Ladies First聽highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.

A key feature of the body positivity movement is making sure that different types of bodies are included, recognized, and celebrated. But creating a space for that isn鈥檛 always easy. When travel blogger Annette Richmond realized that there wasn鈥檛 one for her, she decided she鈥檇 be the person to build it.

鈥淎s a travel writer it鈥檚 all about visibility. So, I鈥檇 tag my travel photos to 20 different pages and getting featured almost never happened,鈥 says Richmond.

鈥淚 know I鈥檓 not the only person this happens to, but I also saw commonalities between the people that were being featured. For example, I鈥檇 tag myself in female travel pages, solo female traveler page, Black travel pages, Black female traveler pages, Black solo traveler pages, Black millennial traveler pages, Black blogger pages鈥. the list goes on. Although I鈥檓 all of those things, my images weren鈥檛 picked up. So I decided to create my own platform that featured only Fat Female travelers.鈥

Fat Girls Traveling, Richmond鈥檚 Instagram and Facebook-based community where plus-size travelers share beautiful photos from their trips across the globe, was her response to feeling excluded from the online travel community. With close to 2,000 followers, it鈥檚 clear that the space she鈥檚 made was much-needed. We talked to Richmond about the project, about why travel is so important to her, and about learning to find the confidence to claim your space.

Is your use of the word 鈥渇at鈥 in the account name and hashtag purposeful 鈥 like, instead of 鈥渃urvy鈥 or 鈥渇ull-figured鈥 or 鈥減lus-size?鈥

To be completely honest, I wanted that shock factor. I call myself fat and in the Plus-Size Fashion Blogosphere referring to yourself as Fat and using the hashtag #Fatshion is very common. I consider myself a travel, fashion, and lifestyle blogger. My background is in fashion, so I wanted to merge the worlds.

I also want to help take the stigma out of the word fat. Sometimes when I tell people about FGT they鈥檒l try to correct me and tell me, 鈥淵ou鈥檙e not fat, you鈥檙e thick!鈥 or 鈥淵ou鈥檙e not fat, you鈥檙e curvy!鈥 To me, thick, curvy, plus size, fat 鈥 it all means the same thing.

The other thing people will say is 鈥淵ou鈥檙e not fat, you鈥檙e beautiful!鈥 like the two are mutually exclusive. I am fat and I am beautiful. Being fat doesn鈥檛 mean ugly or lazy or unhealthy or unlovable. There is no way that you can diagnose someone by the way they look. There are plenty of thin people struggling with weight issues. There are plenty of thin people struggling with mental health issues. But because our society puts such emphasis on the superficial, people think that they can look at a fat person and tell them what they need to do to get 鈥渉ealthy鈥 (looking at you, internet trolls). It amazes me how many online 鈥渄octors鈥 there are trolling the interwebs. I wonder if they can look at a photo on the Gram and diagnose someone with depression or herpes!?

Why is travel 鈥 whether it鈥檚 a local road trip, a sunny vacation, or a post-grad European tour 鈥 such an important experience for people to have?

I think that it鈥檚 important for people to leave their comfort zones and to go out and experience the world and all of its beautiful people and cultures. I鈥檓 currently in Miami for the first time. I鈥檝e never been to a state or US city where Spanish is the primary language. It鈥檚 incredible to see and I would never know this unless I experienced it first hand. I also think that people can be very self-centered and that international travel especially is something that opens your eyes and mind to the human condition. I think that every American needs to leave the country at least once, just to see what other countries really think about us. It鈥檚 humbling.

Let鈥檚 talk about that potentially stressful experience of finding yourself spending five or eight or 10 hours on an airplane. The seats are small, you鈥檙e often climbing over your sleeping neighbor to use the bathroom, and the seatbelts (which they make you wear for pretty much the entire flight) can sometimes not be long enough. How do you deal?

This is something that is talked about almost daily in the Fat Girls Traveling Facebook Group. Travel anxiety is real, for everyone, not just fat girls. Regarding the seatbelts, I will often suggest that members purchase their own extender if they feel uncomfortable asking a flight attendant for one. However, I strongly advocate that people, especially women, ask for what they need. If you need to get up and walk around to stretch your legs, ask your neighbor if they can get out so that you can get out. If you鈥檙e the lucky winner of the middle seat (the worst) make sure you get both of those armrests! If an armrest is digging into your flesh and causing you pain, ask if it can be lifted. Most decent people will understand that you need a little more space to live your life. Don鈥檛 apologize for that; ask for what you need.

The idea of 鈥渢aking up space鈥 is an issue that women of every size and shape confront. How do you find the confidence to claim that right for yourself 鈥 especially as it relates to travel, whether on an airplane or taking public transit in a strange city?

Different people need different things. I鈥檝e sat next to people on planes who are claustrophobic and need my window seat (why they didn鈥檛 check in online the day before, I couldn鈥檛 tell you). I鈥檝e given up my window seat for those people because they need to look out of the window for their mental stability. If you鈥檝e ever ridden a bus, you know that when someone wheelchair-bound gets on, the people and the seats are moved to accommodate them. If you鈥檝e ridden on the subway and are a decent human, you know that when a pregnant woman or older person gets on and there are no seats available, you stand so they can sit. Different people need different things and they just need to get over the fear of asking for what they need. Because usually, if you ask for something reasonable and obviously necessary, you will receive it.

Your Instagram account is public and very popular, while the Fat Girls Traveling Facebook group is private. Why do you think it鈥檚 important to have both kinds of spaces online?

I think that having public visibility is key. The world needs to see fat women in a positive way. We鈥檙e not all sitting at home trying to figure out how to lose weight to make everyone else more comfortable with our bodies. Hell, even fat women need to see this. That鈥檚 why I created the Facebook group, to be able to have difficult and honest conversations with other fat women about some of the difficulties that arise from living life in a bigger body. Like weight restrictions for things like ziplines, larger sleeping bags, or even where to buy a great bathing suit in your size.

But don鈥檛 get me wrong, we don鈥檛 only talk about the difficulties. Members have shared proposal videos and photos from their first solo trips. We also talk about dating and the stigma that can be associated with dating a fat girl (hello, Usher scandal!) along with being fetishized. We get so many men trying to join the Facebook group and they answer the mandatory questions with 鈥業 like my women BBW.鈥 If that鈥檚 not enough reason to make the group private, I don鈥檛 know what is!

I also don鈥檛 want the group to become a place where straight sized women go to feel better about their bodies, like 鈥榃ell at least I鈥檓 not THAT big.鈥 We鈥檙e not zoo animals, we鈥檙e women. Women that deserve the same love and respect that you would give to your mother, daughter, or sister. We just happen to have more fat on our bodies.

Do you plan on taking Fat Girls Traveling into the IRL world?

I鈥檒l be hosting the first official FGT Meetup in New York City during Fashion Week. It鈥檒l be on the rooftop bar of Hudson Terrace on Friday, September 8, at 8pm. I鈥檒l also be hosting a San Francisco Meetup in September before I head to Asia for a few months. The dates and times will be shared on the Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Will you be checking out Fat Girls Traveling in NYC during NYFW! Tell us @BritandCo!