Tess Holliday on How to Raise Feminist Sons—And That Sleeve Pic With Chrissy Teigen
Tess Holliday is no stranger to speaking her mind. Whether she’s making a political statement with her outfit choices or clapping back at body shamers on social media, the plus-size model is an open book—so it’s only fitting that she’s put pen to paper and written an actual book about her journey. Holliday’s candid memoir, The Not So Subtle Art of Being A Fat Girl: Loving the Skin You're In, comes out next month, offering an inspirational account of her own road to body acceptance.
In her signature fashion, the book maintains positive vibes. When she stopped by InStyle’s New York City HQ last week, we asked her what fans can look forward to in her literary debut. Her response? “Hopefully, humor,” she said. “And some inspiration about the fact that anything's possible and you can do, basically, the impossible. I just hope to inspire people to do their own thing and to embrace what makes them unique and themselves.”
Scroll down for our full chat with Holliday. You'll find out how she’s raising her sons to be feminists, who ranks on her list of style icons, and what she’s bonded over with Chrissy Teigen.
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You’re a major advocate of body positivity in all the work you do. How was the process of writing this book different from what you've done previously?
Well, it's bottled up in one place for everybody to look at and read and, hopefully, be inspired by. I kept thinking I was putting all of this content on social media and you know, you're getting little glimpses of my life and maybe things that I'm going through, but it would be really great to actually have a resource to say like, ‘Here’s my story; here's how I got here.’ Hopefully people read it and say, "Yeah, I can do that." In the book, I have kind of like Tess Holliday's guide for life or little bits of my advice throughout the way. So they're just little takeaways that people can maybe stick on their wall or remind themselves of when they're having a bad day.
What was the hardest part of the writing process?
It was so much pressure to make sure that I was saying what I wanted to say, that I was inspiring other people, and that I was getting everything out that I wanted to say. I felt like maybe I wasn't doing the best job, but then I had to remind myself that I can always do it again. There can always be a second book or a part two.
You've said in the past that you're raising your sons to be little feminists. How are you making an effort to do that?
I talk about it in the book—why I feel like it's important to raise your children to be feminists. And if you're not even using the term, then making sure that they're aware of what's going on in the world and making sure they're treating other people with respect—whether it's people of different genders, races, minorities, social backgrounds. It's really important just to be a good person. And that's kind of what the core of feminism is: caring about other people, doing your part to make the world a better place than the way you found it. And so I always try and tell especially my 11-year-old that he has to treat other people with kindness. He has to be patient with other people, and it's not always easy. And then my 1-year-old doesn't really care about much, but when he's old enough, I'll do the same thing. Look, it might not all stick, but hopefully some of it will.
You're an inspiration for so many people. Who are some of your own role models?
I've had so many. I always joke that Miss Piggy's my favorite, but she really is. And that's why I have her [tattooed] on my arm. Miss Piggy was like the first glamorous, plus-size girl that I saw, and she was chasing after a man with pearls and silk dresses. Nobody can be mad at that. I was really inspired by her ... I think all of [my fashion icons] are fictional, like Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus. I love the coordinating outfits and I feel like some of my fashion came from there. As for who I'm inspired by now, I love Rihanna. I love pretty much everything that she does. I also find inspiration from meeting my followers while traveling. So many people have interesting stories, and I always try and take something away from all of it.
What’s the one fashion item that when you put it on, it gives you an instant confidence boost?
Because I feel like red lipstick—and I say this in my book—can change the world. Or at least change your mindset to hopefully change the world.
Who are some of your favorite brands or designers right now?
Well, for plus-size there aren't too many options as far as high-end, but I like City Chic. I like Eloquii. ASOS has a great range. As far as high-end, I feel like Gucci literally does no wrong. I love Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. So I tend to like the edgier brands and fun stuff. I also love all of Kate Spade’s wicker purses—they're my favorite. I just like to have fun with fashion.
You recently hung out with Chrissy Teigen at Beautycon. What was that like?
It was actually a really funny story. So Chrissy Teigen followed me—I don't know if you guys remember, but right after she had Luna, a lot of people came for her because she was breastfeeding and you could see stretch marks and stuff like that. She fired back at them and was pissed off, like, obviously. I was about to have Bowie, my second child, and being a second-time mom, I knew what it was like. So I retweeted it in defense of her. Then I got a notification that she started following me. I tried to stay calm, because we all know that Chrissy Teigen's amazing. I never met her—we've interacted on Twitter before—and we were at Beautycon backstage. I was about to go on the panel with Kelly Rowland and Simone Biles and Skai Jackson. She was on stage doing a panel, and I felt a hand on my back. I look, and John Legend's walking by. So I was like, “Okay, stay chill. You can do it.” I see Chrissy exit the stage. I'm looking at my husband and I was like, “Be calm.” And then I hear someone scream and say, “You!" I turned around, and it's Chrissy Teigen. She ran to me and she gave me a huge hug. I almost died. We both had flare sleeves, so that's why the photo happened. I was like, “Okay, well first of all, so happy we're meeting. We both have the same sleeves.” So we did a bunch of silly photos and chatted a bit … It was a moment.
This interview has been edited and condensed.