There is never a “defining moment” on the journey of self-love. I didn’t see a poster on my therapist’s wall that said “you’re really pretty, just the way you are” and suddenly believe it. It has taken me years to look at myself in the mirror and fall in love with what I see. (Spoiler alert: I’m still working on it.) Mostly, it takes reenforcement from people like me, reminding me what this whole crazy journey is about.
Kim Selling’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” was one of those inspirations. Kim Selling is that inspiration. She has taught me so much about my body and how political and radical having positive body image can be. While I normally love to interject my own opinions and thoughts within interviews, everything Selling said to answer my questions are too important for me not to include. Below, you can watch her performance of the poem that changed my life and read the full transcript of the interview. I encourage you to let her seep into your heart and to let her strength guide you.
- Your poem “Fat Bottomed Girls” spread like wildfire through the net and it’s still getting passed around frequently via tumblr. How do you feel about its success, being that it’s personal, edgy, angry and part of what our society might deem as “radical” thinking?
Oh lordy, ‘radical’. Well, firstly, I never expected anything to happen at all. I wrote that piece alone and bitter-drunk at maybe 2am at a bar across the street from my shitty apartment. I had been talking about body image with a friend earlier that evening and I got real hyped up about it, because I was raised within a family founded on immensely fractured personal security, and everything is so complicated when it comes to developing separate types of confidence as an adult – and it’s especially difficult when you’re trying to communicate such complications to someone who is coming from a completely different perspective. And then I just regurgitated twenty-one years of violence onto a couple of cocktail napkins.
As far as success goes, I was mostly surprised by the overall reaction because so many people are deeply apathetic – or sometimes outright hateful – towards poetry. So, just from a format or delivery standpoint, I couldn’t believe that, like, 50,000+ people would spend three minutes of their day watching me talk about myself. That concept still feels so foreign to me. There were even two reddit threads dedicated to me for a while: one was kept alive by a bunch of people who obsessively loved the piece, and the other thread was a group of people who thought I was the spawn of something terrible for even suggesting that a fat queer woman be confident and comfortable and visible. Thankfully, both those threads have disappeared (I think), so now I only have to deal with dichotomous tumblr messages.
When it comes to the actual subject matter of the piece, I never intended to be shocking or radical or offensively political. I never intend to be radical, I just am. This isn’t a statement of character; it just so happens that many people cannot handle the things I say or how I look without proclaiming me deluded or sick or slutty or really anything perceived as shameful by the mainstream. Presenting or using a fat body in any manner that denotes power or love or enjoyment is such a crazy thing for some people, that I need only to leave my apartment and walk around to be considered radical sometimes. It’s absurd. My only intent for almost everything I do is basic and candid honesty: this is what my life is like, and don’t you ever try to erase or compromise my experiences.
But also, I am an angry person. I’m angry and tired and frustrated, and there are so many things I want to change, and it deeply worries me when other people aren’t angry because, I feel like, if you’re not enraged about certain deeply fucked up things, then you’re not paying attention. Or your level of privilege is so elevated that you don’t need to change anything. So when someone tries to tell me that I’m wrong, that my body is wrong, it doesn’t seem radical at all for me to do everything in my power to stand up and protect myself. It seems like the only natural reaction.
- “Fat Bottom Girls” was the first thing to teach me that living my life unapologetically was a political statement. Was there a pivotal moment in your life that highlighted this idea for you? Or, how were you inspired to see your art as political?
There was never a specific moment. Over time, I just decided that I was tired of being miserable, and that it was worth it to do exactly what I wanted because, either way, I was going to get negative, and often violent, feedback. Like they say, you can’t please everybody. And there’s no real point in trying to please anyone if you’re not happy with yourself first.
My family is full of strong women. I’ve always seen the actions of women, both public and private, as political. I think it just took me until high school to realize that I was a part of that group, and that I could affect change as well in my own way.
- Do you identify with specific communities or words? If so, what does that identification mean to you?
If I’m nutshelling, then I simply identify as a fat white queer woman – not always in that order, but you get the gist. With that being said, I am not aligned with everything that happens in fat or white or queer or female-identified communities. Delineating how you identify as an individual within a specific space can be a powerful moment, and it can also be terrifying, and I frequently take issue with certain treatments or prejudices I witness, especially within white queer and white female-identified spaces.
At the end of the day, the most important things to me are visibility, accountability, a candid attitude, and honest behavior. As long as I’m holding on to those four things, I feel secure in my identity.
- I’ve seen your badass OOTDs on Tumblr and your perfectly sassy Facebook statuses. I’m convinced you’ve got a super power of talent in every medium. What’s your favorite to make art and/or speak out on body politics?
I mean, sexting is probably my favorite medium, but it would take a hell of a lot of money to convince me to publish that oeuvre. Also, most of the dudes who send me badly lit pics are typically pretty terrible when it comes to discussing body politics, so that’s out (but they are really good at sending responses like ‘haha’ and various winky-faces).
