Tess Holliday has made a career of modeling, so it shouldn't be that shocking to see this mom of two on the cover of a magazine (after all, having her photo taken is literally the job description).
But because of Holliday's size her new Cosmopolitan UK cover did shock, and it electrified conversations about body positivity and media representation—and the story she tells inside the magazine is doing the same for maternal mental health.
This is a jolt that is way overdue and one that we are so here for. 🙌
The photo on the cover of Cosmo UK's October issue sees Holliday, the author of The Not So Subtle Art Of Being A Fat Girl, blowing kisses while posing in a swimsuit. Her quotes inside the magazine aren't as cheery as her expression on the cover, but they are just as important.
She tells Cosmo she really struggled with her mental health between 2017 and this spring. Her youngest son, Bowie, was born in 2016. A lot of mothers can relate to experiencing dark times, self-doubt and depression in those early, challenging sleep deprived years of motherhood.
Holliday describes her experience to Cosmo: "I remember very vividly driving in the car with Bowie and I thought to myself, 'I wish I could just disappear. I wish I could vanish.' It felt at that point like I was causing everyone around me so much pain. It felt like a never-ending black hole. I was so tired of hurting … I just didn't want to be here anymore."
Things have been improving for Holliday since the spring. She's taking care of her mental health and at a reported size 22, she's refusing to feel bad about the body that birthed her two boys and has carried her through a life that has touched and helped so many others.
"You know, you have to take care of your mental state before you can worry about anything else," she recently told Good Morning America.
Her Cosmo cover literally made people cry, with many women commenting on social media about how they wish they'd seen such a cover when they were growing up, but long before this cover, Holliday was changing lives and minds as the influencer behind #effyourbeautystandards. The hashtag she created has been used millions of times by other people who feel empowered to love their own bodies and rock the clothing that they want to (at any size) because of Holliday.
"I created [the campaign] out of frustration," she told Cosmo. "I was angry and sad that people kept commenting on my pictures saying, 'You're too fat to wear that!' or 'Cover up! No one wants to see that!'"
One night Holliday was lying in bed and decided to clap back at the criticism.
"So I posted an image with four photographs of myself wearing things that fat women are often told we 'can't wear', and encouraged others to do the same," she explains.
Sometimes, we mamas do need a little encouragement from fellow women who are unapologetic about loving themselves and their bodies, like Holliday, whose Cosmo cover is sparking important conversations.
"I'm at the heaviest I've ever been in my life now and it took me being the heaviest to finally love myself," she told the magazine, offering some advice to fellow mamas that she wishes she could offer to her former self.
"I was a US size 16 to 18 my entire life before I had Rylee [her oldest son, now 13]. I look back on those photos now and I don't wish I was that size, but what I wish is that I loved myself 120 pounds ago," she shared.
You can love yourself at any size, Mama. That's the message Holliday is serving on the cover and in the pages of Cosmo UK, and in her epic relies to all the predictable backlash about her cover. She's been accused of promoting obesity, a criticism Holliday says totally misses the point.
"I'm not recruiting people. I'm literally just telling people to love themselves and it just happens to come from a bigger body," she told Good Morning America.
That message of self-love is one we all need to take to heart and teach the next generation. Maybe if we do, they won't be at all shocked when a magazine cover features a beautiful woman in a swimsuit.