Body Confidence Roundtable: Kellye

6:22 AM

Hi guys!

So today I'm sharing a brand new feature with you called "Body Confidence Roundtable." I'll be sharing my conversations with real women--my friends, family, other bloggers--about their own triumphs and struggles with body confidence and self-image. I'm SO excited to share this with you!

My first interviewee is Kellye. Kellye is a dear friend of mine who I met in law school. She is single-handedly one of the most wonderful people I know, and I was so grateful that she agreed to be my first participant. When reading this, imagine that there is a LOT more laughter than portrayed along with some off-topic conversations about birds with downy feathers, boats, and national conventions. 

*Interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Carisa: I am with Kellye—

Kellye: Hi

C: Hi (laughter) And I just wanted to ask you some questions about body confidence and body image because I feel like it’s important that we have conversations around it with real people that we really know in real life. Because what I may know about body confidence may not be something that you know or something you know may be something I can gain insight from.

K: Sure. So I mean my story of body confidence is a little different. This is not the biggest I’ve ever been; actually this is the smallest I’ve ever been. I’ve lost about 100, 125 pounds from my heaviest. I was a “thickums” even more so. It’s an interesting journey because even though I’m not as big as I was, you have—the outside world doesn’t know that.

C: Yeah.

K: So what happens is you still get the same fat jokes as though you had never lost the weight, which is interesting. Another thing that I’ve experienced is how—what I have on my body is praised on others if they’re thinner—

C: Right.

K: --as opposed to accepting everybody as is. So it’s, you know, it’s unsettling and it hurts from time to time, but it’s one of those things where if you don’t love you nobody else will.

C: Yeah.

K: And it’s kinda like, I’m not at the point where I even love myself yet. I know how to dress myself because now I can fit things that I actually like to wear; but as far as you know truly loving me? That’s a process. I think it’s more of a method as opposed to just as the end all be all.

C: Yeah. So what is your method I guess to learn to love yourself and love the body that you’re in?

K: Knowing that it’s not going to change anytime soon.

K & C: (laughter)

K: Honestly, it’s not even this whole thing of “oh what do you do to love yourself?” You know, it’s not—you don’t go to the mountain top of fat people, “Oh Great Fat One, teach me how to love me.” No, no you look in the mirror one day and you’re either going to change it or you’re not, and you look in the mirror again and be like, “Okay, well today what I decide to change it or not, this is what I have today.” So even if I get on that bouncy ball and do like fifty crunches, six pack will not show up by the end of the fifty crunches. It may feel like they’re there, they’re underneath the fat but it’s not—

C: You’ll feel the burning flame of it.

K: You’ll, you’ll feel the burn but you won’t see the results so it’s like, well today this is what I look like. I’m going to hate me today, or I’m going to love me today. Hating me would be, you know, a waste of time because I still have stuff to do that has nothing to do with me putting clothes on. After that, you know, you got other things to do. So once you get past that, it gets better. Because once you take out that out of your mind, what other people think of you or how you look in this stuff—because I guarantee you right now around in the Inner Harbor I am seeing some stuff and things walking up and down this boardwalk that I shouldn’t be seeing, including a clown that scared the bejeezus out of me.

C: (laughter)

K: But I guarantee that clown loves himself because otherwise he would not be out of the house.

C: That is true.

K: You see what I’m saying? That’s the least of your worries. You should spend like five minutes a day on whether you’re going to love yourself or not and make that decision and just keep going.

C: I love how you phrase it as a choice, because not everyone phrases that or thinks of whether or not you love yourself today as a choice.

K: It is. It is a choice because there are some—I mean, when you’re sick. Think about it—when you have a cold, you don’t love yourself when you have a cold. And there’s every reason not to love yourself when you have a cold. Your body is failing you. And you can choose not to like yourself that day and that is the day that you stay home and you pity yourself and get that chicken noodle soup and that wine or whatever and you binge watch on Netflix until you feel better and that Theraflu kicks in. That’s fine. But if you don’t have a day like that—like today, today is a beautiful day. What are you going to do with today? You know? And what is your body going to do for you today? Like, you have to look in the mirror and be like, “I really don’t have a reason to hate myself today. Don’t really have a reason to love myself today, either.” But when you’re given the choice, wouldn’t you rather love yourself?  It is a choice. Love is a choice. You know. Who you love might not be a choice, but loving yourself, that’s definitely a choice. It’s, um, I have to look at it that way. And some days I choose not to love myself. And some days I choose to love myself. Today I chose to love myself. I love this skirt.

