Body Positive activists transcend gender

Stevie Blaine stands in front of the camera in nothing but his underwear, grabbing the extra skin on his arms and pulling at the pouch of his belly.

“This is my body,” the 25-year-old YouTuber and Instagrammer says to the camera. “And all that you guys ever see is my big hair, my blue eyes and my freakishly strange face and that’s as far as it goes. There’s a lot more of my body that makes up who I am, and I’m going to show you guys.”

For the remainder of the video, titled “My Biggest Insecurity,” Blaine dissects his insecurities and details his struggles with self-acceptance. “I may not fit into your beauty standards, but I sure as hell fit into mine,” he says, his blue eyes peering into the camera. This video, which runs a little over six and a half minutes, was Blaine’s grand entrance to the world of body positive blogging.

The body positive movement is not new—in fact, the campaign, which aims to inspire others to love and accept their bodies, goes back nearly 50 years, stemming from the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s. Although women have historically dominated the Body Positive sphere, men are rising up in the Instagram spotlight, becoming fierce body positive advocates of their own.

Blaine, who goes by the Instagram handle @bopo-boy, struggled to find beauty in the way he looked specifically because of the media’s lack of diverse male bodies. Previous to the advent of social media, the only bodies most people saw were the thin and toned ones plastered on magazine covers.

Stevie Blaine. Courtesy of Blaine.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve never had any male role models who look like me,” he said. “Do you know how soul–crushing it is to feel completely alone in the world? Like you’re the only person like you? It’s scary.”

“I’ve always searched for someone who looks like me, thinks like me, acts like me, loves like me and I couldn’t find anyone,” Blaine added. “So I became my own role model.”

But becoming his own role model didn’t happen overnight; for years, Blaine, a personal banker living in Southampton, England, struggled to accept the way he looked.

“I’ve spent countless hours in front of the mirror, picking apart every cell of my being, wishing my flaws away and praying to look like anyone else other than me,” he recounted. “Growing up and well into my early 20s, I felt that I wasn’t good enough because I put my entire worth on my body. I thought that I could never be happy, successful and popular unless I looked the way guys in the media looked.”

It was with this self-deprecating mentality that he started his YouTube channel—the same channel used to post the video that preached a body positive message. His original intent was to showcase his “transformation”—he was keen on losing weight and gaining muscle, and wanted to share his journey with his viewers.

However, as time went on, he realized how unrealistic his goals really were.

“I realized this ‘end goal’ of me reaching a weight and body type that society glamorizes wasn’t going to happen,” Blaine told ivoh. “I thought—why should I waste my life being unhappy with the body I have?”

He began searching online for body positive icons, which was where he discovered Megan Crabbe, who goes by the online moniker @bodyposipanda. He found the way she loved herself intoxicating.

“That’s what I wanted—to be unapologetically me. After that, my addiction to following powerful body positive activists rapidly escalated.”

After about a year of following what he called “bopo badasses,” Blaine decided it was his turn to join the movement. “My body, regardless of its size, shape and flaws, will always be mine and it’ll always be exactly how it’s supposed to be,” he said.

So with this new mentality, cultivated from the year he spent exposed to positive body portrayal, he posted “My Biggest Insecurity” to his YouTube channel in January 2017. The video—the one where he stood in his underwear—now has over 1,500 views.

“It was the most frightened I’ve ever been, but also the freest,” he said. “I felt liberated to show my body, something I’ve been taught to hate, to the world.”

Troy Solomon. Image courtesy of Solomon.

Blogger Troy Solomon’s waltz into the world of body positivity was a bit different from Blaine’s—rather than setting out to be a body positive warrior, he became one over time. He joined Instagram as @abearnamedtroy not as a body positive advocate—or even as a plus-size male model—but as a person looking for a creative outlet to express himself after coming out of the closet.

“I had all this creativity in my head that I wanted to express and I figured, I’d always loved style even if I felt very stifled in being closeted,” Solomon said. “I figured there was no better time than the present to actually go forward with it and start wearing what I wanted to wear.”

