When I first created this blog, I didn’t have high expectations. I had hoped that people would read it and connect with what I had to say, but in reality I know that people are so busy that sitting down to read on an evening is something they can only dream of doing, sometimes people don’t like to see people going for goals so wouldn’t want to be supportive and that really reading blogs isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I said to myself that if I could help one person or write something that mattered to just one person out there then I was a success.
So far, things for me have exceeded my expectations in so many ways and a lot of that is down to the online connections I have made. Dani Crater is one of these people.
The first thing you should know about Dani is that she is so, so, so lovely. She reads and comments on my posts and I do on hers, she promotes my page and I do hers, we talk about The Real Housewives, we reach out, we read, we listen to each other. If social media was designed to help connect people and sharing new ideas, Dani should be their poster girl of a success story.
This interview came about because I wanted to share Dani and her ideas with more people. She is so incredibly positive – she’s what I would call a real body confidence advocate. She accepts and praises everyone, empowering them to be their own kind of beautiful. As co-founder of The 88 and Friends, Dani wants to create an online acceptance community where people support each other and crucially believe in themselves too. With her at the helm of that community, it is the nicest, more empowering space you can imagine.
I could keep fan-girdling about my new online friend, but her words, her ideas and her positivity speak more than mine ever could. So here you are – get ready to meet your new online best friend, Mrs Dani Crater.
In your own words, can you explain the concept of The 88 and Friends?
The 88 & Friends is a self love initiative founded by myself and my friend, Kayleigh, two fat ladies born in ’88 who have been made to feel that society and media don’t have a place for us due to the “flaws” we have surrounding our plus size forms, mental health struggles and views of the world. We hated being defined by what the world deems negatives and wanted to own the positives not just of ourselves but of everyone in the same position as us. So we joined forces to support the unsupported and represent the unrepresented and misrepresented in a positive community of like-minded, self-loving new friends. Enter The 88 & Friends!
It is such a great initiative! Personally, I think it’s important to represent everyone and not put one voice louder than the other or exclude someone from the conversation just because they don’t look a certain way. The 88 and Friends really does embrace everyone. How would you define inclusive representation?
It’s a very broad term and that’s not because it’s complicated but because it needs to be broad; exclusive representation makes a stand for one specific group or type and that’s fantastic for those who are being represented but in doing this, unintentionally or otherwise, it instantly alienates every other group and the minority then become the majority. That’s where inclusive representation becomes such a tangle as it then becomes responsible for representing everyone who isn’t being supported by the exclusive.
If we look at an example close to my heart, plus size representation – overall it’s fantastic as it’s (very!) slowly normalising fat bodies in a generally fatphobic world but right now it’s quite exclusively representing only the fat bodies with an hourglass shape, meaning that every other plus size shape is left without representation and feeling less acceptance. So inclusive representation swoops in superhero style and sweeps the then-unrepresented under its own cape of diversity and recognition to give them a valid place of being. This wonderful practice supports the previously unsupported big ‘uns of all shapes, such as my own trademarked potato shape, but the most beautiful thing about inclusive representation is that, in spite of all of this, it still includes representation of the exclusive hourglass beauties to ensure nobody is left out.
I really love how you answered that question – nobody left out, nobody unrepresented. Why do you think it is important for someone to see someone that they identify with in the mainstream media?
We all want to feel unique but none of us want to feel alienated and when we never see a single person in the media who we can identify with, it can be hard not to feel that we’re being intentionally alienated for negative reasons. At best, this leaves us feeling that we don’t fit in but at worst it can go as far as feeling that we’re simply not good enough and that the only way we can become good enough is to change ourselves, which is horrible and obviously untrue! It sounds so simple but by just seeing someone like us in the limelight gives us that self-acceptance that we’d never have questioned if it wasn’t for the exclusive representation that we’ve already talked about. I know that if I saw more potato shaped people in the media I wouldn’t feel as alienated from certain communities myself.
Body positivity is a topic that tends to attract a lot of heated debates and sometimes negative criticism of certain groups within society. In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about body positivity and what would you like to say to people who misunderstand this idea of it?