C: It is a fabulous skirt.

K: I love my skirt. You know, and I was just like, “I need to love myself so I can wear this skirt today.” Because if I didn’t love myself and wore this skirt, I would be really, really self-conscious. It’s a bright colored skirt.

C: It’s definitely an attention-getter.

K: I got a lot of catcalls on my way down here. And it’s disconcerting towards the opposite sex, but you know you have to love yourself to wear a skirt like this walking through Baltimore.

K & C: (laughter)

K: You can’t be self-conscious about what you have on. You can’t be like, “I hate myself today, let me wear a target on my body.” You can’t do that. So today I chose to love myself because I knew I wanted to wear this skirt today to see my friend. And tomorrow I might just be wearing some jeans. I don’t know. I know that everything in my closet doesn’t look like this for days when I don’t love myself. You know. But on the days that I do, I have skirts like this. I have tops that are like bright colored and funky or something that has like a really nice message on it, some socially conscious message. It depends.

C: And talking about clothes, I think one of the really interesting things you said to me when we were initially having this conversation before we planned to come out today was talking about how sometimes you still feel like you’re that heavier weight—

K: Absolutely.

C: And you dress yourself as though you still are.

K: Absolutely.

C: Can you reflect on that and tell me about how you kinda overcome that feeling?

K: Well, I don’t know if I have overcome it, to be honest with you. Because if I did—you know, I have a t-shirt on under this and a short-sleeve. But I don’t like my arms so I decided to go out and spent twenty dollars that I frankly don’t have to get a denim shirt to cover it. But I have a denim shirt. I’m comfortable like this. Um, losing that much weight in that short amount of time relatively speaking, there’s skin, you know, and I don’t like showing that off. It’s not that it’s ugly, you know I still get hit on when I have a sleeveless shirt on as when I don’t. And that shouldn’t be the gauge, I’m just saying.

K & C: (laughter)

K: That is not the gauge! But you know, um, some days if I feel like wearing something sleeveless I will. But in general I don’t like it because I don’t like my arms. I don’t necessarily like my legs. You’re not going to find me in a miniskirt with no leggings underneath, that’s just not going to happen. But ways to overcome it is to, again, just be confident in whatever you’re wearing. It’s not, you know, I’m wearing this shirt because, I don’t like myself. I’m just more comfortable in the shirt than without. And as funky if you will as my style is because I will wear this as soon as I will wear a suit as soon as I will wear a gown, and you’ve been on my Facebook, I will wear everything. You know, but even in all the awesomeness that is my closet, for the most part it’s pretty modest. And it’s not because I think, you know, it’s not a slut-shaming campaign in my modesty, it’s just that I feel more comfortable with my arms covered than without. I actually look at people who wear things above the thigh and look at them in awe, just like, “You just are awesome. You’re brave. You’re really brave.” I can’t do that yet. God knew what he was doing when he made me plus-sized. If I were skinny, man, look out. Amber Rose would have nothing on me if I were skinny. People would hate and love me at the same time. I’d be like a cross between Cardi Bee and Amber Rose with a J.D. I’m serious.

C: Hey, you’d be the power combo. No one would know what to do with you.

K: No one would know what to do. People don’t know what to do with me know, but with that, like what?

C: That might be a whole other reason.

K: God knew what he was doing when he made me this way. I’m telling you. Everything happens for a reason. But yeah it’s just, again, what makes you comfortable. This shirt makes me comfortable. It doesn’t really matter to me all that much. I will say that law school kind of illuminated some things in terms of style. I had an internship for a judge. She mentioned that I don’t wear suits. I didn’t know that you had to wear a suit. I’m like, I thought wearing professional attire included stuff outside of suits, especially for women. Because I don’t like suits. I’ll be honest with you.

C: Neither do I.

