Jacob Tobia is a transgender model, activist, and writer all too familiar with the toils of being body shamed.
According to Mic, after being body shamed by a stylist on a photo shoot, Tobia decided it was time to turn body shaming on its head. Instead of allowing themselves to think, "why do I have this body," Tobia wondered why more people weren't demanding, "why would this brand try to make me feel badly about my body?"
The model took to Instagram to describe the incident, and how we can challenge the industry to think differently:
"Today I had a fitting with a designer for an upcoming photoshoot. After schlepping myself halfway across town to the fitting, I show up and the stylist helping me says 'okay so what size are you?' I told him that I was anywhere between an 8 and a 12, depending on the designer. 'Oh, we don't have much of that, but let's see what we can do.' After fifteen minutes of digging, he hands me two dresses. 'This one's an 8, but it's stretchy so it might fit? And this other dress is a 10--it's the only one I could find.' I contorted, sucked in, tensed my stomach, and pushed all of the air out of my lungs, but the first dress wouldn't zip. Which left the second dress, a boring, dull, black cocktail dress lacking in both personality and structure. 'Sorry we couldn't find anything else for you,' he said half-heartedly, dismissively, while checking his email, "we don't regularly have anything bigger than an 8 in our showroom.' For a second, I started spiraling into a vortex of self-hatred and shame about my body. I almost started to feel ugly. After a minute and a few deep breaths, I stopped myself. There is *nothing* wrong with my body. I have a great body. I have a gorgeous body. But my body is also one that the fashion industry refuses to recognize as worthy of consideration or beautification. Because I am feminine and large, because I am feminine and have big feet, the fashion industry dismisses me out of the gate...
Though their initial reaction was to let the stylist's insensitive slights get to them, Tobia had a revelation:
"...If I can't find a dress at your showroom, it's not because there's something wrong with my body, it's because there's something wrong wth your brand, with who your brand values as beautiful," they said.
"On a day that tried to shake my self confidence and self esteem, I'm posting a self-portrait in my underwear to reaffirm just how cute I know I am ????????"
Tobia said they shared the experience with their followers on Instagram because they "didn't just want to talk about my body, I wanted people to see my body; to see how beautiful and sexy and cute it is. I wanted to take something that hurt me and, by the alchemy of social media, transform it into something that empowers all of us. Sometimes, a self-portrait in your underwear is the only thing that will do the trick."
Challenging beauty standards is hardly new for Tobia. As an activist and model, they've been pretty vocal about our need for progress.
For Tobia, body-hair norms, nonbinary bodies, and pronoun education are at the top of the list. The model recently took body-hair norms to task on their first red carpet debut by wearing a sexy dress that showed off their hairy arms, legs, and chest.
The model admitted that the experience made them feel "the weight of what it means to push back against the idea that hairlessness equals beauty."
Of course, there are a million other stories similar to Tobia's, but their takeaway from the experience is pretty unique — especially in the way it encourages us to take the shame brands can put on us for not meeting their "norms" and have the courage and insight to throw it right back at them.