Growing up in the 80’s, I felt like I was taught to hate myself and be ashamed of my body. This is largely thanks to TV shows and women’s fashion magazines that idealize a very specific (read: skinny) body type. Around 2013, I discovered the “body positivity” movement through online spaces like LiveJournal, Tumblr, and Twitter. That discovery was pivotal to me, not only because of what I learned, but also because of who I met. Nearly a decade later, it was through these spaces that I met journalists, community builders, and newly minted authors. power of plus, Gianluca Russo. Through the depths of the internet, we found and bonded with each other as members of the plus-size community and as writers living through the evolution of social media body acceptance and fat activity.
By that point, brands like Dove and Aerie had decided to use models of all sizes and abilities in their advertising campaigns, and more and more TV shows were debuting featuring plus-size leads, including Tess Holliday. and models such as Ashley Graham graced the covers of magazines. mainstream fashion magazines. Fresh out of college, Russo was a relative newcomer to the media and fashion industry, but was always on the lookout for something and pushing the boundaries. project runway, sat front row at New York Fashion Week, landed a column on NYLON’s fatism, and inspired the fashion industry to have difficult conversations when it comes to plus-size bodies. While reporting on topics such as fat phobia at work and the lack of plus menswear, Russo has also built his own virtual community (co-founded by fellow journalist Shyamala Lawrence) to promote “the power of plus.” ‘ and has grown to over 15,000 of his to date.
But he wanted to go further. “After years of writing all these magazine articles, I knew I wanted to do something bigger,” he tells me on his Zoom. “[Something] It felt like a grander celebration celebrating all the women, men and people who have been able to create a movement so deep over the years. ” Russo clarified that his goal in his debut film. power of plusI lined up in the store today. power of plus Building on the conversations Russo has had so far, it explores the beginnings of the plus-size market, the ongoing anti-Blackness and diversity issues that are prevalent in communities and the fashion industry, and the sorely overlooked issue of plus-size men. Provides internal information about the category. etc. The book is written by some of the most prominent Change Her makers and community luminaries, including creative her consultant and writer Nicolette Mason, The Kirby Fashionista creator Marie Denny, writer and model Kendra Austin, and designer Christian Siriano. Read as a collection of stories told. .
Russo tells us power of plus This was also his way of celebrating not only the body positivity community in which he has deep roots, but also the fashion industry, which he truly believes can change for the better. Before that, Russo talks about writing the book from a place of radical transparency, his true feelings about the word “fat,” and his hopes for the future of plus-size fashion.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
In the preface to your book, you write: But change is still new. And the only way forward is to provide unfiltered transparency. Why do you think it’s important to provide such fundamental transparency?
I’ve seen that in our digital age, we often only offer a highlight reel of what we’ve been able to achieve, and that’s actually doing a disservice to the movement as a whole. I think we’re at a point where things have stalled for a while now. Until we can provide a certain level of transparency and nuance to these conversations, we can’t move forward. Because people simply don’t understand what’s going on. behind the scenes.If we’re just celebrating small victories here and there, what are we trying to promote? [against] Lack of change happening? The industry is still incredibly behind where it should be. How can we move forward from it without talking about it and analyzing it? What are you doing for future generations? What are we doing for the future of fashion? we are not really helping. I’m just putting a band-aid on the problem.
“A lot of the time we just provide a highlight reel of what we have achieved, and that does a lot of damage to the movement.”
What you did in the book, which I personally have never seen before, included a roundtable discussion with others in the industry. and how did you decide to include topics and individuals?
What I wanted to do was set up a larger section of the book with these overall conversations. All of these individuals are there to really discuss these topics with me. Looking at the book, I think he’s divided into three sections: the past, present, and future of plus-size fashion. For me, these roundtable conversations gave readers a sense of the state of the industry. I didn’t want to write a history book, and I didn’t want to write something that was just a social commentary. I wanted to write this piece of non-fiction. I think it helped break it down and show people, we’ve come a long way.
