Women Supporting Women – Tess Holliday
In this edition of Women Supporting Women we bring you Tess Holliday. 2015 was an amazing year for Tess! She broke ground by being the first plus size model to be signed by straight sized modeling agency, snagged the cover of People Magazine, was featured by H&M, had a collection with Addition Elle and has now partnered with revitalizing the mblm brand, a line from Penningtons! The brain behind #effyourbeautystandards was recently named one of the 30 Most Influential People on the Internet by none other than the TIME. She is engaged to the love of her life, Nick Holliday and the pair will be welcoming their first child together in a few short months! We weren’t kidding when we said she’s had an amazing year!
The ladies of Fab Four Fashion caught up with Tess in downtown Toronto at the ultra stylish Thompson Hotel for the launch of her collection with the mblm brand!
The rest of the interview is transcribed below.
Fab Four Fashion (FFF):
So Tess, as you know we’re a bit obsessed with you right now. So we’re so excited for this event and thank you very much for taking the time to sit with us. We wanted to barrage you with questions, but we figured we’d narrow it down to four. I wanted to start by asking you: what motivated you to want to do this collaboration with mblm Penningtons?
Tess Holliday (TH):
To be honest, I had a lot of brands approach me, in the UK, in the States and they were the only brand in Canada. I wasn’t 100% familiar with them but when I looked at them, I felt like they’re a very established brand. They have been around forever and they were well respected. But the brand just needed a little revitalizing. They gave me the option to have 100% control. So I was like: ‘Wait, I get to say big girls don’t want to wear that or we want to see this?’ What people don’t know is that this is a year-long collaboration. So there’s a collection that comes out each month for a year so there’s literally 10 to 15 pieces that come out each month until next February. So I’m really excited; I feel like it was too good of an offer. I love Canadians and I love poutine LOL. It just felt right and I know I made the right decision.
Of course we want to know what is your favorite piece in the collection?
Because it’s a year-long collaboration, you guys haven’t even seen like half of what we’re sending out. There’s actually a dress in the holiday collection that is sheer all the way down with velour flowers. It’s really sexy. There’s a high slit so it’s really sexy. It’s coming up in the holidays and I would say that it’s my favorite. The dress that I’m wearing is also one of my favorites because it has a nice fabric; it feels really nice and it’s so soft! I was telling people “Touch me it’s so soft! Not me the dress!” The dress is so comfortable and I just like the whole collection in general you don’t need to wear Shape wear you just throw it on and it’s effortless and I’m hoping that it appeals to people. Fingers crossed!
We see that Penningtons is collaborating with a lot of plus size girls like Melissa McCartney. What do you think of Hollywood and its representation of plus size women and the roles that are given to them?
Unfortunately, the representation of plus size women is not that diverse as you guys are aware, especially in the modeling industry but as well as Hollywood. I feel like all the heavy hitters in Hollywood that are plus size are predominantly African-American – which is amazing. Seeing Gabourey Sidibe on the cover of V or my friend Gabby on the cover of Ebony. That cover! I was literally dying! I’m sure that if I was proud, I don’t even know how you guys were feeling! So to see that kind of stuff it’s really like, wow maybe they’re finally listening! But then you see stuff like the Oscars and you’re like maybe they’re not… I feel like it has a long way to go it’s very frustrating because I know, as a white woman in the modeling industry. I also thank the people who came before me but unfortunately we’re not seeing much of that. So what I want is just more diversity for body types and races. So I feel like we’re getting there. Though I feel like we take five step forwards and another 100 steps back. But people are so go go go about wanting to see change, just like with you guys, and we’ll get there. It’s just lacking right now but we will get there. I mean literally I feel like this month is like the month for women of color in multimedia. It’s really empowering right now!
My question kind of touches on what Judy was saying. You created this amazing hashtag called #EffYourBeautyStandards, which gives everyday women an opportunity to be featured on your Eff Your Beauty Standards instagram page. But I’m sure you’ve seen it too that there’s been some horrible horrible pictures that have been also tagged by that hashtag. So I’m just wondering, given your notoriety as well as Gabby Gregg aka Gabby Fresh and some others, do you feel like body discrimination is still prevalent or do you feel like you and Gabby have been making some inroads?
I do think that there are a ton of women who were definitely making strides in the body positive community; however, I was just telling somebody earlier because they were asking, do I feel like fat phobia and body phobia will ever go away? I said unfortunately I don’t think so. Not anytime soon because unless we can completely reshape the world and the mainstream media and how people have literally been programmed and raised, it’s going to be there. But I feel like it’s great for people that are vocal, basically if it’s going to happen as long as we’re there saying “this is unacceptable and I don’t like the way this makes me feel and this is why”. And I can already see it with companies. They are forced to listen to us and things are changing. It’s just that it’s taking a lot of time. I think we’ll get there. It’s just very frustrating to see, even with the hashtag. I’ve been responsible for shutting down several fat shaming websites but it’s kind of like the Medusa: you cut a head off and another one comes back – there’s five more so… And I’m feeling on it too. Today on Twitter people were saying how disgusting I was and that my blood type is pudding. I was like, do you have pudding? Who has pudding?
How do you respond to these personal attacks?
Sometimes, I respond to them because I think it’s funny, I think its funny that I poke them. But then Nate, my partner, told me recently “You have to stop. it’s OK every now and then but if you’re giving them your energy and your essence then it’s too much”. I’ll never forget Gabourey Sidibe, the clap back that she made to someone making fun of her and her size and she was like “I’m most definitely going to be crying about this on my private jet to my dream job!”. That stuff is important because you’re telling people, you may feel that way but it’s unacceptable.
So listen! For me, as a mom, and I’m literally about to put an S on your chest because you’re expecting – congratulations! You already have a little one and 2015 was insane! Cover of Peoples magazine. H&M collaboration. Additionelle collaboration. Meredith Vieira interview. Now Pennington. How do you do it? How do you make it work? It’s so crazy!
You’ve done your research! I’m really fortunate to have a great relationship with the father of my child so he helps watch my son a lot. My partner moved from Australia last year, he helps and I’ve moved my mom with us and she helps out. So we have a very much full house! But I couldn’t do it all without the their help and obviously the motivation. I know that I have to help care for them and this is something I love doing. Even though I have my down time – I was feeling pretty shitty just a week ago and now I’m sitting here with you guys! And I’m like: “how do you hate what you do?” And plus, my son seeing me. It’s hard to be away from him, but I’ve been able to take him to Australia, I’ve been able to take trips with him. He is seeing me work hard. I can’t help but think that, like, one day, he’s going to see that you came from nothing. And now you’re here! You know what I mean? I don’t resent people that come from privileged background but I did it and I know how rewarding it is to find your way and make it.
It’s one of those things where, through all the sacrifices that you make, I’m sure your son sees you as a role model because you’re going for it. You’re chasing your dreams and you’re going for it! We’re so happy that you took the time to sit with us!
The mblm is now available at Penningtson stores and online!
Tah Tah for now,
The Fab Four