It was January 2014. I asked my best friend to run laps with me at my local community center. I had been building up my cardio and wanted to see how well I’d transition from treadmill to the floor. She wasn’t a fan of running, but she still ran with me. After running five laps, I was elated. So proud of myself. I honestly didn’t realize how much I’ve stamina I’ve built up. Around the sixth lap, a couple of basketball players started to stare at us.
By the seventh lap, I noticed they were laughing uncontrollably. I tried to think nothing of it because I had three laps left. As I started lap number nine, I saw them huddling together and then I heard collective voices saying, “Woah! Earthquake. Elephant herd coming through.” I never finished my laps that day. Furthermore, it was the beginning of me internalizing was one of the most damaging misconceptions about plus-size people: “We don’t belong in the gym or on the courts. Who are we kidding?”
This damaging misconception became a mantra for me. As a volleyball and tennis player in high school, nothing brought me more joy than being on either side of those nets. When I was named captain of the tennis team, I really felt like I was bringing one home for the big girls. I’ve dealt with bullying throughout my life and it was easy to deal with because my family used to pick on me a lot. However, this form of bullying was reinforced because I never really saw women who looked like me in sports ads. I never saw models who looked like me when I was shopping for plus size workout gear. And up until seeing Amanda Bingson featured in ESPN’s Body Issue, I never saw plus-size women revered in the sports arena. It was that perfect storm that kept me out of the gym for a year.
Around 2017, I was reflecting on how tough it was for my parents to buy us new things. They spent so much money on schooling that the latest kicks were out of the question. However, they knew their money would stretch and be justified at Reebok. They knew they’d be able to pop into Marshalls or TJ Maxx to get us sneakers for school and various sporting activities. During that reflection, it reminded me of how much money my father spent on a pair of cleats at Reebok so that I could play soccer.
I remembered how much money my mother spent on my first sports bra and sneakers when I joined the volleyball team at 16 years old. A lot of that was at Reebok. It was amid that reflection that I knew I had to get up and take back ownership of who I was– even if I didn’t always feel represented in media or received stares at the gym.
My parents scraped together all their money to make sure we remained active and made sure we wore quality sneakers and equipment. I had to relieve myself of all those misconceptions that weighed heavy in my heart. I had to become my own role model. My parents raised me to be an active and effervescent woman. I may have been a big girl my entire life, but the boys’ opinions in the gyms and inability to see myself being represented shouldn’t have stopped me. So today, I share my story so that it doesn’t stop YOU!
One person who consistently supports me through my journey of self-awareness and acceptance is Kavah King. We share a similar story. He is also a big and tall digital content creator. If you head to his blog post, you’ll see that, even as a big man who has played semi-pro football, he’s still met with phrases from other men like, “Be easy big fella. That’s a lot of cardio for you.” But little do they he is a BEAST!
He bikes miles upon miles all around NYC, and can be found in local parks doing more pull-ups than the average person. When you have awesome people in your corner who believe in you and want to see you win, it’s hard to not be inspired by their drive as well. We are living examples of big bodies who have no problem hitting the pavement and working hard to keep ourselves healthy. We know narrow-minded individuals may have their opinion but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the grit and work we put in to be the best version of ourselves!
If there is ever a moment in your life where you feel like you aren’t enough, take a few steps back. Understand that we live in a society that consistently feeds us ideals of perfection. However, when you learn to make peace with your own version of perfection, you’ll notice you had it all along. You were always the source code! Remember that and respect it!
When brands like Reebok push the envelope and continue to show up for all people, you have to respect that. Over the past couple of months, I’ve reflected on how much Reebok has been a pillar in my home and now in my heart. From their response to Black Lives Matter and acknowledging the impact that Black Lives have on their brand to their steadfast commitment to showing body diversity in marketing, it feels good to be able to illustrate my and Kavah’s story with them!
Also, here’s a little clip we put together showcasing some of our favorite moments from the shoot/workout! It feels good to be running around the heart of Boston…without a care in the world!
Take care family <3.
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