Tess Holliday Says, “Being A Bitch Is Unhealthy”
Call Tess Holliday fat all you like—she doesn’t care. The size 22 model isn’t just known for her size, but for her opinions; this has been a successful year for her, and it’s just the beginning. From online bullies to life threatening experiences with the press, Tess isn’t letting anyone get the best of her.
Z by Zevarra Dress, Stylist’s own gloves, Melody Ehsani Ring
Galore Mag: Since this year began, have you felt a need to guard yourself more?
Tess Holliday: I definitely have. Three weeks ago, reporters from The Daily Mail showed up at my grandparents’ house to find out information about my past. That’s to be expected, but the issue is that my mom was shot twice in the head by her fiancée when I was 10 years old and was basically left for dead.
You’ve spoken about your mom in the press before though, right?
TH: I’ve spoken about her before, but I haven’t gone more in depth because her shooter is not in prison anymore and I worry about her safety. The Daily Mail just went too far. I was always so open about my life; and this year, people, especially in the media, have been too invasive. I feel like what I’ve given them, which is a lot, hasn’t been enough and will never be enough.
Do you feel like your fans are becoming too invasive?
I love my fans, but I don’t feel like there is any sort of privacy when you’re a public figure online. I’ve never told anyone “no” for a photo, but people have started to wait outside of my bathroom stall. Throughout all of this, people have taken it to a level that I didn’t expect. And everyone says that it comes with it, but…
I don’t think people will ever stop taking unless you stop giving.
Exactly, so it’s starting to make me want to give less. The whole purpose of everything I’m working towards is to help other women, and if I don’t give, well, then I can’t help them either.
How has it affected your relationships?
It’s definitely taken a toll on all of my relationships – with my friends, with my partner, with my son. It has made me much more closed-off. I’ve had to relearn how to cope with things on my own and also pay more therapists. [Laughs]
Who has served as your support system throughout all of these changes?
My support system is really large: It’s my partner, it’s my son, it’s my ex-boyfriend who is my son’s father, it’s my best friends, and it’s my mom. Without all of them, I don’t know if I would still be here. I’ve had some really dark times, and they’ve all pulled me through them.
Have you known your best friends your entire life?
Two of them were the first designers to use me as a model for their clothing line. One was a fan of mine who is now my assistant. My makeup artist has also become one of my best friends.
That’s interesting that you’ve been able to meet new people that you trust throughout the process of becoming famous.
To an extent, but I will say that I don’t have too many new friends since I began modeling. Most of the new people I’ve let into my circle just haven’t ended up working out. Most people don’t understand if I have to cancel last minute on plans to hang out. I don’t really expect them to understand either. My real friends get it. They understand what it’s like to have a stressful job and be in the public eye. None of them judge me for it.
Has your mom always influenced your body image in a positive way?
My mom didn’t really help me with my body image, but she always told me to embrace my weird personality and not be ashamed of being different – that it was a good thing. I had to figure out body image on my own though. I was always made fun of for being fat. My mom never made me feel bad for my body, but if I wanted to lose weight, then she would support that.
How did you learn to embrace your body image then?
It has just been something I’ve learned through growing confidence in modeling and from meeting body positive activists.
Do you ever have days that you don’t feel great about your body?
Yes, sometimes I have a bad day and need to remind myself what I like about myself.
How do you do that?
I feel like the days I’ve posted photos online of me in lingerie are the days that I’ve felt the worst. On a shitty day, I force myself to wear a crop top or shorts, and then take a photo to remind myself why I love my body.
For someone who is often described as unhealthy, that seems like a very healthy way of thinking.
I mean, sometimes if I’m having a bad day, it involves eating ice cream and sometimes it involves going to Disneyland or spending time with my son. Honestly, having sex helps me a lot. I don’t base my happiness on how my partner views me or how other people view me, but it’s nice to feel like somebody wants me.
What does being unhealthy mean to you?
I view health on what your heart is like and how you treat other people. I think that being a bitch is unhealthy. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I’m not nice to other people or even myself. My life is really active. At times, it involves running through an airport or standing in stilettos for 12 hours a day. So I choose to workout when I can so that I can perform at the level that I’m at now.
Do you encourage people to work out?
I don’t encourage people to work out or diet because I feel like what we do with our bodies is our own choice. If someone wants to smoke two packs a day, then who cares? Life is shitty. Whether you have a good life or not, it’s shitty. Some vices are physically noticeable and others aren’t.
Why do you think that other women judge you so harshly?
They are unhappy with themselves. Period. If you’re happy and confident in yourself, then you have no reason to attack other people. People on the Internet say what a horrible person I am, that I lie about my size or whatever, but the reality is that these people have no lives of their own.
Have you ever judged another woman on the Internet?
There are plenty of people that I don’t like, but I would just never do that to somebody. You never know what a person is going through, and you could say the one shitty thing that makes them throw themselves off a cliff. It’s not worth it. I have really strong opinions about that.
Why do you think people judge you?
I think people forget that I’m a person. I’m not just this rich bitch that has the whole world in my hand, because I don’t. I have problems and feelings that should be respected just as much as those who aren’t in the public eye.
Why do you keep your social media?
My following on social media has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have normally had because of my size and because of the way that I look. It’s not all bad. I treat my social media fans like an extended family, because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have the life that I have now.
What’s the most powerful body image advice you can give?
Being from a small town and not being properly educated, I had a narrow view on sex workers. I didn’t understand how someone could be in a relationship, but then be a sex camera girl. Now, I understand that it makes them feel good, and if it’s them using their body in a way that benefits themselves or their family, then I’m okay with it. My most powerful advice would be not to judge other people for what they choose to do with their bodies.
Z by Zevarra Dress, Stylist’s own gloves, Melody Ehsani Ring, Palter DeLiso Shoes
Photography & Creative Direction by Prince + Jacob
Styling by Alexandra Mandelkorn
Styling Assistant Emma Larsen
Hair & Makeup by Cherish Brooke Hill using Nars