K: They make me feel like a box, and if there’s ever a time where I quote-unquote don’t love myself or don’t feel confident in what I’m wearing, it’s a suit. It gives me like, not the stereotypical, but the—I can’t think of the word. I guess the cliché of wearing a suit is power. When wearing a suit, I do feel a little bit of power because compared to what other people are wearing in the courtroom, you do feel better than, quote unquote. But in general I don’t like wearing suits. I do not feel comfortable litigating in a suit. I would much rather look like Olivia Pope in a courtroom or Dominique Devereaux. You know Dominique Devereaux?

C: Yes.

K: I love Dominique Devereaux. If I could have the closet of Claire Huxtable, Dominique Devereaux, and Olivia Pope, you could not tell me shit. Fat, skinny, what have you. I would be the badass to end all badasses if I had that. But they didn’t wear suits. They wore a nice dress with a dress jacket, or the suit was so tailored to them that it wasn’t a suit. It was their outfit. But I just remember that and said, I don’t want to be in a profession where I am judged by what I wear. After all I had to go through to lose the weight and love myself for however many days out of the year that I do, going into my profession and you say you’re dressed inappropriately because you’re wearing a dress with no jacket that’s the dumbest thing in the world because J.D. is still behind my name.

C: And I think it’s interesting because there’s that one thing we all feel uncomfortable wearing, something I have to wear, whether it’s showing up for work in a suit every day—like I’m going to be a litigator next year, so I have to wear a suit every day—or it’s leggings, everyone wearing leggings in public as pants—

K: I remember I wore leggings under a dress and went to work and you would have thought the world came to an end. I was just like—

C: National emergency?

K: Right! And the only reason I wore the leggings was because I couldn’t find the pantyhose, and I was going to not be seeing people all day. You know, I got chewed out for wearing leggings. Like, what does that have to do with me writing this brief for you?

C: Absolutely nothing.

K: Not a damn thing. And I still look better than your defendants, ma’am. I don’t get it.

C: Yeah. So physically—I’m going to ask two questions, or the same question two different ways—physically, what is your favorite feature or your favorite part of yourself?

K: Hmmm. (Pause) Society wants to tell me what it’s my face. I don’t have a favorite feature of myself—

C: Okay.

K: Because I see something wrong with all of it. But I will say that because of my waist, I feel like I look better in clothes. You know, I think of this Missy Elliot song—Lose Control by Missy Elliot—and the line goes, “I got a cute face, chubby waist, big legs, in shape.” And I remember when I was on my grind exercising or whatever, and when I would look in the mirror and actually see the results I would have the song playing in my head. I was like, let me find out that this song is going to be my life for a minute. This is really cute. But I don’t have a favorite. Like I said, I’ve been told I have a cute face for the longest time. But I always thought that was a backhanded compliment because it insinuated that that was the only thing attractive about me. So—I don’t know.

C: Fair enough.

K: Yeah.

C: And asking the opposite question, which is really the same question, what do you like about yourself best that has nothing to do with your physical appearance?

K: That has nothing to do with my physical appearance. Huh. Again, society would like to say that I’m a really nice person.

C: And you are.

K: But that has come to bite me more than help me. You know, because here’s the thing about nice: you don’t expect nice people to go through bad stuff. So if you’re nice to somebody—you expect people to be nice to you. So it’s not, you know, when I’m hanging out with you or whatever, it’s because I’m a nice person. It’s not, you know, I didn’t do anything. It’s a natural occurrence for nice people, so that’s not something I like best about myself. I think that’s more organic.

C: Yeah.

K: My objectivity. I don’t know whether it’s going to help me or hurt me, but right now I am very capable of taking myself out of a situation and just looking at it and saying what’s right or wrong about it. And it doesn’t matter if it hurts me or helps me, it is what it is. I don’t know if law school taught me that at all, but it definitely strengthened and sharpened the tool. Because you’re going to have to deal with that, especially with like family stuff—family drama or somebody in their life that they care about—women have the tendency to be emotional. Women are emotional creatures. And I think it’s rare to see a woman, not out of pettiness or hostility, take themselves out of a situation and just analyze it.

C: Right.

K: And from that analysis, just move forward. I do take pride in doing that.

C: I think that’s awesome. And being able to identify something—I think it’s difficult as people, let alone as women, to be able to identify something about ourselves both physically and not physically that we like about ourselves. Because I think there are certain things that are supposed to be a given as women. We’re supposed to be nice, we’re supposed to be caring. So identifying those things as something we like about ourselves—

K: Exactly.

