In the past year, Chrissy Metz has become a bona fide style icon in her own right, scoring high-fashion shoots in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and killing every red carpet look she steps out in.

The This Is Us star has become a red carpet fixture after the show’s first season exploded in popularity, skyrocketing her to fame, and finding the confidence to rock a sexy, form-fitting dress is new to her. In an interview with PEOPLE for their annual style issue, the actress says her newfound fame “transformed” how she dresses. “I never wore form-fitting dresses before,” Metz shared. “There are a lot of people who make you feel uncomfortable if you show a chubby stomach, arm, or leg. I was being educated, while becoming part of the conversation on size inclusivity.”

With all that intense scrutiny, it’s not surprising that she’d worry about the reaction from critics, but Metz has learned how to embrace her status as a body positive influence. “When I started promoting This Is Us, I was worried about how things would photograph, but I slowly gained confidence. I love bold colors and prints now, like the floral gown I wore to the 2017 Critics’ Choice Awards,” she said. “Being a big girl, you want to hide sometimes, but with that dress, it was like ‘Boom! I’m here, in all my embroidered glory.'”

The American Horror Story actress says one recent look in particular sparked a flurry of backlash: a red latex baby-doll dress to the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards. “People were up in arms: ‘There’s a big girl in latex!’ I was surprised, because it was a baby-doll silhouette I’d worn before, but everyone thought it was taboo,” Metz said, before admitting, “I showed a little more cleavage than usual.” In the end, she owned the look: “As people, we evolve, and so do our fashion choices.”

And thanks to her newfound confidence, Metz has become a vocal champion for body acceptance and body positivity.“I want to encourage women to enjoy what they’re wearing, as opposed to just finding a boring black dress that fits,” she says.

What do you think of Chrissy Metz’s red carpet style? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Frederick M. Brown/Getty)