Roz Mays, better known as Roz the Diva, is one of the leading plus-size women in fitness. The pole-dancing teacher is accustomed to being shamed for her body. Howard Stern even led the charge during a cringe-inducing unaired segment of "America's Got Talent."
However, Roz refuses to be fat-shamed into silence.
Unfortunately, the fat shaming comment isn't an isolated incident for Roz.
She told Revelist that she receives similar fatphobic comments on YouTube, Facebook, and when brands post photos of her. However, she doesn't think people are purposefully following her account to troll her.
"I don’t [encounter a lot of fatphobia on my own account] because what I do is so specific that you would have to make an effort to find 'plus-size pole dancer named Roz in New York City,'" she said. "I feel like nobody chooses to follow an account just so they can hate it. They may come to visit it once or twice, but I feel that is a step that even douchebags don't take because it’s just extra effort."
The fat shaming even happens on prestigious websites, like The New York Times, according to Roz. Those are the comments that sting the most.
"I had a documentary that was on The New York Times' website. It had about 150-something comments, and their comments were the same as the douchebags on YouTube. But the way they were constructed on The New York Times was that they're complete sentences, complete thoughts, and it was packaged really nicely. So, it's much easier for people to eat horse shit when it's served on a gold platter as opposed to Facebook, where people are like, 'you should die, fatty.'" It's obvious there, but it's not obvious when you set up a topic sentence and supporting paragraphs and you have a regular name."
Many of the commenters attack Roz's Blackness as well as her size.
She said the racial shaming bothers her most when it comes from fellow Black people:
"Some random dude on Instagram said, 'Black women should chill and stop being independent because if you had a man, he wouldn't let you leave the house leaving fat and ugly and sloppy and stupid.' If I'm coming after anybody, I'm coming after fam first."
The hatred tossed Roz's way doesn't bother her, no matter how often it happens.
"For better or worse,
I actually have a pretty fucked-up sense of self-esteem, as in it doesn't exist
really," she said. "So, I never felt like getting over people's comments is something I had
to conquer because it never really bothered me because I say the worst things
about myself. No one can say anything worse to me than I've said to myself."
Pole-dancing has been revolutionary in helping Roz create a better relationship with her body.
"Pole-dancing is the reason I'm trying to make positive changes and build some sense of self-worth," she said. "For the first time, sports wasn't about me running fast, which is something I've never been able to do, but [pole-dancing] is the hardest thing I've ever done physically."
Through pole-dancing and a group of supportive female friends, Roz is reshaping her relationship with her body.
"Pole-dancing has been so helpful in starting to repair my relationship with myself because the focus isn't just on what I look like," she explained. "I hang out with a bunch of women, and we ogle each other, not just because you're blonde and small and skinny, but it's like, 'Oh shit, what did you deadlift today? That’s so hot.'"
Now, teaching other plus-size women to love their bodies is her goal. It's the ultimate slap in the face to fat shamers.
"The same things that one or two fat shamers [say] online they can't stand are the reasons I have sold-out classes week after week. People tell me specifically that because of my size, now they're going to try. Before they wouldn't try because they didn't have an example. They didn't think it was possible because they just had never seen it, but when they come to class, they see me, and they think 'I'm not going to be only overweight person, so now I'm a lot less embarrassed about trying.'"
She's no longer the "fat kid in gym," but by simply existing, Roz is showing other plus-size women a way forward, fat shamers be damned.