When I spoke to Paige Hall about her recently released project, Fat Mermaids: A Collaborative Charity Zine, and asked her why she’s so passionate about mermaids, I received the best answer anyone has ever given me: “What’s not to love about a chunky iridescent tail and starfish pasties?” Hall is an illustrator and avid advocate of body positivity, and she often combines the two by drawing fat mermaids. When she began to experience a high volume of online harassment for her fat positive activism, her twitter followers responded in the most appropriate way possible: with image after image of mermaids. Upon seeing a flood of positivity meant to drown out the oppressive white noise of her harassers, Hall decided to share the gift of fat mermaids with the world.
Hall described the response to her call for submissions as “…mindblowing. I think I got around 250 or more. I was incredibly flattered, and I don’t think my email inbox has ever been more cluttered in my life.” While over 250 artists were hard at work, shading scales and glittering pasties, Hall began to research charities. She wanted to find an organization whose mission and work resembled her own beliefs about body positivity, and eventually settled on Beauty Redefined. According to Hall, “Beauty Redefined is about being happy with your body, no matter what state it’s in, because that is the only way you can move forward to be a better you, regardless of what shape you are.”
Lexie Kite and Lindsay Kite, a pair of identical twins with doctorates in media and body image, founded the non-profit. They travel to schools, conferences and other organizations to promote positive body image, and offer an 8-week online program designed to break down the social pressures and help attendees build body image resilience. Their work is a neat complement to Hall’s, which involves creating positive, realistic (well – except for the mermaid part) media and images of fat women.
When I asked Hall about the relationship between art and body positivity, she acknowledged the opportunity art awards illustrators to create change. Recalling the media she consumed when she was younger, Hall explained:
We control what a lot of media looks like, and the more visual exposure people have to things and ideas, the more acceptance they’ll have of it. I never saw fat people in drawings or television presented as anything other than a punch line. Now I’m older and I can draw pretty okay and I can make things that show fat people as human beings instead of jokes, and so are a lot of other peers of mine… A lot of people react very viciously and violently to our attempts to alter the way society at large thinks of things, as seen by the responses I got that ended up with me making the Fat Mermaid zine. But, I think progress is being made. I believe artists are in a position of power and that we should use that to try and make a positive change.
The zine is a perfect illustration of the power that artists hold. Two options are available: a digital copy of the zine, which includes over 200 pages of adorable, magical, diverse mermaids, and a physical zine, which boasts 91 pages of mermaids. The digital zine is available for $5 and the physical for $30, but Hall added a $15 option that includes the digital zines and a holographic postcard featuring never-before-seen art by the curator herself!
While surrounding oneself with gorgeous fat mermaids is a great step toward fat positivity, Hall also had some extra advice:
My number 1 tip for people that struggle with self-esteem is to fake it until you make it. It’s extremely hard to just decide to change your mind one day about something that has probably been nailed into your head since middle school. I have always had major body image issues. At one point during college I just decided to start calling myself hot. No awkward laughs, no sad thoughts, just “yeah, I am pretty, aren’t I?” whenever my image was mentioned. I didn’t really believe it at all, but I was saying it, and the more you say it, the more it settles in your brain that you’re telling the truth. Self-hatred is a habit that I think you can break. I still have issues and I think it’s impossible to NOT feel bad about yourself sometimes, but if someone tells me I look good, I’m like, “hell yeah.” And if they say I don’t look good, I just look at my selfies like, “okay, but you’re super wrong because look at how hot I am.”
I know all you hotties out there are scrambling to get your hands (or PDF readers) on this zine, and you definitely want to scramble! It’s only available until September 17th. Buy it on Hall’s gumroad and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or by keeping up with her website at thumpcramps.net.