I have loved Queen Latifah since the 80’s! I have loved her and so many other female MC’s from that era and after. I just super love female MC’s as a general rule, but Queen Latifah was always a favorite. I followed her career over the years as she went from MC to starring on our television screens on Living Single and even the big screen in Set it Off, Chicago, Bessie, and so many other wonderful films. I never saw her as a fat icon in the fat liberation sense, but always appreciated her ability to stand out while truly shining in her spotlight.
When I happened across a post in my feed that mentioned Queen Latifah by The Curvy Fashionis last night I clicked immediately! As I read their post I got excited, Queen Latifah was on The Red Table Talk…talking about being plus size?! I got so excited, and I don’t usually watch that show. And honestly, I was so full of hope as I watched the intro and even as she began talking about her current passion for “destigmatizing ob*sity”. My hopes were soon dashed, however, as she also talked about ob*sity as a disease and focused hella hard on health and all of the usual things. I watched it to the end and was glad to see some familiar faces from Instagram as they took questions and opened the dialogue, and it did end on a positive note. But damn! What a letdown.
“Often people connect being overweight with not working hard enough to keep the weight off, being lazy, or eating too much, without realizing that it may be genetic. It may be hormonal,” she said. “If people knew that, they might not look at it in the same way.”
I’m not at all implying that Queen Latifah has an obligation to be a full on fat liberation activist or anything. I was surprised she was even talking about this stuff at all because she’s always been private about her life and struggles. I think I was slightly misled by the post by The Curvy Fashionista when they said towards the end of the post, “Queen Latifah, welcome to the plus size community. You’ve been a honorary board member and it is nice to have you celebrate your membership.” I hope they got some money from that post because I never would have known or watched without it.
And then this morning I found out it’s all because she’s partnered with fucking Novo Nordisk (a diabetes drug)! OF COURSE! Because no one actually gives a flying fuck about destigmatizing or improving the lives and treatment of fat people. UGH! I wish this shit wasn’t so damned predictable. Lke, it’s actually laughably boringly predictable at this point. But they fooled me because I never would have thought Queen Latifah would be on this kick. I mean, her overall message was that of knowing and loving yourself and doing right by you whatever that means for you.
She did get into how clothing is purposefully inaccessible for fat folks (she doesn’t use the word fat in this interview) and that almost felt radical to hear. Almost. I wish she had gotten into medical fatphobia and how it kills us every day, but she didn’t really go there and I’m sure that is part of her partnership to not mention that part. Looking at the Novo Nordisk community guidelines has me laughing my ass off! It’s a classic case of we will do what we want but you don’t get to say shit. (My opinion and summation.)
A Twitter friend in the fat community, @blackqueeriroh (follow them, they are brilliant!) responded to The Root’s post about Queen Latifah’s “It’s Bigger Than Me” live tour, “I don’t even know what to say. This is so gross, especially considering fat Black women are one of the most marginalized groups of fat people. To see Queen Latifah do this is a profound betrayal, and I don’t think I’ll get over it soon.”
I don’t expect my heroes or role models or any celebrity entity to be some perfect moral compass or anything, but it really felt like she was throwing fat folks under the bus in this talk, and I’m guessing on her whole damned tour. It’s too bad. I loved hearing that someone wants to help remove stigmas associated with larger bodies. I loved hearing how she felt that Lizzo brought a new language and a new way to talk about and live in larger bodies. But we all know there’s a limit with these campaigns or endorsements/partnerships, and it always hurts the fat community. They will get more eyes and ears on a subject but still turn it back on us.
It just really felt to me that she was framing this whole thing on how she was personally upset and offended to have her celebrity fitness trainer explain to her that according to the BMI she was in the ob*se category. Like her feelings were really hurt and I do get that. But when Jada Pinket Smith said, “Not La!” like, not my friend, they can’t be ob*se, like it’s the worst thing a person can be. And to then lean so hard on the health shit just pissed me off. Saying things like, “It could be due to hormones or genetics” again bringing it back to the good fatty versus bad fatty shit we are all sick of!
No one owes anyone health! And health won’t look the same on everybody. Often what we perceive as health is simply white Euro-centric beauty standards crammed down our throats every day. Not everyone can achieve health. Not everyone has access to health care or the things they need to support their own health. It’s such a cop out to play that health card again and again. Who cares why someone has a certain sized body?! It doesn’t matter and it’s no one else’s business. Yes, take the stigma out of the equation, please! But how is that even possible when they are propped up with pharma monies and you lean so hard on the health shit?!
It hurts to hear great ideas mixed in with outdated ones when it’s applied to our very personhood. It hurts on a personal and systemic level because these are big names with big platforms. Those messages get further reach, plain and simple. It makes our work as fat liberation activists, and as just regular fat people trying to live our lives, that much harder. We were already fighting this fight, we won’t be stopping now or anything, but money does have a way of making even the best of intentions sour.
I hope that Queen Latifah can hear our messages and take them to heart. We are not going away, we live here and will continue to speak up and take up the space we need to be heard. We may not get those big pharma dollars, but I for one don’t want them anyway.
I’m here for realness and sincerity, honesty and vulnerability, I’m here for the good and juicy bits of life that shine for me when I know I’m heading in the right direction.
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