If you are a regular Wear Your Voice reader or follow body-positive writing, you already know Virgie Tovar. Hailing from the Bay area, Tovar has helped breathe new life into one of the first homes of the fat liberation movement. Author, activist, and one of the nation’s leading voices in fat liberation, Tovar is working on her second book, Lose Hate Not Weight. You can find her weekly advice column, Dear Virgie, here at Wear Your Voice.
Read on to find out what makes this incredible fat-shionista tick!
WYV: How do you describe your personal style?
VT: Over the top, aggressively dissatisfied, costumey and feminine. It’s full of cheetah print, neon, enormous jewelry and statement pieces, any fabric with kittens or candy on it, body con, belts that convey bitchy messages, tiny hats, bright lipstick, crop tops and miniskirts.
WYV: What inspired your body-positive career?
VT: Mostly me being super pissed about how hard it was to find clothes and men who would be seen with me in public.
WYV: Who were the most influential folks for you growing up?
VT: Well, almost all the most influential people for me growing up were the people who became my thinspo and my whitespo. So these weren’t heroes because they did amazing girl power things. They were my heroes because I had been taught that everything about me was wrong and I was looking for people to model myself after.
My second grade teacher Mrs. Moore. She had perfect grammar. Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Mary Anne from the Baby Sitters Club, because she had a boyfriend and I was like the horniest Mexican girl ever. New Kids on the Block were pretty influential, clearly for same reason as Mary Anne and her boyfriend.
WYV: How do you highlight your heritage within your body positive work?
VT: My style derives most clearly from my mom and my grandfather. My grandfather was a street smart, political Mexican guy with a pseudo pompadour, gold teeth, a love of cologne and bright colors and a massive fuck-you attitude. My mom loves to alter things and she loves to make things. When I was a little girl I used to watch her thrift stuff and turn it into other stuff. Like she would buy a basic denim skirt, cut 5 inches off the bottom, add lace trim and then use puffy paint to draw something elaborate on the butt. I mean, I come from a family whose aesthetics were informed by resilience, poverty (and the performance of upward mobility) and immigration.
WYV: Who are your three top StyleCrushes?
VT: My three crushes are Miss Piggy, Honey BooBoo and Amanda Faye Jimenez. Miss Piggy is great because she’s gaudy and self-centered. Honey Boo Boo is perhaps the first ever truly fat-positive icon under 10 on television. I’ve also currently got a bone for Amanda Faye Jimenez, who is “failureprincess” on IG. She’s not only bringing it in the outfits and nails department, but her style as she walks through life is epic.
WYV: Where do you shop and who are your favorite designers or brands?
VT: I mostly thrift. I am kind of obsessive when it comes to wearing things that no one else has. I think it is a manifestation of my anxiety and also being kind of a mean person.
I’m drawn to vintage, which I think derives from coming into the fat movement when I did (around 2010 or 2011, when vintage-focused queer high femme aesthetics were omnipresent).
Otherwise I shop at Rue107, Anthropologie — I’m embarrassed to admit how much I love their white-girl aesthetic. It just feels like you’re walking into a living privilege tableau when you walk in there and, I dunno, my inner white girl comes aliiiiiive in that place, plus they have vanity sizing! I also love Proud Mary Vintage, Forever21 Plus, H&M and I dabble in Macy’s.
WYV: Where do you hope to see the body-positive movement go in the next five years? What aspects of body positivity do you feel we really need to focus on and build up?
VT: I hope the body-positive movement makes a huge realization that they are actually the fat movement and get legit politicized, instead of treading on unspoken fatphobia.
WYV: How can we fight body-negative influences that are directly targeting young audiences?
VT: I think we need to keep doing what we are doing — more self-directed representation online, more writing and being vocal about these negative influences, not being afraid to claim feminism and anti-racism and fat identity (i.e. don’t be intimidated or incentivized into niceness or silence), more photo and video projects that feature and normalize fat bodies and people on the margins.
WYV: What is one thing that folks may not know about you, but you wish that they did?
VT: I’ve actually gotten more private as I’ve gotten more involved in a political movement that’s focused on visibility. So I guess I don’t know that I want people to know more about me.
WYV: What is something else you would want to be known for, aside from your contributions to the body-positive world?
VT: Actually I think I’d want to be known as the girl with the best thank-you cards. I just bought some taco-shaped thank-you cards. So look out for those.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
VT: I tell my story through what I put on my body — all the ambivalences and passions and politics are there. I clothe and decorate myself in realtime according to mood and inspiration. Just the other day I was going to an event at the SFMOMA and I had this new lacy, burgundy deep-V party dress I wanted to wear. The dress is pretty and feminine but I had this impulse to draw on a mustache and pair the dress with socks and sandals. I wanted to troll the straight men who felt like they could stare at my cleavage and I wanted to troll the respectable nature of the event. What’s funny is that I could have chosen not to go but I wanted to go. I just didn’t want to blend in.