Is bigger better? Large women gaining acceptance
By Chris Jordan, (East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune
Big is beautiful.
Just ask Gayle Stallings of Linden, a big gal and proud of it.
"I used to be the one who would hold the pocketbooks for the skinny girls at the club," said Stallings, a size 20. "That pretty much motivated me to change the way I look at size. You have to be more accepting of who you are, and you have to accept your body."
There may be a gradual shift in American culture to greater size acceptance. Celebrities such as Queen Latifah, Mo'Nique and Wendy Williams have helped make plus-sized women glamorous on TV, movies and in music. TV programs such as the FOX dating reality show More to Love and the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly portray big women in a non-judgmental way. On Broadway, the plus-sized Tracy Turnblad is the protagonist everyone roots for in Hairspray.
Williams' big shoe size (one foot is a size 11, the other a 12), has been a topic of discussion on The Wendy Williams Show.
"Growing up in Ocean Township, I didn't even know they made size 11 shoes," the statuesque entertainer said on her TV program recently. "I was always balling up my toes to fit in a size 10."
Now, Williams said, she accepts her big feet (post-bunion surgery) and her large size in general. "(Big-footed) women, unite!" she said.
In magazines, Glamour made headlines when it ran a picture of 5-foot-11, 180-pound model Lizzie Miller exposing her midsection last year. The naked, round belly caused such a sensation that the model was interviewed on NBC's Today.
On a more intimate level, Gayle and her husband, Tyrone Stallings, operate the Babs BBW (Big Beautiful Women) social club, which holds mixers and nightclub events for plus-sized women and their admirers monthly in the New Jersey-New York City area.
Tyrone Stallings founded the group in 1993.
"When I first started, people were laughing at me," he said. "How can I be the only guy who really adores plus-sized women? I couldn't see that. ... Guys who liked plus-sized women were in the closet — ashamed and were embarrassed about it."
The club was the first successful African-American BBW social group in the New Jersey-New York City area, Stallings said. Babs BBW parties now drawing several hundred people to each event.
"When I formed this (club), I showed guys they didn't have to be ashamed," he said. "We said, guys who are in the closet (about liking big women), you can come, and girls, you can come to Babs and wear your sexy clothes. The bigger the better."
As America becomes more diverse, the standards of beauty are broadening and have become more diverse, too.
"For so many years, there was a certain look white men preferred and a look black men preferred, and it still goes on to this day, but with hip-hop (music) breaking down the wall between white and black and with the intermingling, your perceptions change, too," said Jeremy Miller of Metuchen, former editor of the Source magazine and owner of Down magazine, which follows Southern hip-hop culture.
Hip-hop star Sir Mix-a-lot celebrated full-figured women way back in 1992 with his hit single "Baby Got Back," and the emergence of Latin music stars like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira over the last 15 years has given the look a new dimension.
"Big girls are being more exposed through hip-hop," Miller said. "The people who put the women in the videos are not using true models, but real-life women who might be your sexy neighbor."