Founder Laura Jane Kenny interviews model and stylist Jarae Holieway on her changing relationship with her body, fashion and social media fame.
Laura Jane: Tell us about the history of your relationship with your body.
Jarae: I’ve always been very hard on my self. I’ve been the person that is on crash diet and is always working out. Even when I lost 20 pounds, I still saw myself as big.I think a lot of people who grow up constantly thinking about their own weight alway see themselves as a heavier person. I think it’s something we’ve conditioned ourselves into thinking. I was just constantly beating myself up over and over.
I felt pretty good about myself when I was at my lightest weight, which for me was 160 pounds. But, I still thought I was overweight. I look back at pictures and it blows my mind to think that I thought I was overweight or fat. It’s crazy to me how I viewed myself. I was actually really fit but I had this vision of myself that was completely opposite.
Within the last five years, I’ve been on my journey of self love and discovery. I’m really just trying to dig down deep, past my exterior and discover who I am and be the beauty within me without my outer shell. That whole process has been full of ups and downs.
LJ: When did how you view your body start to change?
J: Honestly, it’s been within the last year. Right now, I feel the happiest and the most positive I’ve ever been — which is crazy for me because I’m also at my heaviest weight. It’s weird but I’m so happy. I couldn’t image being so hard on myself and my body now. I mean, it’s something that you’re in for the rest of your life — why would you be so hard on it?
LJ: What do you think allowed that to happen?
J: It’s a little bit of two things. I think the first thing is that even though I was lighter at a certain point and I was working out, I wasn’t happy because the number one thing that was always on my mind was that I needed to loose weight. So much of my life, I was so unhappy. I didn’t want to eat certain things or go to the beach because I didn’t think I was thin enough to be in a bathing suit. And now, I’m not being so crazy hard on myself because I’m not thinking about why I’m eating ice cream. I just eat it. And I think, I’m suppose to have all the things I have right now. I’m suppose to have big womanly thighs. And even if I have a little extra, who care?
Secondly, I think that as you get older, you start caring less about what other people think. I was done living my life that way and I was done being ashamed of my body. I just want to live and I don’t want to worry about anything. I just want to be happy and I can find happiness in whatever shape or weight I’m at. That sounds good to me.
LJ: How has clothing played a role?
J: It used to be a problem for me. I didn’t ever wear a tank top until I was in college. I never wore shorts. But as I started getting older and was getting into fashion and realized that this is the industry I want to work in, I realized that this is my body type and I have to figure out how to wear clothes to flatter my body. I can’t tell you how many pairs of jeans I kept in my closet as “skinny jeans” for when I lost 20 pounds. And I would never do it. Now, I think ‘this is where I’m at right now’ and I’m going to buy clothes for that. I can still work on my body but I’m going to flaunt where I’m at and embrace what I have.
I started to figure out how to dress my body appropriately, according to my proportions and my figure. Now I’ll wear shorts. I’ll wear a tank top. I know it looks good on me regardless of what size I am.
LJ: Okay, tell me about social media. You have a huge following and a lot of engagement— what’s that like?
J: Social media has made it very easy for me to be confident with who I am and be okay with my body because so many women are being role models for girls like myself. If other women are confident with themselves and with their bodies, it can encourage more women to accept their own bodies.
I think women have so much impact on other women. I feel like this whole body positive movement has been a huge, huge product of that. Personally, it has made me feel comfortable being myself and flaunting what I have and not being afraid. I feel like I have a bunch of other women to back me up and I can back them up. As crazy as it sounds, because the internet isn’t a safe place, it’s a safe place for me because I see all these other people on social media doing their own thing.
I’ve been so active with my social media within the last two years, it’s really cool to see when I’ve posted a picture of myself on Instagram and people comment on it and say I inspired them or that I motivate them or make them feel like they can be confident. It makes me feel really good to hear that I’m motivating them to just be okay to flaunt what they’ve got. It’s super cool.
I feel like in a sense, my followers and my viewers only see the side of me that is confident and my body-pos but they don’t know how I am on my days off where I’m not feeling myself and not confident or when I dwell on thing in the past and on self-hates. But when I see things on social media that say ‘You inspire me’ it reminds me that I’m doing something good and people are responding to it and making their own magic with it.
LJ: Tell me about dating.
J: Growing up, I always thought guys like skinny girls. I thought this up until three years ago when I realized that that’s not true. Guys are guys. They like women’s bodies. And all guys are different.
I think a lot of what did play a role in my self-image, especially in high school and college, was my desire to be fit. I wanted to wear a bikini so boys would like me. But right now, being at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been, it’s clearly not a problem. I don’t think negatively about myself and I don’t think men see me that way. Men are vocal about my body in a good way. It’s crazy to think that I thought a certain way for so long and that wasn’t even the issue. And me being heavier and having thicker thighs and a big butt is a cool thing and a good thing. I would never trade it for anything.
I just want to live and I don’t want to worry about anything. I just want to be happy and I can find happiness in whatever shape or weight I’m at. That sounds good to me.
LJ: How does being an African American women play a part in all of this?
J: There is a stereotypes that you tend to get with being a black women and having a big butt. I’m totally embracing it and am stoked on it right now. But five years ago, I thought it was an unloved thing. I didn’t see it as beautiful up until recently.
LJ: What else?
J: As I’m getting older and as I start to grow into my womanly form, I’m getting more and more excited about being a women. I see pictures of women of the Renaissance Era and they are full figured and they are soft and that’s what I see when I look into the mirror. I think it makes me excited even more so because we’re taking things back that were taking away from us like our sexuality. I would walk around naked if I could. In the last six months, I’ve been a lot more comfortable posing nude. I did one installation where I stood in a box naked in front of thousands of people and I’ve model nude for a recent photo shoot. It’s really empowering.
So many women are feeling really good about themselves and where things are going and I am super stoked about getting in on this. I feel like other women are proud more than ever to be female. As a community, we’ve accomplished so much.
This interview has been edited and condensed.