I don’t know, honestly. In theory, something like Twitter would be best since I tend to coast on the brevity of pointless sentiments, but I hate Twitter, so that’s out. The only other social media outlets I’ve used that I’ve enjoyed are Facebook and Tumblr, but I would be deeply bummed if my life amounted to little more than collated printouts of my vaguely quippy Facebook statuses.
Talking to people is what comes easiest to me, more so than writing or music or styling or whatever else I do. It would be great if I could just be the Bob Ross of minimal thought on my own public cable access show, but that would probably turn out to be more like the Chris Farley Show, and everything would dissolve from there. I’ll stick to random social media outlets for now.
- What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on in the past year?
Without a doubt, my favorite projects have been the pieces I’ve written for Filmme Fatales, which is a publication about women in film edited by Brodie Lancaster (who happens to be one of my favorite radical fat ladies). My first piece focused on the stereotyping of fat women in popular films, and then I did an examination of J.Lo’s acting career (I just watched Selena and The Cell over and over again), and my most recent one centered on how certain women within David Lynch films practice self-care in order to cope with their daily realities. It’s the best. Not only do I get to write about topics I love, I also get to work with talented, beautiful women whom I deeply respect. Total dream gig.
- What can your fans expect from you in the next year?
Woof. Maybe financial security? I have no idea. I’m doing my best to not plan anything; 2014 has been super bizarre for me already, so I’m trying to keep my artistic options open. I would really love to get back to singing and making music with friends, but I say that all the time, and not much has materialized lately. So, maybe I’m just a lazy asshole.
I’m definitely going to keep writing for Filmme Fatales and whatever else strikes me. I continue to write poetry and other small pieces, but I’m not raring to attempt to get published or be featured anywhere. I work three-ish jobs, and I’m constantly distracted by Seattle social stuff, so it’ll be a miracle if I manage to organize even just my writing goals for this year. Or, actually, setting writing goals would be a miracle in itself.
- When you’re looking to inspire yourself, who do you turn to?
The people I love, every time. My sister, my friends, my incredible bosses – all of them keep me sane and challenge how I work, how I create, and how I see myself. As stimulating as the E.T.-one-finger Tumblr feed scroll is, my only real inspiration comes from spending time with people I know and care about, and learning more about them and myself. That sounds super Oxygen Channel, but it’s true.
Sometimes it also helps to go into a private music k-hole. If I spend a night flipping through my records and cleaning my apartment, I’m usually hit with some good ideas. It just takes like nine hours of industrial goth-gaze and a shit ton of Lemon Pledge to get my brain working.
- How do you feel about selfie culture?
It’s your camera, it’s your body — go buck; I don’t care. You’re not wasting my time by taking pictures of yourself. Most people are dangerously self-involved as it is (myself absolutely included), they might as well have some cute pictures to show for it. If anyone tries to shame me for taking selfies, I’ll just take more.
Visibility is such a huge thing for me, and since I don’t often see people who look and dress like me in major media outlets, I always feel the need to force my way in. If fat women aren’t getting legitimate and positive visual representation opportunities, then I’m going to photograph and record everything that I do and throw it out into the world. You think fat people are dumb and lazy and gross? Well, (first of all, fuck you, but also) here are a thousand pictures of my face and body looking good all over the internet. How do you like them apples.
What I really take issue with is the fact that many people and most media sources pinpoint teenage girls as this vast and rapidly spreading plague of selfie-taking, egotistical zombies, like the necrotizing fasciitis of the internet age. If taking pictures of yourself and posting them online reminds you that you are present and involved in your own life (and also your hair looks hella cute today), then take as many selfies as you want. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a generation of girls (or anyone else, for that matter) learning how to appreciate themselves within the public sphere.
- Do you have any predictions about the “next big thing” or movement in body politics?
In a perfect world, all political and social movements would be intersectional rather than racially/financially/physically/sexually divisive. I really just hope that more people start realizing how pointless body shaming is. As far as predictions go, I don’t want to sound like a buzzkill, but progress on a grand scale is slow and painful, so probably not much will change this year. Maybe NBC will finally cancel ‘The Biggest Loser’ and we can all take a victory sip.
- Are there any projects you’re working on now or have worked on recently that you’re especially proud of and want/need the world to know about?
One of my jobs right now is social media and website coordination for a new record label in Seattle called Help Yourself Records. It was started in 2013 by four close friends of mine, and has since done incredibly well – especially for a small, independent label in a huge music scene. I feel so fortunate to be involved with something I love, and I’m a huge fan of every band we’ve put out records with this past year. If I’m excited about the future of anything in this dumb town, it’s definitely Help Yourself (and you can visit us at helpyourselfrecords.com or on Facebook, obviously).