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Model and body-positive activist Tess Holliday
is a force to be reckoned with. Garnering over 1 million fans on Facebook and
over 900,000 followers on Instagram, Holliday has become an influential figure
in the body-positive community and beyond. With a major modeling contract with
MiLK Model Management—the first of its kind at her size of 22—and gracing the
cover of People magazine's June issue, 29-year-old Holliday is paving the way
for plus-size women everywhere.
Despite her success, Holliday had a rough beginning. When Tess was nine years old, her mother was shot twice in the head by her
boyfriend and eventually became paralyzed. Bullies always taunted Holliday about
her size and her mother's health. She dropped out of high school during junior
year and had her son (below from Holliday's Instagram feed) at age 20 while she was working at a Walmart in
Following her dream to become a model and to
get her son Riley out of the small town, Holliday moved to Seattle with $700
and later made her way to Los Angeles. Holliday posted
her pictures on ModelMayhem, which caught the attention of a casting director
for A&E's show "Heavy." From there she started to nab modeling gigs and
gain followers via social media for posting unapologetic images of her body. But,
with a growing online presence, the bullies followed. Despite constant
negative comments and even death threats, Holliday remained strong.
"I just knew that life could be better if I just put myself
out there and really, like, kept believing in myself. I think that's really
how I got where I am," Holliday told the "Today" show. "I think for me it's all
about accepting yourself the way you are now and loving who you are today and
if you want to work towards a better you in whatever regards ... do it,
but you're OK just the way you are today."
Holliday has been named one of the top plus-size models in the
world by Vogue Italia and has been featured on Entertainment Tonight, the "Today" show, LA Weekly, US Weekly, BuzzFeed and more. In addition to modeling, Holliday
founded an anti-body shaming movement called Eff Your Beauty Standards that
sells merchandise and runs an Instagram account of body-positive posts and
images from women all over world.
There's no doubt that Holliday's life is a Cinderella story,
but her accomplishments didn't result without hard work, persistence and a tough
skin. She fights to alter people's perceptions of beauty. Whether you are considered skinny or plus-size, Holliday's
determination and influence is inspiration for all of us.