Lately, I’ve been fielding direct messages and comments on my Instagram insinuating that I’m a curve model. “You’re my favorite curvy influencer,” read one DM. “You should really have a bigger following for your work,” commented another, “my work” being the photos my friends take of me and not the public writing I do for a living. This kind, though misguided, commentary started taking place as I began increasingly posting photos of myself that revealed skin, shots in bathing suits, crop tops and shorts, over the last few months. Before then, my pictures showed me in t-shirts, long-sleeve tops and jeans, clothes that covered up all my jiggly body parts. There are a lot of reasons behind my recent interest in switching up my wardrobe and showing more carne — I moved to a city with a warmer climate, my income has increased and I wanted to glow up after a bad breakup — but the biggest motivation might actually be the very platform where I’m receiving all these messages: Instagram, or rather my community on the social network that has inspired me to embrace my figure as it is.
Social media, especially image-driven platforms like Instagram, aren’t always safe for women like me, those who are in recovery from an eating disorder. In the seven years that I’ve been using the app, I’ve noticed myself participating in some unhealthy behaviors, from following women I wish I looked like and obsessively comparing all of my flaws with their assets to perusing through fitness hashtags that I know could lead me back down a scary path of over-exercising. Because of this, over the years, I’ve taken a few breaks from social media and have done a whole lot of unfollowing accounts that make me feel bad about myself and my appearance. Not too long ago, I began replacing those accounts that made me aspire to look a certain way I couldn’t naturally with ones that inspired me to accept and flaunt my body as it is.
From body liberation pages like Nalgona Positive Pride, to fat acceptance writers like Virgie Tovar and Yesika Salgado to conscious curve models like Denise Bidot and Vanessa Romo, my Instagram feed was sending me messages that reified my morning affirmations and midday mantras: my body, in its natural state, is whole, is good, is beautiful. These digital notes were particularly helpful on days when I was already feeling good or indifferent about myself. But during the times when I was so deep in my body image funk, feeling like complete shit to the point that ignoring my ED’s begs to return to bad habits felt impossible, they weren’t as useful. If my parents telling me my entire life how beautiful I am didn’t prevent, or stop, me from harming myself into a figure I thought was acceptable, then messages, however nice the typography is, directed to a mass audience and created by someone who doesn’t know me, what I look like or what I’m struggling with definitely aren’t going to deter me from self-hate.
In those moments, I needed community — people who knew me, folks who understood what it’s like to fall asleep every night with tears of self-loath, friends who were honest with me, loved ones who cared about my best interests and well-being, femmes who saw me, all of me, and still genuinely thought that I was bomb af. You don’t get that with a meme floating around on Instagram, but I learned about two years ago that you can achieve that when you use the digital platform to build a real network of supportive and empowering girlfriends.
That’s my Instagram community: my mamis who celebrate my wins, whether they’re related to economics, career, relationships, mental health or miscellaneous goals like learning how to ignite a lighter, hold me when I’m broken and big me up just for being me on any given day. With their constant reminders to “fuck it up,” “get it” and “werk” or feel-good jokes that they are “dead,” having “palpitations” or don’t know how they’re going to “put out the fire” from my photos, they inspire me to buy more clothes that accentuate, not disguise, my figure, to pose for a camera with confidence, to believe, even if just for a few days, hours or minutes, that I, too, am beautiful, to embrace this body, this face, this struggle always — because it’s mine.
I’m not a curve model, but I am a curvy woman who has modeled her Instagram off of the love, affirmations and boldness of a beautiful community that holds me down day in and day out.