A great deal of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned about body image, body positivity, fatphobia, and body neutrality have come from Instagram. More specifically, they’ve come from influencers and various wellness experts who have shared about things like diet culture and body politics on social media. Over the years I’ve learned (and unlearned) the difference between body positivity and positive body image. Recently, I’ve begun to unpack exactly how racism is inherently intertwined with fatphobia, too.
As writer Charlotte Zoller expresses perfectly in a piece for Teen Vogue, “Fat Black people sit at the intersection of two discriminated against identities, and we're watching in real time the ways in which law enforcement and other institutions use this as an excuse to treat them as disposable.”
At its core, body positivity is “a social movement that centers marginalized bodies and emphasizes that all bodies are deserving of respect,” as trainer Lauren Leavell explained to me for another Byrdie article on the subject. Instagram, however, can often make it feel like the body positivity movement has been taken over by thin white women.
Still, true body positivity can be an incredibly impactful movement. It’s also a movement that we owe to Black women in many ways, in the same way that we have Black women to thank for plus size fashion, too. Because of that (and also because representation is important), we should all be making an effort to follow and promote Black influencers who promote the true meaning of body positivity in their content. From fashion bloggers to writers to fitness instructors, here are five Black influencers who will challenge and expand how you think about body positivity, body neutrality, fat acceptance, or all of the above.
Lauren Leavell is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer and Barre instructor who posts regularly about inclusive exercise and leads welcoming fitness classes (now, virtually) for all bodies. She talks often about how to break down and dismantle diet culture while still enjoying movement—something that is rare and powerful in the fitness world.
I’ve followed Stephanie Yeboah on Instagram for years, and have always been impressed with how she talks about fatphobia as it relates to all aspects of life, dating included. Whether you’re into fashion, want to learn more about fat acceptance, or are just looking to read some excellent writing, following Yeboah is a great idea.
A body confidence coach and wellness content creator, Tiffany Ima challenges followers to think differently about their bodies through her posts and writing. Want to train yourself to separate weight from confidence? To feel good about yourself no matter what a number on the scale says? Ima’s posts will help get you there.
Kellie Brown of It’s Me Kellie B posts about a lot more than just body positivity, and that’s kind of the point. Brown’s content is all things fashion, home decor, and inspiring aesthetics. And while everything she does (including her fashion line And I Get Dressed and her #FatAtFashionWeek series) celebrates the beauty and power of people living in larger bodies, it’s only one of the great things about following Kellie.
Arielle Estoria is a poet, writer, and content creator who aims to inspire. Not all of her content focuses on body positivity or acceptance, but all of it is powerful. Estoria’s posts are thoughtful, full of joy, and worth checking out the next time you need a little bit of light in your day or some encouragement to feel good in your body.
It’s important to note not all of the above influencers may identify with the body positivity movement that exists today. This in and of itself is why it’s that much more important to follow them and learn from them. Some of them may subscribe to body acceptance, body neutrality, or fat acceptance instead of body positivity. If you’re looking to feel better about your own body, dismantle diet culture for all, and, most importantly, push back against the systemic discrimination that people in truly marginalized bodies experience, then it’s important to understand all of these terms and movements. Following the above content creators and supporting their work may help with that. And while it’s not Black women’s job to teach the rest of us anything at all, it is the rest of our jobs to listen to them and amplify their voices consistently.