Annette Richmond’s Fat Girls Traveling Is Body-Positive, Travel Inspo Instagram Perfection
Ladies First 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’t always easy. When travel blogger Annette Richmond realized that there wasn’t one for her, she decided she’d be the person to build it.
“As a travel writer it’s all about visibility. So, I’d tag my travel photos to 20 different pages and getting featured almost never happened,” says Richmond.
“I know I’m not the only person this happens to, but I also saw commonalities between the people that were being featured. For example, I’d 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…. the list goes on. Although I’m all of those things, my images weren’t picked up. So I decided to create my own platform that featured only Fat Female travelers.”
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Fat Girls Traveling, Richmond’s 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’s clear that the space she’s 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 “fat” in the account name and hashtag purposeful — like, instead of “curvy” or “full-figured” or “plus-size?”
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’ll try to correct me and tell me, “You’re not fat, you’re thick!” or “You’re not fat, you’re curvy!” To me, thick, curvy, plus size, fat — it all means the same thing.
The other thing people will say is “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” like the two are mutually exclusive. I am fat and I am beautiful. Being fat doesn’t 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 “healthy” (looking at you, internet trolls). It amazes me how many online “doctors” 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 — whether it’s a local road trip, a sunny vacation, or a post-grad European tour — such an important experience for people to have?
I think that it’s 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’m currently in Miami for the first time. I’ve never been to a state or US city where Spanish is the primary language. It’s 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’s humbling.
Let’s talk about that potentially stressful experience of finding yourself spending five or eight or 10 hours on an airplane. The seats are small, you’re 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’re 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’t apologize for that; ask for what you need.
The idea of “taking up space” is an issue that women of every size and shape confront. How do you find the confidence to claim that right for yourself — especially as it relates to travel, whether on an airplane or taking public transit in a strange city?
Different people need different things. I’ve sat next to people on planes who are claustrophobic and need my window seat (why they didn’t check in online the day before, I couldn’t tell you). I’ve given up my window seat for those people because they need to look out of the window for their mental stability. If you’ve 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’ve 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’s 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’re 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’s 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’t get me wrong, we don’t 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 ‘I like my women BBW.’ If that’s not enough reason to make the group private, I don’t know what is!
I also don’t want the group to become a place where straight sized women go to feel better about their bodies, like ‘Well at least I’m not THAT big.’ We’re not zoo animals, we’re 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’ll be hosting the first official FGT Meetup in New York City during Fashion Week. It’ll be on the rooftop bar of Hudson Terrace on Friday, September 8, at 8pm. I’ll 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!
Artist Dev Heyrana On How Bravery, Resilience and Sunshine Influence Her Work
Ever meet someone who you feel immediate kinship with on a deep almost spiritual level? That is legit every person's experience upon meeting Dev Heyrana, the star of this edition of Creative Crushin'. A fine artist, hip hop dance teacher and constant collaborator, Dev's particular brand of creativity is one-of-a-kind. She manages to be warm, welcoming and woke, with a focus on inclusivity, social justice and motherhood that comes through in every piece of art she creates.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and one of many humans who has benefitted from Dev's boundless generosity and kindness. We first connected at a launch event, then I asked her if she and her family would like to model for a B+C shoot (they did!), then months later, I asked the IG universe if anyone would be down to co-parent with me for a day so I could speak at a conference. Dev said yes! And for those that know her, none of these serendipitous moments are surprising.
Now it's time to delve more into Dev's story, her creative inspiration, her thoughtful approach to parenting and what makes her more passionate than ever about bringing her point of view and artistic voice into the universe.
Anjelika Temple: First, foundations. Where did you grow up? What is your heritage? What did you study in school? Where do you live now?
Dev Heyrana: Born in The Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old. Me and my family are from the island of Cebu and I'm a proud Cebuana. My childhood in the Philippines felt like freedom. I had my swimsuit in my backpack for whenever we decided to swim and I biked everywhere.
