A Black Muslim Plus-Size Model: Leah Vernon Uses Fashion as a Body-Positive Statement

Leah Vernon is a style blogger, content creator, plus model, public speaker, Muslim feminist, and body-positive activist from Detroit. She was inspired to start blogging in 2013 because there weren’t enough inclusion of real beauty in the media.

On instagram, Leah has more than 34.6k followers, that she introduces into the world of body-positivity and self-love. She blogs about being true to yourself, not being afraid to express yourself through your own fashion style and to forgive the mistakes you’ve made in the past. As a feminist myself, I’ve been following her for a few weeks now. These are Leah’s instagram posts that stuck with me the most.

Being Unapologetic Big 

KD Photo

I got this mustard jumper. When it arrived, I tried it on with excitement and then I noticed that it literally showed every dip and dimple of my thighs.
This would look much better with a pair of Spanx, I thought. They’d smooth out my cellulite. Smooth out my stomach and fupa. It’d make everything look good.
As a body positive influencer, I love my body and learning to love it more each day, but I have my days where I get sucked into the ideal of imitating unrealistic beauty standards. Then I start ridiculing myself and blaming what I ate yesterday on my today fatness. If only I ate less and exercised more then I wouldn’t have to wear Spanx. If only I could lose a few pounds I’d be able to wear this or that with confidence. Why not be confident right now?

Cellulite isn’t normal. But, every human being has stretch marks and cellulite to some extent.

When does only losing a few pounds ever satisfy us? We then get caught up in the idea that thin automatically means happy and spiral into diet culture. I almost didn’t post this pic because my cellulite screams hello! Because we don’t ever see cellulite on models or on magazines. Cellulite isn’t normal. But, every human being has stretch marks and cellulite to some extent. But you’d never know because everyone smooths and edits now.
I’ve gotten so many compliments on this jumper without the Spanx. With the cellulite full view. And I felt good in it. My cellulite or stretch marks don’t define me. And neither should it for you.

Overcompensating to hide your big body

Justin Milhouse

If you don’t fit the societal beauty standard, as a woman, a girl, queer, you are taught to overcompensate and then hide.

Many of us had to be the best of the best. We had to be smart, funny, personable, and well-dressed. Anything and everything to hide the fact that our bodies were bigger, different. We weren’t allowed the same normalcies of a thinner body.
The next phase was to hide in an attempt to make oneself smaller, more digestible.
We hide behind bangs, and weave, and makeup over acne. We hid behind dark-colored clothes and girdles. We hide behind our pretty girlfriends and followed all the flattering fashions just to fit in.
It’s hard being a woman in a world that’s created a mold for us to perfectly fit in. Add on being Black/Dark/Brown. Add on being fat. Then add on being Muslim. I’m a triple whammy.

It’s exhausting having to be looked at as all of your stereotypes. Angry. Oppressed. Sloppy. Ugly. Unhealthy. I’m tired of allowing those stereotypes to dictate my present and my future. I’m the author of my own narrative. And in this story, we break the rules. We cause commotions. We challenge the status quo.

Beautiful and feminine

Madinah Muhammad

You don’t have to be pretty. Feminine. Your skin doesn’t have to be smooth or all the same color. You don’t owe it to anyone to be attractive. You don’t need to dress up for this person or put makeup on around that crowd. Your appearance is solely up to you.
When I started to fill in, my mom began to dress me in baggy clothes from the men’s section of Value World. People thought I was a boy. That crushed my confidence. I told myself that I would never, ever dress like a ‘boy’ again. When I got to college, I only wore pink for a good year…

As I got older, I started wearing clothes that flattered me, ya know, because I didn’t want to be known as the ‘big girl’ who couldn’t dress, in the shapeless muumuu.
I’d constantly get ‘you dress nice for a big girl. Wish more big girls had confidence like you’. I figured out that the clothes you see that companies send me on IG don’t make me. But, my okay-ness with my body does. You need to be okay beyond the filters, beyond the body shaper, beyond the contour.
It kills me when people see my regular-degular ass out and about. I’m in my dingy oversized sweater, leggings, and converse. No makeup and clunky prescription glasses.
I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m beautiful and worthy with or without temporary beauty enhancements. And so are you.


Follow her here on instagram!

Picture:  Eric Puschak

Written by Mvslim

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