C: It’s like, well you’re already supposed to do that, so what’s the big deal.  

K: Exactly. And we’re bred to be that way for the most part, and it’s kind of upsetting. Because right now I’m in a position in my life where technically I did everything right. And like, you were talking about my cooking. And I take pride in knowing how to cook, by the way, I am not—I will never put down a housewife because you literally have fourteen jobs within a day.

C: Yeah, absolutely.

K: But there’s something to be said about knowing how to cook, knowing how to clean, and then you have all the brains outside of the house that you know how to utilize and then have utilized. And then to boot to some you’re pretty and stuff and you’re aesthetically pleasing to the eye and then you have the brains to go with it and all this stuff. You know, I was taught to be all of those things and at 25, I’m well on my way to being all of those things. And then seeing how my life is turning out at the moment, it’s kind of sucking. And it’s just not fair, and I don’t understand why that’s happening. If all you’re doing is what you’re supposed to be doing, why is it not working out for you.

C: Why is it not enough at the end of the day?

K: No, why are you just not enough? Because it’s not like I’m going to learn to cook so somebody will love me. I learned to cook because I need to eat! I like food! And I am broke, so I need to learn how to cook what’s in my fridge so I can eat. I like food. But yeah. You’re doing all these things for you, and nobody’s necessarily meant to be alone, whether you want somebody romantically or platonically, you’re not meant to be alone. So I would love to have somebody in my life. How come that’s not working out even though I’m all of these things? I don’t know, but it’s really frustrating when you see the “stereotypical hoe” have a husband. I’m saying stereotype because I don’t really believe in it, but stereotypically you’re doing everything wrong and I’m like your phone book is your body count and here I am not that much. I don’t understand.

C: It’s like here I am, sitting here by myself. I think it’s a real challenge to want some of those stereotypical things women are supposed to want, like marriage and children and family and all of those things, and to also be that other role. We’re supposed to be so many things. And we’re not supposed to want these traditional things, but we’re also supposed to want them at the same time, so we get a lot of mixed messages.

K: It’s not that you’re not supposed to want them, you’re not supposed to show that you want them.

C: Right. I think that’s a fair way to say it.

K: It’s like, I’m a lawyer and I’m supposed to do this and do that and all this stuff, and I’m just doing me right now. That’s the code: I’m just doing me. Then it’s so what do you really want? No, I’m just doing me right now. And then you go home and you’re literally just doing you right now, knowing you want to do something else. But you’re not allowed to verbalize that that’s what you want, because that’s considered quote-unquote thirsty, considered desperate. But you can go out and get whatever else you want. If you’re hungry, you say you’re hungry and you go get food. If you want clothes, my clothes are ratty and I want new clothes, you go get clothes. I want a husband. But I can’t go out and say that, because one, you look crazy as hell; and two, the husband material runs away. It’s the mixed messages on both ends just like society telling you what to do and you inherently wanting something else—that conflict, it’s incredibly frustrating. Now me, I don’t want a husband at 25, just a metaphor, but I can’t.

C: (laughter) I just cannot, okay? I just can’t.

K: I need to get over the hurdle of you texting me back in a timely fashion—

C: Before we can get anywhere else.

K: I can’t. Someone needs to call me girlfriend before they call me wife.

C: And I think it ends up tying back in, all these things we’re expected to be and all these things we’re expected to want, all these things we’re expected to not show that we want, it all ends up tying back into our spiritual being and our physical being and how we portray ourselves to the opposite sex by the way we dress, the way we do our hair, the way we wear our makeup, and you know there’s so many mixed signals within it.

K: Well you know, here’s my thing. So on social media yesterday—no, on the thirty-first—Aisha Curry…it was revealed that she’s having a cooking show on the Food Network. Twitter kind of blew up about it, fine. This social media person that I know…so I follow her social media handles or whatever. She tweeted something to the extent of mocking [Aisha Curry]  or whatever, and I thought it was absolutely hilarious because people have put Aisha Curry on this pedestal of perfection—oh, I don’t have to be a ho to be a wife. That whole spiel. And she was making fun of it—you should have seen the backlash. I know her well enough to know that she’s not a ho teasing a wife. This is a very accomplished young woman with a  boyfriend, a stable relationship, a stable job if I’m not mistaken and by all accounts another Aisha Curry. She’s not bashing people who aren’t like her because there is somebody for everybody. I mean, I’m sorry, I can’t go out with young thug. I can’t do it. And this persona that he portrays—I’m not going to date you if you have tattoos on your face, that’s not aesthetically pleasing to me. But if you are out there with your fishnets and your booty shorts and your crop top and he likes that, and if you’re not sleeping with everybody and even if you are, if that is your—if that is your ministry, then go for it.

