Jamie Hamilton, a Pittsburgh-based artist and body-positive advocate is the creator of Yinz Bopo, a body positive meet-up group. Hamilton said she started the meet-ups to create a safe space where people of all shapes and sizes could feel empowered.
“Other cities were having body positive fashion shows, body positive swim parities, and I couldn’t find anything in Pittsburgh and I couldn’t afford to fly out to everything, and I was just like; I can’t be the only one who wants this,” explained Hamilton.
The body positive movement preaches acceptance of plus-size, fat, queer and trans bodies, as well as those with disabilities. Hamilton said she came into what she calls the “fat positive movement” while in high school, but it wasn’t until a recent illness kept her bedridden for two years that she had a revelation.
“And I started thinking about how I was intellectually body positive, but I actually wasn’t so kind to myself and I thought about all the ways that I limited myself,” said Hamilton. “I was like, I’m going to put myself out there I don’t care what people say, I’m just going to do it because I don’t want other people to find out too late that they missed out on life."
Over the past decade, the body-positive movement has gained momentum, many popular brands and media outlets have developed marketing campaigns to include plus-sized models and spokespeople, but Yesenia Guadalupe says being fat is still something that is not widely accepted.
“A lot of people don’t identify as fat, they still have a struggle with that word, but I make a point of using it so that people can hear it in a different context where it’s not ugly – where I’m saying, yeah I’m fat. It’s a descriptor, it’s not the only part of me, it doesn’t make me less than,” said Guadalupe.
Hamilton says the meet-ups are meant to be informal and fun, where participants like Ta’lor Pinkson can be themselves. Pinkston said she enjoyed being around others she can identify with.
“Getting to know one another, and our stories and sharing our struggles, and having that support to lean back on is just essential in order to be able to progress, and just feel good about yourself; you need others,” said Pinkston.
Guadalupe agrees with Pinkston and said the outdoor pool meet-ups have helped her own body positive journey.
“It was a challenge for me to come the first time too and be in a public space in a different city and really take ownership in my body and the way it looked in a swimsuit,” said the Miami native.
Yinz Bopo has held four meet-ups in the Pittsburgh area this summer. Hamilton is planning for the fall and will expand the events.
“I want there to be dance parties, fashion shows. Ideally, I just want it to be a large movement. I want this to fracture off into more groups,” said Hamilton. “I don’t want to just be in charge of it, I want people to have their own voices to say what they want and create their own realities and dreams.”
With more than 46,000 followers on Instagram, Hamilton is getting the word out about the body-positive movement. As for critics who say the movement normalizes unhealthy behaviors and promotes being overweight, Hamilton said all bodies are worthy of celebration.