Happy Monday! I wanted to offer something a little light-hearted to start off the week, so I decided to dedicate this post to a few fierce fat female recording artists that have rocked my world and provided a counterpoint to how fat women are viewed in society. These women are all in control of their own image, their own unique styles, and have managed to find success in an industry that isn’t all that friendly to non-Katy Perry looking women.
Martha Wash is a big reason why vocal credits are listed on albums now. Back in the ’90s, she did the vocals for C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat” but in the music video, a thin woman was featured lip syncing to Wash’s vocals. She sued for royalties and won. Wash is actually a favorite among gay men and regularly performs at LGBT events. Her story illustrates the prejudice displayed by the music industry against fat women—they didn’t want Wash to appear in the video due to her size.
Jill Scott also appears on TV in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency on HBO. She’s one of my favorite singers and has always represented fierce fat women to the fullest as well as holding it down for the natural sisters out there. Jill has made forays onto the big screen as well, appearing in Why Did I Get Married? and Why Did I Get Married Too? This video is my favorite of hers, if only for the wig yanking.
Although she’s smaller than when she first came out, Missy Elliott is still larger than your average pop starlet. And when she first came out, she ignored pretty much every fashion “rule” for fat chicks—her first video, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” featured her dressed in an inflated garbage bag of a jumpsuit. Repping for the smaller fats now, her style hasn’t changed. She’s still as unique (and multitalented) as ever.
When she was nominated for an Oscar back in 2002 (for Chicago), Queen Latifah caused a fashion uproar by simply being fatter than the average screen siren. Designers lined up to dress her for the Oscars, the coming of the plus size revolution was trumpeted, and she got contracts for various cosmetic and fashion companies. It wasn’t until Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe were nominated that another fat actress received the amount of fashion designers fawning over them that Latifah did. Back in the 00s, she was our fat icon.
Fashion’s current fat darling, Beth Ditto, has contributed a great deal artistically to getting representations of fat bodies out there with no holds barred. Frequently appearing naked in magazines, Ditto wears tight, revealing clothing on the regular and has no qualms with showing her body in what many would consider “unflattering” ways. She’s teamed up with UK fat fashion retailer Evans to create two collections of clothes reflecting her personal style. Even noted fatphobe Karl Lagerfeld had to act like he could stand being next to a fat person for a while to take pictures with her at Fashion Week—and she played a private Fendi party.
Adele is a Grammy award-winning fat UK soul singer with an amazingly evocative voice and a quirky personal style. Have you noticed the best soul singers are usually fat? It’s our superpower. Like so many other fat women in the music industry, she’s been thrown shade by the fashion powers-that-be, namely Vogue magazine, but Anna Wintour’s fear of fat has been documented for ages now.
An honorary mention goes to two former fats, Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday (from the Broadway production of Dreamgirls. Here they are belting out the signature song from the movie/musical that made them both famous–when they were fat. Although I think this was shot pre-Weight Watchers for J.Hud. It’s sad to lose them, but odds are they’ll be back. We’ll save seats for you, divas.