Body positivity is a movement near and dear to our hearts here at Ravishly. We only get one body, so we might as well love and respect all it does for us, amirite? Because of this, we were elated to witness Rachel Taylor stand up for herself via Facebook when she was size-shamed. Taylor, as you may know, was shopping at Old Navy recently when she heard a mother and daughter laugh over the size of a hanging tank top. The tank, as fate would have it, was just Taylor's size. Taylor snapped a pic of herself in said tank — looking fabulous, obvi — then shared it to Facebook with a body acceptance message. Naturally, the Internet blew it up and Taylor's message was shared for all the world to see.
Given Taylor's impressive bravery and pride, we had to pick this lady's brain regarding social media, body positivity, and her inspirations behind it all.
1. Will you briefly describe the journey from an Old Navy shopper to an Internet, not to mention body-positive, sensation for our readers?
I never imagined (or wanted) my photo to receive such attention and speculation, but I'm honored and grateful to have encouraged so many people and to have made many new friends. I’ve received thousands of messages and comments from men and women who struggle with their self-image, as well as horrible messages calling me names or telling me to kill myself. This has been the craziest week of my life!
2. Please tell us about your photography business. How did it come to be?
I’ve been taking pictures as long as I can remember. I decided to start my own business in 2011. My friends modeled for me and I gave them embarrassingly bad photos in return. Fortunately, I’ve grown in both my art and my business since then; I’ve been privileged to photograph weddings and families from Louisiana to Alabama.
3. Many people condemn social media for various reasons — such as encouraging narcissism in some while evoking depression in others. How do you think we can utilize social media in a positive way for our culture?
If you don’t recognize that most of what we share online presents an idealized version of our lives, social media can be dangerous for your self-esteem. This behavior has become so expected that when we share something negative, we’re called "whiny" or "ungrateful." The only way we can truly connect with each other is to share a truthful picture of our lives, not just the highlight reel.
4. What does body-positive mean for you? Has this idea changed over time?
Body positivity isn’t embracing an unhealthy lifestyle or denying the importance of health; it’s about not judging or making assumptions about someone based on the way they look. It’s about realizing that we’re all flawed, but also knowing that your flaws don’t define you. You should love and take care of your body because you love it, not because you hate it. I used to believe that only overweight women struggled with their self-image, but that’s not true. The media shows that being too skinny means you’re not a “real” man or woman, that being too dark or too pale is not attractive, and that your body has to reflect the perfect amount of femininity or masculinity for your gender. No two people are going to agree on what the “perfect” body is, so why do we hold ourselves to a standard that doesn’t exist?
5. What women inspire you?
So many! J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Sheryl Sandberg, Kari Jobe, Barbara Walters, Tess Holliday, Tyra Banks, Taylor Swift, Tina Fey, Zooey Deschanel, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, and Jennifer Lawrence to name a few.
6. How does the notion of feminism play into your life? Does it affect your body-positive stance?
Being raised by a hard-working single mother, I’ve been a feminist my entire life. Society dictates that men are valuable because of their success and women are valuable because of their beauty, creating unhealthy expectations for both genders. However, our value comes from our character alone; character is independent of gender.
7. We have to ask, how have your family and friends responded to all the media hype?
My friends and family, especially my mom, are extremely supportive and have taken it upon themselves to combat some of the cyber bullies. I'm blessed to have them.
8. Folks are applauding you all across the nation, and it must feel incredible! If you could go back to that moment when you felt sad at Old Navy and tell the other shoppers something, what would you say?
If I could go back to that moment, I would have completely ignored the comment and continued my shopping. I don’t think the girl or her mother meant to be malicious or even rude, and calling them out on their comments would have been classless.
9. What book (or books) are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Selection series by Kiera Cass, The Photographer’s MBA by Sal Cincotta, and the CLEP test book for economics. Cheap and easy college credits for the win!