I think that is very important. In the “The Body Boom” chapter, I wrote about Old Navy’s decision to expand its size range. Just to pull a plus size later from some stores. As you point out, there is still a lot of work to be done. This push-and-pull excitement for expanded sizes and disappointment for pulls of those sizes shows that we’re not doing enough.
right? So that’s the problem! There are so many different layers and no one is responsible for any issues here. Conversation is very subtle. Old Navy is a great example of that, actually, because it was a brand that made a big impression and so many people knew and loved them. Still, they weren’t running the product. Why?But you know they’re pulling [expanded sizes out of stores] It is never painted like that. It would look like they’re giving up on the plus-size community, but I don’t see it that way. Ultimately, any business must realign its business to meet and match demand. I think that’s been really eye-opening for me too — seeing the inside of these previously inaccessible brands, even the brands that are presenting themselves as successful, that they’re all struggling I really understand what you’re doing. That’s why I think transparency is important. Because all these brands have a facade.They are [pointing to] numbers [like] “68% of American women [wear over a size 14]” Also “[the plus-size clothing market is worth] $24 billion” — but the reality is they say they can do it, but they struggle behind the scenes. “The racial diversity debate is fundamental to the body diversity debate.”
Plus made it a point to discuss issues of race and diversity in the fashion industry as well. Why do you think the fashion industry, and more specifically the Plus industry, is still struggling with this issue?
I think the conversation about racial diversity is fundamental to the conversation about physical diversity. I wanted to make sure it was built into every chapter, and make it clear that we’re building all these different lenses on diversity into every chapter. [But] I knew I needed to devote an entire chapter to anti-blackness and colorism, especially within the industry, for reasons that go back to the origins of plus-size fashion and body positivity, initiated by the fat activist movement in the 1960s. . This is a problem that has existed since the concept of body positivity. One of the biggest problems we see in the industry today is tokenization, anti-blackness and lack of diversity. There are so many nuances in the conversation that I didn’t want to put my own lens or perspective into it. [titled “The Racial Divide”] I am very guided by the voice within. From my own personal point of view, I didn’t want to offer my own social commentary, especially in the chapter on tokenization. Its chapters and conversations about race, size, gender, and how they all intersect are very important to every part of this movement. Diversity is at the heart of this conversation and movement.
I loved the way you talked about the word “fat” and the weaponization of that word. Talk about writing that chapter and your own relationship with the words.
Yeah, I think in the last few years we’ve seen the value of identity and how we perceive ourselves. I think this is especially true in the field of body diversity.What I’ve seen is that people have very different opinions about the word “thick” Also, the labeled and unlabeled methods are different.There’s a lot of anger attached to it, and there’s so much emotion around these words after years of ridicule and trauma. should be given [the label] They like being drawn to a lot of people, whether it’s “plus size,” “curvy,” or no label at all. [people] They don’t want to use the word ‘fat’ so they feel like they can’t be part of the community. [That said], when writing the chapter, I wanted to include my own personal experience. Of course, it’s a bit intertwined throughout the book. I wanted to show the reader how my perspective was shaped and changed by the people I met. I wanted to show them that by writing this book, my views on certain terms and on certain topics were changing and shaping.
“I know what’s at stake and what needs to be done. But having that knowledge makes me feel better prepared for the future.”
Your chapter “The Curse of the Token Curve Girl” shows readers just how toxic the fashion industry can be. What would you like people to take away from this book? What would you like people involved in the fashion industry to change?
At first? I hope they like it because it’s my favorite chapter. It is undeniable. I hope you feel that we have achieved a lot together. I want people to feel inspired. I want you to be proud of what we’ve come this far, but I also want you to feel hopeful for the future. We know what is at stake and what needs to be done. But having that knowledge will prepare you for the future.
I wanted to give these readers some knowledge of where this industry is and how the future can be reached using examples from the past. [legendary plus-size model] Aimé and the journey she carved out in the 1990s need not forget her work.We can honor her work and use the way she was able to attack the industry as a new action point in the future. [writing the book] — Looking from 1990 to 2020, “This is how it all fits in. This is one story, not a bunch of different stories. This is how we all contribute to the same story in our own way.” My ultimate hope is to see the special and unique ways people can make a difference, all of which contribute to our community’s goal of equality of scale. is to