The Fatkini and Me: How a Viral Moment Helped Me Find Confidence After a Lifetime of Covering Up

Body Language is an essay series that speaks to the ongoing conversation about beauty standards around the world—an exploration of where we came from and where we’re headed. 

It’s unclear when I started to hate my body. As a first generation Ugandan-Canadian immigrant, growing up in white suburbia, I always felt like I stuck out. I hated taking up space, I hated friends pointing out my “weird and fuzzy” hair, I hated the width and girth of my hips and butt. I was horrified by my body.

As an awkward teenager, I begged my mom to buy the outfits that would help me fit in. I desperately wanted low-rise jeans and crop tops. Because I was rounder than the celebrity icons of the moment ( think Christina or Lindsay), my few attempts at dressing like them failed miserably. I was resigned to a hodgepodge of branded sale hoodies and discounted board short, and distinctly not-low-rise jeans. In my head, I spun it as a tribute to O.C. California style. In reality, it felt like I would always have to compromise my style to accommodate my body—a deeply lonely feeling at an awkward time.

Eventually, I discovered an online community of similarly fashion obsessed companions. I started blogging under the moniker Style is Style on Blogspot and a now-defunct website called Chictopia. I frequented the Flickr comment sections and felt a kinship with other fashion loving folks. It was an unpaid hobby at the time, not the multimillion dollar creator economy it is now. I wasn’t alone! We were learning how to insert ourselves into a fantasy, into an industry that ignored fat folks.

While I had found my place online, there were still real-life hurdles I had to overcome. Namely anything involving swimwear. Everything I’d read was that people like me were meant to wear black one pieces and sarongs on the beach. The main goal: hide, cover up, distract, and disappear. In 2012, everything changed with the Fatkini. More specifically, Gabi Gregg’s fatkini. Gabi Gregg, a curve content creator who had a similar-ish body type to me and a penchant for bright colors and patterns that were hard to find in our sizing. After a weekend trip to Vegas in April 2012, Gregg posted a killer pool photo that nearly broke the internet. Gabi exemplified something I hadn’t fully realized: Standing by the pool in a vibrant black and white chevron printed suit, she was showing us fellow plus sized folks that the world won’t stop when you put on the two piece.

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