I have such a bee in my bonnet about the particular misconception that if we want to lose weight for any reason – whether for aesthetics or health – we can’t possibly be body positive or have any self love within us. This, my friends, is utter BS because we can quite obviously and very sincerely love who we are right now as well as working on changing! What boils my blood more than anything else about this is not that the body positive communities are going completely against what they preach with the “you do you” attitude of not letting others dampen your sparkle in doing this (which is obviously massively negative in itself!), but that a fat person wanting to slim down for their own personal reasons that have no reflection on anybody else is instantly being branded a fatphobic/fat shaming move. This, again, is BS – it shouldn’t be a case of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, it should be a simple matter of practicing what we preach in body positivity and just accepting everybody’s individual choice to be who they are & being happy in doing so.
Thank you so much for asking me this as it’s something that many people are on board with but that few people speak up about in fear of being shunned by the body positivity community. I genuinely believe that if more of us openly expressed our feelings on this, this misconception would be quashed and the choice to lose weight would be treated in body positive terms in the same way as, for example, choosing to change ourselves by dye our hair – going from red to blonde isn’t seen as being anti-redhead but is welcomes as positive experimenting and doing what makes us happy!
I could not agree more – certain mindsets can create an unhealthy dialogue where, like you say, people become afraid to loose weight or gain weight through fear of being shunned or ‘outed’ as a fake. You almost lose the point of self love when you follow that line of argument because that is you dictating how someone else should look and be happy when the whole point is to let people be happy with themselves as they are. Sometimes, though, we do struggle with the idea of self love and need advice from others. If someone you knew was struggling with their self confidence, what advice would you give to them to ‘boost’ how they say them self?
Count your blessings; when we’re struggling, instead of being swallowed up by the negatives of what we don’t have, stop and think about what we do have. Like most things, it’s easier said than done and I totally get that but rather than worrying about how thin our lips are, be grateful of how beautiful they look when we smile and think of all the many things we have in our life that make us smile.
Because your project is so positive and you deliver it with such passion, a lot of people connect with your ideas. What has been the best thing that has happened to you since becoming a vocal member of the body positive and wellbeing online community?
Kayleigh and I regularly receive messages thanking us for what we do with The 88 & Friends, which is always so heartwarming and humbling. However, for myself on a personal level, the best thing that has happened so far was the reaction to my very frank blog post about how I tried to commit suicide. There wasn’t a huge outcry of support from the masses or anything of viral proportions but the few messages that people reached out to send were so ridiculously important to me, especially one from a woman whose mum has always suffered mentally and made attempts of suicide, thanking me for allowing her to see things through from an alternative point of view to better understand her mum’s thought process when she’s in those dark places.
Those messages must really mean a lot. Body confidence is a topical issue with a lot of people deciding for other’s how their body should look and what a ‘healthy’ body is, whereas you teach to accept and love yourself whatever size you are. Because of how you speak about self acceptance, do you ever receive criticism and if so, how do you respond to it?
I don’t know if I’m lucky, naive or just too thick skinned to spot any negativity but so far so good on the criticism front both personally and with The 88 & Friends. I think this might be because although we obviously have our own views, we still present both sides of the coin… And I really hope I haven’t tempted fate saying this to be met with a barrage of abuse next time I log on!
I hope I haven’t jinxed you with that question! When do you yourself feel the most ‘beautiful’?
Apologies for the cheesy cliché but I’m a firm believer that beauty is more than skin deep, so I feel at my most beautiful when I’m happy. When my head is full of happiness and I’m surrounded by laughter and love, I can’t help but feel beautiful even if physically I’m looking less-than-perfect in a mismatched pair of pyjamas with greasy hair thrown into a bun.
I think that’s the perfect description of beauty. You are someone who really uses social media for good and to create a community – you often point people to other accounts or blogs that you believe in and support yourself. Why do you think it is important for brands,bloggers and Instagrammers to support others?
Another big ol’ lump of clichéd cheese but you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Instagram in particular is oversaturated with influencers and bloggers competing for the same work but, in my opinion, the competition is just unnecessary negativity that can be easily avoided with a bit of synergy. Working with each other and not against each other will make for more positive content, a wider reach of audience and overall a happier online life for creators and consumers alike.
You are such a force of positivity online and I personally find it really refreshing. Why do you choose to use your online voice to spread positivity and create a community?
Real life can be very miserable and the internet even more so with trolls lurking behind every post, but it’s all what you make it so I wanted to show gratitude for the positives around us instead of letting the negatives overwhelm us. With social media being the hotbed of accidentally stumbling upon people exactly like ourselves but whose paths never usually cross, I knew that in doing this online I would be able to surround my internet self with the best like-minded people who would, in turn, find their own positive tribe.
If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
We can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time… And if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?!
To read Dani’s blog, click here
To view Dani’s Instagram, click here
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