5 Body Positive Black Women Who'll Inspire You to Love Yourself Just as You Are

by Krislyn Domingue  

Body positivity emerged as a pushback against limiting, normative Eurocentric beauty and body standards. The movement is an inspiring and revolutionary effort to reclaim and redefine our bodies as our own. It also encourages us to see our bodies—and our whole selves—as beautiful, no matter our shape, color, ability, age, or size. While there have been many body positive role models in mainstream media, conversations surrounding body empowerment often push Black women activists to the margins or erase their contributions altogether. This list is meant to highlight a few women who should be recognized for embracing their own beauty and inspiring others to embark on a journey of self-love and affirmation.

Amber Riley 

Photo: Jason Meritt / Getty Images
Best known for her role on the popular American television series Glee and as the winner of the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars, Amber Riley has exhibited a continued commitment to body positivity throughout the years. Whether in magazines, interviews, in the studio, or on-air, Riley carries a positive and powerful message of self-love. Speaking on the difficulties of maintaining positive body image and self-esteem in Hollywood, Riley boldly asserted in a 2012 interview with MTV, “I never wanted to play a character that hated herself. I wanted people to know those aren’t the only kind of roles for women like me—normal girls.” Years later, Riley continues to champion the cause, carrying on the torch her parents lit within her: “My parents always instilled knowing that you’re beautiful, that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made, and that you know who you are.”

Sonya Renee Taylor 

Poet and activist, Sonya Renee Taylor founded The Body Is Not An Apology in 2011 with the mission of cultivating global Radical Self Love and Body Empowerment. The movement engenders space to discuss matters pertaining to weight/size, disability, LGBTQIA+, mental health, race, aging, and more. Taylor and her team place radical self-love as the foundation of sustainable social change. The Body Is Not An Apology is a refuge for tens of thousands of people on the path to unapologetic self-love and body empowerment.

Amani Lanore Terrell 

Amani Lanore Terrell, a native of Los Angeles, first attracted attention with her Fat in Los Angeles campaign. Bikini-clad Terrell strutted down Hollywood Blvd with the hopes of counteracting popular misconceptions of plus-size women: “There’s a misconception that big women have low self-esteem, but I don’t have low self-esteem.” In an interview with FOX KTTV Los Angeles, Terrell commented on the “mass hysteria of perfection” running rampant in Hollywood and additionally released words of encouraging self-affirmation: “You cannot seek validation from other people; this world is very cruel. You must seek validation within yourself and be kind to yourself.”

Gabi Fresh 

In addition to being a flawless style-blogger, Gabi Fresh promotes body positivity, acceptance, and inclusivity. Fresh filmed #everyBODYisflawless, a remake of Beyonce’s woman empowerment hit “***Flawless” with fellow plus-size bloggers to show you don’t have to be a certain size to claim your flawlessness. The video was dedicated to “mainstream media, to the fashion industry, to internet bullies, and to anyone else who thinks it’s their right to make us feel less than because of their insecurities.”

Gabourey Sidibe 

Photo: Jason Merritt / Getty Images
Gabourey Sidibe has had amazing success as an actress. She currently appears in the hit musical drama Empire, and has enjoyed incredible roles in Season 3 of American Horror Story and in the 2009 film Precious. She voices her commitment to body positivity out-loud and frequently. Sidibe is rooted in her confidence and assurance of her own beauty, her ability, and her talents, and she lets the world know. At the 2014 Gloria Awards and Gala, hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women, the actress boldly tackled body image issues in a remarkable speech. Sidibe transparently recalled experiences from her childhood that ultimately led to the body positive woman she is now: “I'm grateful to them [my parents], and to my fifth grade class, because… If they hadn't told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn't tried to break me down, I wouldn't know that I'm unbreakable.”

The way these women present themselves as confident individuals who affirming and love their bodies serves as encouragement for us all. They remind us that we are more than enough; they remind us of how worthy and flawless we truly are.

Don’t see the Black woman that encourages you on the path towards a fulfilling, body positive life? Share her name and work in the comments below! 

Krislyn Domingue is a sophomore, Sociology & Anthropology and Comparative Women’s Studies double major at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys reading, writing, and sipping Chai Tea. Tweet her @krislynsd.

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