Humans have a way of resisting anything that they cannot understand or associate with themselves. An individual has a slim, trim body, but they can’t understand why someone else, say an acquaintance, has a larger, softer body. They react to that as ‘abnormal” simply because it’s not their reality. One day, maybe they mention their views around said acquaintance who hears and then starts feeling bad. They didn’t think anything was wrong with how they looked before hearing that particular opinion. Now, they become self-conscious about how they look.
This explains, in a simple manner, the genesis of the body positivity movement. The things we say, the way we say them, to whom we say those things, they matter, whether positive or negative. What the movement seeks to do is to flood the world with as much positivity as there is negativity about the choices people all over the world make about their bodies.
In Nigeria, discussions centering on body positivity are a common theme on different social media platforms. Pick a random post by a young woman showing some skin and you can watch the negative comments under it grow by the second. Everyone seems to feel entitled to have an opinion about how someone else looks or dresses ( and worse, they believe stating that opinion in the worst way possible is a right they need to exercise daily).
It is a good thing then that the voices of the body positivity advocates are just as loud, some louder than others. There are a few individuals that have used the platforms available to them to shout their stories from the rooftops. Here are the Nigerian body positivity heroes leading the charge into 2022 and beyond!
Sofiyat Ibrahim (otherwise known as TheOdditty) is a 23-year old Nigerian-born content creator and body positivity advocate who has been on a steady rise since the early days of Covid-19 lockdown. I reckon going through her posts would definitely lift you out of the grumpiest of moods; that’s how genuinely fun and engaging Sofi is.
Her posts encourage people to embrace their weirdness in all its different forms. Probably her most popular video, one in which she comically encouraged black women to embrace their “black bits”, has over 3.5 million views and counting. It is safe to say that this bald, dark-skinned and absolutely gorgeous creative has indeed created a platform where women can feel confident and not feel like they have to fit into one-dimensional boxes.
Adetutu Alabi is a Nigerian face model who has garnered recognition on social media campaigning against African tribal markings. The custom of tribal marking, which is supposed to be a mark of beauty, is common among the Yoruba and Hausa tribes in Nigeria. According to her, as much as it is important for women with tribal marks to be accepted and for them not to let it dictate the trajectory of their lives, it’s also a tradition that needs to be stopped. Every child should be asked for their consent for it to be done, if at all.
Victims of facial scarring face social discrimination and body shaming throughout their lives. Adetutu herself is one, and she has been vocal about the bullying she has endured. She decided she had had enough in 2018 when she started her #TribalMarksChallenge on social media, which called on women to embrace their tribal markings. The campaign went viral and earned her a follow from Rihanna and a spot on her Fenty Beauty model list.
The 22-year-old pretty Nigerian influencer is gradually becoming the poster boy for men to embrace their effeminate selves all across Nigeria and Africa. Fondly known as the Lipgloss Boy, Enioluwa is deliberately and hilariously breaking every established idea about what it is to be masculine and how to behave like a man, much to the delight of many, especially women.
He started making videos in November 2020, which usually featured Enioluwa giving his take on different topical issues including dating, life, skincare, and so on – all while generously applying lip gloss. His videos are relatable, hilarious, and even sometimes chaotic, but they also usually subtly dismantle preconceived ideas about the human body, the role of men and women in society, and other important issues. He is helping to build people’s confidence in their bodies, one lip gloss application at a time.
Dami is the brilliant screenwriter behind some of the most beloved web series in the Nigerian entertainment space, including Skinny Girl in Transit (SGIT), Rumour Has It, and Men’s Corner. SGIT is a fan favorite that held millions of Nigerians spellbound for every one of its six seasons.
The show centered around Tiwalade, a plus-sized young woman, and her weight loss journey. The brilliant series was Dami’s brainchild and she once said in an interview that it was basically a story about her own life, except that she is still single and she doesn’t have that much of an exciting love life.
She is of the opinion that her physical appearance may have hindered her advancement in the Nigerian entertainment industry, which is something she is trying to change. She had this to say about body positivity:
“For me, body positivity is not just about me being plus-sized. Body positivity is about every single one of us who wake up in the morning and just look in the mirror and feel like they are not who they feel they should be.”
She wants everyone to be confident about the way they look, whether or not they are on the way to doing something about it.
Latasha is the founder of About That Curvy Life (ATCL), which is a brand that she started to support and inspire the plus-size community in Nigeria and all across Africa. She started this movement through her Instagram page, which soon gained popularity because of her sense of style and how she handled issues relating to body size.
Latasha wants to encourage and empower people that may be finding it hard to enjoy living in their bodies. Her message to anyone dealing with any kind of intimidation stemming from how they look? “The way people see you is really up to them. It has very little to do with you, and upon closer inspection, you will find that those people don’t also think very much of themselves too. Just keep pushing through whatever it is that you do or whatever that gives you joy and one day it will all be worth it.”
In their own ways, these amazing people are constantly pushing against the tide of negative comments and discrimination directed at people who do not conform to what society dictates a ‘normal’ body should look like. Let your inspiration for the year to come not lie in shame but in self-love and acceptance. We owe ourselves – and each other – at least that.