So he did. Solomon, now 28, began to experiment with different fashion styles, modeling his creations himself and taking his own photos. Over time, as his blog gained traction, his followers ballooned to just under 35,000. Buzzfeed caught wind of @abearnamedtroy in 2016, including him as one of “14 Plus-Size Guys Who Are Way Too Hot To Handle,” and brands began noticing him, offering him modeling gigs.

Before he even realized it, Solomon was soon a body positive advocate who others looked towards for inspiration.

“I found myself as a part of this community that celebrated different body types and different beauty standards,” he said. “I had never been a part of an online community in the way that I am now.”

He said he was in awe of the movement. “Seeing do their thing and seeing them be happy and love themselves at any size—I was like, ‘Wow, they’re changing people’s lives!’ And then all of sudden, it got flipped. Now I’m doing that,” Solomon said. “Social media has completely created these communities of people that encourage positivity and that is so powerful.”

Both bloggers acknowledge that, while social media is more often a tool to successfully share their body positive messages, it can also be a weapon at times as well.

Solomon said he sees people comparing themselves to others on social media constantly. “The thing about body positivity that people don’t remember is that the point of it all is to be positive about your body,” he said. “You’re allowed to change yourself as long as the lack of whatever it is right now isn’t hindering the love you have for yourself.”

“I think social media is something to be used with caution. If it becomes too much, remember—you can shut it off. You’re always in complete control,” Blaine added.

The ability to compare yourself with someone else isn’t social media’s only pitfall. Having a public platform that promotes positivity that oftentimes challenges social norms can have the tendency to attract people who spew negativity.

“Trolls are the ones with the loudest voices,” Solomon lamented. “They’re just there and they’re so loud, so noisy. They do it on purpose—they just want to be seen, they just want to be heard.”

Although he’s admitted that he doesn’t experience much trolling, Solomon said that when he does get negative messages, rather than delete the comments outright, he’d rather try leveling with the person.

“The first instinct everybody has when they have trolls is to delete comments and block the accounts, but I think there’s a double-edged sword with that,” Solomon said. “I get wanting to keep a space fun, safe, comfortable, happy and positive, but I also think that the people who are trolling and the people who have hate are a large portion of the demographic that we’re trying to speak to.”

He explained that his followers are on his team—they’re the people who already believe in the body positive movement—but the trolls are people who don’t yet understand or accept the movement. These are the people Solomon is willing to have open conversations with.

However, more often than not, the people leaving hateful messages are usually not the kind to have open-minded conversations with fat-positive bloggers.

“At a certain point, someone who’s trolling you is probably not going to listen to what you have to say,” Solomon added. “So I also totally understand the mindset behind block, ignore, remove.”

Blaine feels similarly to this particular sentiment. “I can’t tell you how many homophobic, fatphobic and damn right hideous comments I get on my posts,” Blaine said. “But I’ve got a pretty tough skin. I just remove the comments completely—not because they hurt my feelings or upset me, but because they can be triggering to my followers and I’ll do everything I can to protect them.”

Trolls and negative comments aside, both male body positive bloggers have found a way to thrive on Instagram and reach thousands of users through the platform while spreading a message of self-love that transcends gender.

“There’s always been such a stigma towards men’s emotions. We’re often taught to be tough and masculine,” Blaine said. “I think this is a big reason why men aren’t more involved in the body positive community. I know men have the same insecurities, worries and fears in relation to their bodies as women do. It’s natural, but because of this stigma, they don’t get involved.”

“However, I’m here to change that,” Blaine continued. “I want guys to know that it’s okay to open up, and it doesn’t reflect on your masculinity.”

Solomon believes that now, because of the visibility that Instagram grants men who want to openly speak of their insecurities, the idea of men sharing their feelings has slowly become less stigmatized. “There’s definitely enough room for everyone to be a part of this conversation,” he said.


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