Virgie Tovar

Virgie Tovar was on the hunt for a few household products when she caught a glimpse of Target’s new swim campaign. 

There was a woman with a muffin top hanging over the bikini bottoms. Another one had visible burn marks. Yet another with pregnancy scars. 

“I just kind of stopped dead in my tracks,” Tovar told WWD. 

The advocate, influencer, author of books like “You Have the Right to Remain Fat” and plus-size personality knows a lot about super-size fashion. She’s worked with brands such as Curvy Couture lingerie, Dia&Co., Eloquii, Torrid and Anthropologie, has a master’s degree in what she calls “fat studies, essentially,” and travels around the country to talk about weight-based discrimination. 

Still, “I literally never thought that in my lifetime that I would see that. I grew up fat. I come from a fat family. I experienced a lot of fat shaming and fat phobia growing up. And it really impacted how I walked through the world.”

Virgie Tovar

Virgie Tovar  Courtesy

Hence the new podcast, Rebel Eaters Club, hosted by Tovar and produced by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Transmitter Media. The six-episode series, which premieres Feb. 24, focuses on body positivity and “breaking up with diet culture,” Tovar said. 

“It’s a food-positive, body-positive podcast that invites people to finally break up with diet culture,” she explained. The guest list includes sculptor Mia Feuer, chef Fresh Roberson, food critic Soleil Ho, Shay Neary, the first plus-sized transgender model to receive a major contract, and more.

Tovar, a San Francisco Bay Area native, said society not only pressures people — mostly women but some men, too — to feel bad about their size, but it also often ignores them, especially when it comes to fashion. 

“When you’re talking about the plus-size world, there has been so little access to clothing,” she said. “I think a lot of people are just in an urgent state of need.”

Some brands that Tovar said are getting it correct are 11 Honoré, The Plus Bus, Proud Mary Fashion, Lafayette 148 and Pari Passu.

“With more inclusive products and photography today, women have reshaped the way they look at their bodies,” said Ariela Esquenazi, owner of Curvy Couture. 

Tovar just wishes more consumers had the opportunity to experience fashion that way. 

“There’s an intellectual part of us that knows that the body of the 1 percent is being shown to us [in advertisements] 99 percent of the time,” Tovar said. “But, there’s another part of us that kind of overrides that part of our brain, because we’re seeing that [ideal] body 99 percent of the time. So whatever input the brain is getting, it normalizing it. 

“Even if you’re not plus-size, consistently seeing only one kind of body really does have long-term effects,” Tovar continued. “And [marketing messages] are so subtle, sometimes people don’t realize the impact. Everybody wants to believe that they’re not naive enough to fall for marketing. But we all are. And that’s why people spend so much money on marketing — because it works.”

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