Tess Holliday’s life forever changed in 2015 when she became the first 5-foot-5-inch size 22 woman to land a contract with a top modeling agency.
Holliday is now a world-renowned cover girl with over 1 million followers, and she was named one of the world’s top plus-size model by Vogue Italia. Still, she still faces criticism for her shape.
The 32-year-old is not only celebrating her body on social media, but she’s also revealing the challenges she faced in being respected for her work.
When Fox News asked the Mississippi-born, LA-raised star about what misconceptions she wanted to address in her new book, “The Not So Subtle Art of Being a Fat Girl,” the answer was simple.
“I think mostly the fact that my success happened overnight,” explained the married mother of two. “That I didn’t work very hard to get to where I am today. The fact that a lot of people think I’m lazy, I sit around and do nothing when the reality is… I’m lucky if I’m able to eat anything or take a break at all.
"And sometimes I’m getting four to five hours of sleep. You know, my life is really chaotic, but it’s wonderful. And I wanted to show people that yeah I had a tough life, but things aren’t always easy and glamorous. But here I am, and I hope to shed some light on what it’s really like to be a plus-size woman in the industry that I’m in and in the world in general.”
Holliday is no stranger to negative comments. In her book, she describes being bullied so severely in high school she was forced to drop out and earn her GED.
“[My mom] was advocating for me. She was talking to the school; she was telling people that the behavior wasn’t appropriate,” recalled Holliday. “Unfortunately, no one was really listening. I learned at a really young age, unfortunately, that I had to take care of stuff myself, which is why I chose to drop out of school.
"It’s not the best avenue for people, but for me it’s kind of what I had to do to close that chapter in my life and move on. But I didn’t realize that I would be bullied as an adult and it would follow me through. So I had to choose not take things personally. I had to choose to stay strong and push through and really just put my blinders off and ignore people the best that I could. They weren’t pushing me forward in life.”
Holliday said she still faces criticism on social media, a platform she’s been dedicated to using as a means to let the world know all body types should be respected and given dignity. However, she admitted she steps away from it every now and then to focus on what truly keeps her happy.
“I think it’s really important to disconnect from social media and take a break to understand that people saying things to you online are just miserable people and not to take it personally,” said Holliday. “And to understand that it’s OK to live your life and to realize that social media is not real. It’s all an illusion. It’s what people want you to see."
Holliday said she struggled to become confident.
“The confidence did not happen overnight,” said Holliday. “I still have my good days and bad days. My team that got me ready today can tell you I was an absolute nightmare before this because I always have a moment before I go on camera of like, ‘What do I wear? Maybe I shouldn’t wear this.’
"That’s why I always say that loving yourself is a journey, not a destination. But that’s really what it is. It’s a long process and it’s drawn from people in my life like my mom, my husband and my friends really lifting me up and reminding me that you have good days and bad days and it’s OK.”
Holliday continues to break standards in the fashion world and she frankly doesn’t care if you call her fat. (For the record, she does hit the gym and shares her fitness routine on Instagram, too). However, Holliday admitted it can be frustrating at times when she’s simply not recognized for her work, like any other model.
“I feel that way constantly,” said Holliday. “I wish that I got to talk about my accomplishments far more than I have to talk about my size. Or feeling like I have to justify my health because in reality, the people who are questioning my health or my size actually do not know anything about my well-being."
There are many more goals Holliday still wants to accomplish.
“… When I signed to my agency, I felt like it gave me validation and it also set me up in a different playing field,” said Holliday. “People gave me more attention and I don’t always handle it the best and I’m still learning. But, I get to be here today and it’s a lot of fun.”