Immigrating here at 9 yrs old was a transition, to say the least. My parents had big dreams but the move was heavy on them. It wasn't easy. I had to grow up fast. I took care of my sisters while my parents worked night shifts. By the age of 12 I would cook dinner and get my sisters ready for bed. Something I didn't realize was that kids my age didn't do those things until I got older. We would play these make-believe games to make, in hindsight, our hard situation brighter.
I think this is really when art played a big role in my life. It was something I could escape in and always felt healing.
I witnessed racism towards my family and didn't know how to make sense of it. These events left a mark. I was a quiet kid and observed everything and everyone around me. I think about my grandparents, Lolo Jose and Lola Rita, a lot as I walk through life. When I make decisions. As hard as it feels, you have two choices, do you let it take you down or take it one step at a time forward. I kept going and it really shaped me as to why I am the way I am today.
I studied Fine Arts at The Corcoran in DC. I owe that decision to my art teacher, Mr Giles, in High School. He was retiring and wore a Hawaiian shirt every day during my senior year. He was a curmudgeon and I felt incredibly special since out of everyone in the school he really believed in me. As grumpy as he seemed to the class, he would tell me things like "Go into the other studio and break some glass, then put it on a canvas." He's the reason why my abstract pieces have elements like clay and sand in them.
I've had incredible mentors and all were teachers. Mr. Giles in High School and Christine George in College. Christine was the one who told me to go either to New York or San Francisco because "D.C. is no place for an artist like you." She told me to not listen to anyone, how I can still paint, be a graphic designer, and, if I choose to, have a family. I've never had anyone tell me anything like that before.
I took a chance because of her. Moved and went to Design School in 2006 and I've stayed in the Bay Area ever since, raising two girls with the love of my life.
Anj: You are one of those magical human beings that has figured out how to be a full-time artist. What was your career path like before you were able to dive fully into your creative passions?
Dev: The most radical thing I could have done in my family, I did, I went to college for Fine Arts. A mix of being so young and having to do it on my own, I went with the school that gave me more scholarships. Even then I worked three jobs to be able to get through it. Hard work is ingrained in me.
With my sculpture background, I fell in love with Print and Packaging and why I came out here to San Francisco. I appreciated the security of having a career in Graphic Design. I also learned how to work with clients and the business side of things. Even then, I never stopped painting.
A few years ago I went through a pretty hard time with my health. I dealt with six surgeries in one year and I still have to do some follow-up ones. That experience almost broke me and what got me through was my family and painting in bed while I recovered.
When I finally got back on my feet, my heart just wasn't in Graphic Design anymore. So I made a two year plan. With a toddler and a mortgage, I wanted to make sure my steps were thought out. I put myself out there as an Artist while I still worked in Design. After a year I worked part time as a Graphic Designer and stepped down from my Creative Director position. I loved it, to be creative as an Artist and as a Designer. I looked at 2018 as my year to make the jump. If my work as an Artist balances out with my salary then I would quit in the Summer of 2019. And so here we are. I also am sharing a studio with my good friend, Naomi PQ, and I feel like my creative drive is just beginning.
Anj: What do you love about painting? How do you feel when you're in a creative flow state?
Dev: Like every part of me is free. Free to express myself through the stroke of my hand. How all of it leads back to my heart. These elements I use to paint have a mind of their own and how I need to respect the process.
It centers me and reminds me that the process is just like the life we lead. I know I still have so much more to learn but while I'm painting no matter how it's going, I'll embrace this moment.
Anj: You reference your roots quite a bit in your work. Talk to me more about how your roots inspire your work.
Dev: One of my earliest memories is of my Lolo Jose teaching me how to water mango saplings. He converted to Buddhism when my mother was young, so he viewed the world with love and kindness. I didn't realize it then but watering those mango trees were life lessons. We need to take the time to nurture, practice patience, and respect all living things. I still imagine him walking beside me often, carrying his teachings as I find my way in this world.
Nature and the Sun drive my pieces. My abstract works are fragments of moments. Like the sunset I grew up with when I was seven years old in the Philippines, like how I saw the water in Cebu when I dove in as a young adult, and like when I saw the redwoods with my children for the first time.
