot easier. I’m fine with taking this road, though. I can actually sleep at night
AA: How have you dealt with/overcome white supremacy in fashion and as an influencer?
SW: It is still very hard for me to deal with white supremacy. Everyday, I have to come face to face with something. Whether it is with an influencer or a brand, I have to prove myself worthy of being in this industry. It all goes back to me not being quiet about what I believe in, and as we all know, fat phobia and anti-fatness are rooted in racism. I also have to deal with the issue of colorism (proximity to whiteness) and being palatable within my own community. It can be taxing, but I know that at this point, I need to continue on for those out there that think that it is not possible to do these things as a marginalized person. We just have to keep on calling out the oppressive crap and keep making strides toward inclusivity in this industry
AA: What advice would you give up and coming fat black influencers?
SW: The advice I always give is to be thoughtful about your moves. At the end of the day, your social media can be seen as a working resume. Invest in your brand and know that these investments don’t have to cost a lot. It could be as easy as getting a tripod and a good editing app. I tell people that your pictures should be publishable; anything you post should be able to be in a blog or magazine. You never know who is watching. That is how I got noticed. Also, don’t be afraid of being fat and black. We are so amazing, worthy, and valid, and we should never forget that.
AA: We want you here forever, but if you were gone tomorrow, what do you want your followers to say about you? What do you perceive as the lasting legacy you will leave for your daughter and all of us who have been greatly impacted by your existence?
SW: That I was always myself and that I always fought for the community. Everything that I did was because I wanted to make sure that my daughter would not have to deal with the struggles that I had to.
We are full of gratitude for Saucye for being all that she is. She’s so much more than her activism and fashion model status. That said, where would we be without her passion for fairness and inclusivity? Her work is affecting real, measurable change; the kind of change that is long overdue for this community. We all have a role to play and are so fortunate to have the incomparable Saucye West, leading the way.