Tess Holliday is all too familiar with online bullies.
As one of the most well-known plus-size models in the world, the 33-year-old is a constant target of hateful comments from anti-fat trolls.
Despite amassing a following of more than 1.8 million Instagram followers, the mother-of-two says she receives hurtful comments from strangers on a daily basis.
“The other day I woke up to the following message on Instagram: ‘Your body image is unhealthy and dangerous. You’re a blimp trying to layer yourself in nice clothes and makeup. Can’t wait for you to drop dead of a heart attack,’” Holliday wrote in an essay for InStyle.
While Holliday admits she attends therapy to help combat the effects of the online abuse, she does her best not to retaliate, but instead meet her critics with compassion.
“Recently another girl messaged me saying how disgusting I was and how much she hated me. Instead of firing back I went to her profile and saw that she was recovering from anorexia,” Holliday said. “So I wrote to her: ‘I’m sad because you must be feeling really horrible to say such nasty things to me. The diet culture is f—-ed up and has ruined so many lives. Good luck with your recovery.” I put a heart after my message, and she responded with “Thank you” and a sad face, which I wasn’t expecting.”
For all the good that Holliday does for size inclusivity, she still wrestles with backlash from critics who accuse her of glorifying obesity, instead of self-confidence.
“If I say, ‘I love myself,’ and they think I’m saying, ‘Hey, you need to be 300 pounds, then you too could enjoy life as much as me,’ I have to smile,” she explained. “People act as if I’m selling Tupperware or something — that’s not how it works. I wish I would’ve loved myself 100 pounds ago, but this is the body I’m in. I can’t live life being miserable, because I could die tomorrow. And then what — I was miserable because I was fat? What a waste.”
While Holliday is now at a place where she feels confident and sexy, she said there were times before she began modelling where she struggled with self-esteem.
“I never felt confident before I got on set; there was never any clothing I felt good or sexy in,” she said. “Now I feel the most on top of my game when I’m at a photo shoot. I thrive in that space because I know I am the person I always dreamed of being.”