I see earth in our skin and especially when I paint people. How our mango trees grew and blossomed because the dark earth was rich with nutrients. I imagine the Sun piercing through these women I depict. I paint their love and bravery because their resilience cannot be contained. I want to celebrate all of it.
This is the beauty of Art, I am able to paint exactly how I see it.
Anj: Motherhood and your daughters are also central themes in your work. How has motherhood changed your approach to creating artwork?
Dev: Everything. I was still deep in my Design Career and I would paint at home. One day Quinn, who was 3 years old at the time introduced me at the park to a mom. "This is my mom, she's an Artist." It struck me that my toddler knew who I was more than I knew myself. That's really when I really owned it. I am more fearless because of my girls.
I own my body, I thank people when they compliment me, and I am selective but fearless when I use my voice. I am more in tune how I speak about myself because of them. When I paint these women I want to celebrate them. I notice how I embrace myself is translated in my paintings.
Anj: What advice can you give to parents who are trying to tap into their kiddos' innate creativity?
Dev: I don't have a lot of guidelines set up. I'll say "Let's draw the biggest fish we can draw" or "how many silly lines can we make" and I let them lead me. They ask me questions, show me things, and I sit there with my coffee watching their eyes wide with excitement. Watching them in their creative process is pure joy for me. Those silly lines can turn into a dragon or waves and next thing we know, we're drawing a big beach scene. My advice would be that you can suggest something to start it off but be open to how they take it. It is such a beautiful window into their minds.
Anj: Shifting gears to HIP HOP DANCE! Talk to us about his component of your creative expression.
Dev: I loved the Hip Hop scene in DC and discovered how much fun the clubs were in college. My friends told me about this Hip Hop Crew I should try out for, I was so scared because I've never taken a dance class in my life. I got in and it was like having another family. We competed all over the East Coast, it was a blast!
I found hipline when I started my first Design Job and needed an outlet. It was exactly what I needed and one of the owners asked if I was interested to teach. I've been teaching there since 2009 and am still going strong. It's a wonderful community of women. Now we're virtual and reaching clients all over.
Anj: What does a typical [pandemic] day look like for you? How does it differ from your rhythm before COVID?
Dev: I've been practicing being kinder to myself lately. Both me and my husband work full time and so having the girls at home is a challenge. Some days we are amazed by how smooth it went and then there are others where if the girls are clean and bellies are full, it's a total win.
Now that we're on month 8 our rhythm before covid felt more chaotic to be honest. I felt like we were always rushing out the door while carrying so many bags. Now my husband and I try to have coffee together, if he has a break from his meeting, and we sit with Quinn before school to see what she has to do for the day. Rowan's preschool closed down but we were able to find a wonderful speech therapist for her and she has an Adventure Pod we go to two times a week.
The one thing we really try to do is go outside once a day. Have some magic in their childhood no matter how small. It could be just going up for a hike by our home and picking up leaves, riding our bikes, or watching the sunset from our window. Seeing how the girls' react to these adventures we have is pure magic.
Anj: When you get creatively blocked or burnt out, how do you reset? Do you have tips you can share?
Dev: I go outside. I go out for a hike or go to the beach. Even if it's 15 minutes, something about grounding yourself in Nature is really healing. I also do exercise where I doodle for two minutes because it feels doable. Judgment-free doodles, always opens the doorway to more.
Anj: I know firsthand that community-building is huge for you. Tell us more about what your support system and creative community looks like.
Dev: I feel a lot of love and strength when I think of my community. My relationship with my sister led the way what women supporting women looks like. It's listening, asking questions, remembering, cheering for all the wins, being there even if it's hard, and taking time to invest in them. The way me and my sister show up for each other is why I have these amazing women in my life. I can talk to them about my family, motherhood, and we're all trying to balance it all while sharing my most recent project. I feel really blessed especially looking back in my college years where I don't know where Art would take me.
Anj: When you need to give yourself a pep talk, what does it sound like?
Dev: I usually take a deep breath then say or think "One step forward". Most of the time, I'm scared (as shit) but the thought of not trying scares me more. That one step forward can be hard as hell and maybe even heartbreaking, but I have to try.