C: You do what you need to do.

K: Somebody will like that about you. And maybe they’ll marry you and maybe they won’t, but it’s like that’s what they want. Somebody wants me just the way I am. And I am not Aisha Curry, I’m not. I could not be the wife of a ball player who is making—yes I could. I’m lying.

C: You’re like, just kidding I totally could.

K: It depends on the person. From my understanding of Aisha Curry and her husband, they are very conservative and super Christian. I am not super Christian, you know. I believe in Christ. All that jazz. There are some things about how the Bible is taught that I do not agree with. That being said, my future husband will just have to understand that. And we will just have to agree to disagree on that. I’ll love him regardless. I couldn’t be Aisha Curry. And I don’t like the backhandedness of Aisha Curry either, at least that’s how it portrays to be. “Oh I don’t wear this that or the other, but it’s okay if you do.” Why did you even illuminate that—

C: What did you even bring that up?

K: Yeah.

C: It’s kind of like, there is some pressure to proscribe to what we’re supposed to do. And that’s a challenge, but overcoming that challenge depends on the person’s personality. Like me, I obviously dress in the way that—conforms to, I guess “normal white girl attire”? I guess? Does that make sense?

K: I don’t see—I don’t know. The only thing I see as white girl attire that I truly think is white girl attire is Ugg boots, sweatpants, and a crop top. It’s something about the winter that makes me think y’all don’t know what season it is.

C: I will say, I have never conformed to that. I have never done that in life.

K: And I would see this every winter without fail. And I was just like your mom let you out of the house like that? My mom would have stopped me at the door.

C: And said, “What the hell you wearing?”

K: Seriously. She’s like no you’re not going out of the house like that.

C: I had rules as a teenager. No spaghetti strap tops, no miniskirts, no crop tops.

K: Well for me crop tops were out of the question because I was big, one, and two, even if I wasn’t, my boobs turned a crop top into a bikini without fail. It wasn’t going to happen. Not at all.

C: And that’s another interesting thing, certain pieces being “off limits” for people of certain sizes. I get logistically like if your crop top is going to be a bikini and you’re uncomfortable with that, not being able to wear that. But like these magazine articles, O Magazine saying if you’re not a size 2 with a small chest you can’t wear a crop top.

K: That’s true. I have a crop top. I have a couple of crop tops. My first crop top I didn’t know it was a crop top, I thought it was a regular shirt.

C: Oops.

K: I wore it and the entire day I was just tugging down at the shirt, because I thought—you have to wear certain things to wear a crop top. If you’re going to have that underboob thing going, you hat least have to wear a cute bra. I wasn’t wearing a cute bra, it was like a sports bra that was dingy or whatever. I thought it was a real top and I was like why won’t it—it was at the midriff line.

C: Why won’t this stay down?

K: On the rack it looked like it could pull all the way down. And I hadn’t gained weight so I was wondering how that worked. And I looked at some other ones online and I was like, it’s a crop top.

C: Oh, well that makes sense.

K: Oh, I can wear it now and be comfortable. I just didn’t know.

C: I didn’t buy a crop top for years. And I know I’m not large, but I’ve never felt small either. So I finally own one at age almost thirty, and it’s see through on top of that. All kinds of scandal. But I think it’s just so interesting, because there’s that message of if you’re this size you can’t wear this.

K: I think that if when these pieces of clothing were coming out, if it were advertised as though anybody could wear them, we wouldn’t be having this issue. I don’t understand—first of all, there are things skinny people wear that I just like, why? Because it would look better on a fuller-figured person. Conversely, there are some things advertised to full-figured women that would look a hell of a lot better on a thinner person. I don’t understand why it’s marketed the way it is. For example, a maxi dress—depending on the maxi dress—there are some that look better that look better on fuller-figured women. Like the maxi dress that’s made of like chiffon, it’s tailored to the waist or whatever—I don’t understand why someone with no hips has that dress. Conversely, with something that is spandex and you have rolls and you’re not comfortable with that, why are you going through the agony of Spanx in 90-degree weather to wear this dress when it would look better on someone with no curves whatsoever.

