Okay not exactly today but a few days ago I found out I catfish! I apparently am out here making people believe that I am someone opposite of my appearance. How do you ask? By simply being a brown skin fat woman in Los Angeles marketing myself to EAST Coast Organizations. To my defense, it is not my fault! There is no place on my resume to put “brown and big”, and all organizations have a non discrimination Claus at the end of their applications. Had I known my residence at the time of application paired with my bubbly personality and enthusiastic tone during phone interviews would cause others to imagine me as lighter skinned and thin, maybe i could have sounded, you know, more like my authentic self.
I was never supposed to know that others may have been unhappy with or shocked by my size 20 blazer, brown skin, double chin, and afro popping up on the FaceTime interview screen, but hey people talk! I can admit it took me back for 24 full hours. Feelings of taking 1,000 steps back in my healing process creeped in as I cried myself to sleep. I mean I really work so hard in my career and somehow my outward appearance still spoke louder than my credentials?
For many years my career is what I felt like was the only positive aspect of my life. Besides my hair, it has felt like the one thing I have had complete control over. I mean I have been working in my field directly since 18 years old. I have the passion of a poet and the professionalism of a physician. But, here I am, having to address why I am not what others imagine me to be. Nonetheless, instead of allowing this change how I treat my new colleagues, I’m bringing it here. I am ready to have a conversation I usually avoid. I am ready to discuss how who I am in no way matches pre conceived notions of what a fat black woman is. I have faced people interacting with me based on who they think I am on vacations, in other work environments, and sometimes I do it to my damn self! So lets talk about it!
My mother put me on my first diet at the age of 10. The diet aired on television on one of Philadelphia’s biggest news broadcasts. I can still feel the blood rush to my feet as I walk into school and kids laugh as they quote pieces of my interview. I know her intentions were well, but if only she asked me how I felt about this. If my grandmother only believed me when I told her I didn’t eat any extra cookies out her jar that day she made me cry and called me fat. See, this internal struggle of my size started so young. The way that I address my size has been based on what everyone else has thought is best for me well into adulthood. It was not until I moved to LA that I began to figure out what and who I want to be in relation to my mental, physical, and emotional health. In that time, my father came to visit me and ran back and told my mom I gained weight and he was concerned. He has not spoken to me about it (TO THIS DAY!!! lol). My mom called me and said I needed to get over my break up with my ex boyfriend. The weight gain had nothing to do with him! She never asked. I was immediately given the speech I have heard for well over a decade. How I wish I was given speeches like “love who you are and let nobody define you.” In no way is this a bash on my parent’s parenting skills because they did their best and I must admit they raised some pretty decent kids. I just know that learning how to not identify with how we look externally starts with how we are raised.
How were you raised? Ask yourself were you raised to love all of you no matter your appearance or differences. Were you raised to learn people before reacting to their appearance or differences??? How many jokes did you make about the dark kid in your class? The short kid? The tall kid? How many times have you told your skinny friend they need to eat more??? How many times have you imagined a person’s life before they even spoke to you. How many Asians were smart and disciplined before they even interacted with you? I am guilty of this, but as I have gotten older and more serious about my career, I have learned that THIS IS NOT OKAY! As children, we only know what we know, but in adulthood I urge us all to do better now that we know better. Allow someone to introduce themselves to you before you determine who they are! Spark a conversation with someone different from you. Honestly, we are all just waiting for someone willing to listen to our testimonies without judgement. My biggest goal in 2019 is to listen first and make a determination last in all encounters from professional to personal.
I have always known that it is not anyone’s intention to make me feel fat, but imagine if people took a moment to think about me as an actual human with feelings before determining who I am. Imagine if the kids who teased me knew one day I would not want to be alive anymore. The “I know you hungry” statements would have never been made! The man who huffed and puffed because he had to sit next to me on a plane ride last year would have been more discrete about not wanting to sit next to this big black woman if he knew how much anxiety I have around flying for that very reason! If only he opened his mouth and spoke to me. I am loved by so many on both East and West Coast because of my character. It is a shame that so many other’s ideas of who I am are so fictional. I am such a genuine person! I am sensitive! I am passionate! I am the epitome of professionalism! I work hard! Any one who has given me a chance without pre conceived notions has established a bond with me and know how grateful I am to be seen for the woman I truly am.
“She does not look like she is from LA”, she said with a look of disappointment. this is how I imagine the conversation went, but I was not there. All I know is what I was told. This idea that Los Angeles is only for the wealthy, thin, and society’s concept of beautiful is simply untrue!!! Did I not get into some Hollywood clubs? Sure! Did that make me feel bad? Absolutely not! There were plenty functions I attended with people of all races, genders, and sizes. To know that I somehow catfished with factual work experience and a love for what I do so much that you can hear in my voice just lets me know my work outside of work is just beginning.
If any of you have ever felt like your appearance has made it more difficult to follow your dreams or show the world what you are good at, please be encouraged today. Please keep working at it. Please do not give up. You have what it takes and if you keep perfecting your craft, eventually people will love you for it. That same person loves me now, and I would not have even guessed they felt this way. I do not have anything to prove to them; the proof is in the work ethic and professionalism. You too do not have anything to prove. You do not have to change. You have only yourself to impress. Be inspired today to be better than you were the day before. If nobody else tells you today, I love you just the way you are.