By Gig Hope @giglet_media
Gorgeous social media influencer April Helene-Horton – aka The Bodzilla (she/her) – addresses an audience of mostly women. They are all ages, shapes, abilities, and sizes. She opens by telling a story about someone at an event earnestly asking her: “In your dreams are you thin?” Her answer: when she dreams, she doesn’t notice her body. Her size doesn’t matter.
This was an oft-repeated sentiment by the other panellists of the Bodies That Positivity Left Behind talk, one of many panel discussions hosted by the annual All About Women Festival, held at the Sydney Opera House. Bodies, especially bodies that don’t fall into the narrow, cis, white, thin category of “the norm”, should not be commented upon. Especially if those comments are delivered as wistfully as wishing a loved one home from war.
On stage with Helene-Horton were Deni Todorovic (they/them), a podcast host, author, and activist; Sasha Ketubah Sarago (she/her), an author, speaker, and filmmaker; Tanya Hennessy (she/her), a comedian, television presenter, author, and radio announcer; and Elly Desmarchelier (she/her), a disability rights advocate, writer, and speaker.
All the panellists have disparate body types. All four are the picture of diversity. Helene-Horton and Hennessy are plus-sized. Helene-Horton was dressed in a stunning fully sheer gown. Hennessy was in a trendy matching zebra print set with black platform Crocs with funky Jibbitz. Desmarchelier, a wheelchair user, was outfitted in a classic, preppy button-down. Sarago was tall and slender in a beautifully tailored jewel-tone suit and Todorovic an assigned male at birth (AMAB) trans, non-binary person was resplendent in a white, flared suit with hot pink, gigantic platform heels and a full glam beat.
In short everyone had extremely different bodies and challenges that go along with dressing those bodies, yet they all looked incredibly stylish and fashionable.
All the panellists come from as disparate worlds as possible with equally differing views regarding the body positivity movement. However, everyone could agree on one thing: they were all well-known, often professionally photographed people for popular publications including Vogue, Marie-Claire, and Elle magazines, yet none is ever offered the luxury of being styled for said photoshoots.
Hennessy and Helene-Horton suggested the lack of styling options on photoshoots is due to their size. Todorovic and Desmarchelier said that due to disability and gender presentation they are expected to completely handle themselves when it comes to styling for photoshoots. Perhaps most shocking was Sarago, who said that because of her race (African American and Aboriginal) she is often left to style herself. Sarago recounted that as a former model she was expected to do her own hair and makeup because no one on staff knew how to handle her hair texture or what colours would look like on her skin tone.
The panellists lamented that in a world where the Dove body positivity ads are lauded and anyone who shows their imperfect bodies is called “brave”, the styling staff on photo shoots find it impossible to dress them.
Glitz and glamour seemingly comes standard with notoriety, but only as long as you fit in a box where you are cis, straight sized, able-bodied and white.
Featured image: Illustration for the session Stories from the Bodies that Positivity Left Behind, courtesy Sydney Opera House media.