C: And I think that’s a fault of marketing in general. Everything is marketed as appropriate for thinner women or women who would conform to what is considered a preferred body type in our society—and I’m saying that with quotes—and would not look appropriate on those people. But it’s not said oh I don’t think that would look great on you. Because you’re thin or you have that ideal body type you can wear anything.

K: I saw this dress that I loved online. It was a rosy pink chiffon looking dress, kimono-type sleeves, deep V neck, and a sparkle belt thing. Cocktail dress, knee-length or whatever.

C: That would look fabulous on you.

K: And it would! Why did it not come in my size? The biggest size it came in was like a ten? Or a twelve? I was like who is a size eight in this world who needs that much fabric on their body?

C: No one. As someone who’s in that range, that I don’t need that much fabric on my body.

K: Exactly. And I was thinking, you missed out on millions of dollars because you didn’t make it in a size sixteen. I’m not even saying go to a size twenty six—sixteen! That’s the average size of us anyway. But the dresses that were in my size were the most unflattering things ever. It was this navy—sheath with a little bit of tapering here [in the waist] with a white lace overlay on the side. I don’t know if you watch House of Cards, but Claire—this is her style dress.

C: Yeah, she could pull that off.

K: I saw Claire in that dress. But I guarantee you that half that lace will be in a roll somewhere if I wear that dress, Spanx or no Spanx. Why is that dress tailored to a size sixteen when my rose gold awesome dress is going to be wasted? And that happens all the time. Even when I went shopping today—that’s another interesting thing. When I went to this store today, it has two levels but the plus size is at the bottom. But in the neighborhood we are in, nobody is not plus size. So I don’t understand why we’re in the basement. That’s a whole other—

C: That’s a whole other conversation.

K: I was looking at the tops they had on the main floor, for the regular sizes, and these—I was like no. None of this would look good on anyone under a size fourteen. You don’t need all that fabric. Please bring me that fabric!

C: When I look at plus size clothing, I find most of it is attempting to replicate what’s being made for smaller sizes—

K: Yes. Yes.

C: Which doesn’t really suit the market they’re going for. Or it’s like a gunny sack.

K: Or what’s worse, is the stuff that’s tailored just for us, hella lot of money. It’s so expensive. Because you research where to find clothes for your body. I’ve been fortunate to find things like Fashion to Figure—they have a really good selection. Ashley Stewart is hit or miss for me, because their target demographic is—I’m in between their demographic. I mean, you have the things that everybody knows about, like Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Catherine’s—but that demographic is like on Social Security at this point. I’m serious! You’re definitely 45-65 years old if you’re going in Catherine’s. Like I went into Catherine’s and I felt like a child—I felt way too young to be there. You’re fortunate to find what works for you, but for the most part the stuff that I love we’re talking hundreds of dollars for one piece of clothing. I’m like do you think because we have big clothes we have big pockets? I mean, we literally have big pockets, but they’re not full of cash. It is what is. EBay is a wonderful place—I got my skirt off of EBay. But you have to know your body very well to order stuff offline.

C: And I think that’s the challenge. Like, I’ve gained a lot of weight lately, and as I get bigger I’ve started to notice the lack of clothes more and more. And I think that’s really frustrating, and something I shouldn’t feel like every time I go to the store—and I can’t imagine how this feels, going to a store every single time and not being able to find something that looks good and I feel confident in, and isn’t me swimming in too much fabric or having no shape at all.

K: Exactly. I was fortunate to have a mom who sews, for big things like Easters and some Christmases, Halloweens. If I really needed something—she made our Easter dresses for five or six years. I was thick then, you remember the nineties, there was nothing for plus-size children—

C: Oh the nineties were an unfortunate period. That’s another whole other conversation of how bad the nineties were.

K: Being a plus-size child in the nineties was hell. If I saw one more overall in my life—

C: Oh god. (laughter)

K: Every color. 

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