By RON FANFAIR
Sizism is a form of prejudice which, like racism, unfairly raises the status of one group of people over the other which primarily forms the majority, says American television producer and model, Mia Amber Davis.
Davis made her first appearance in Canada last weekend at the second annual Fuller Woman Expo and Trade Show at the downtown Delta Chelsea Hotel.
The former high school and college basketball player and dancer, who once weighed 350 pounds, is an outspoken advocate about plus size issues, equality and the power of full-figured women.
“People who are thin are more often than not praised as been beautiful, but you don’t see mainstream media pointing to a full-figured woman and say this is the epitome of beauty,” said Davis. “In the renaissance era, full-figured women were praised. There was a time in our culture when to be fat meant you were rich, healthy and beautiful.
“But, somehow, it has been twisted and skewed to the point where double zeros are held up as the standard of beauty and that does not represent the majority of women in most countries. That stereotype also sends the wrong message to young girls who don’t understand their bodies and who think they are ugly and who have very low self-esteem.”
The Long Island University graduate worked as a TV production assistant for several shows, including “Showtime at the Apollo” and “Def Comedy Jam”, and as a producer at the nationally syndicated Ricki Lake show.
She also appeared as Rhonda, the full-figured co-ed, in the Dream Works feature comedy film, Road Trip, that was released in 2000.
Davis said she began to take notice of her excess weight after surviving a horrific vehicular accident in South Carolina five years ago.
“The last show that I was working on in 2004 as a TV producer was cancelled, so I moved from New York to South Carolina to be close to my ailing grandfather,” she said. “While on the way to the hospital to visit him one day, I was broadsided by a car. At the time of the accident, I was a size 26 and I weighed over 300 pounds. I remember the EMS aide, who weighed about 120 pounds, having a difficult time to get me out of the vehicle and I found myself repeatedly apologizing for being too big.
“Up until then, I had never had a problem with myself. At that moment when I came so close to death, I knew that I was not living my life the way I should and that something was wrong. As I spent time recuperating, I asked myself, ‘what do you want to do?’ I soon came up with the answer that I wanted to be a model.”
Davis, who lost 150 pounds in just over a year, is the face of the Ashley Stewart campaign ads, including the new transformational Butterfly bra for plus size women. She is also the creative editor for Plus Model magazine and a supporter of “Project Curves,” which is a one-day workshop for aspiring and working plus-size models.
In addition, she’s at the forefront of a campaign encouraging retailers, designers and other fashion outlets to include plus size models in their catalogues and on the runway and produce clothing for full-figured women.
“The biggest dilemma that full figured women face is finding clothing,” said Davis whose role models include Oprah Winfrey and Tyra Banks. “The three retailers in America that sell plus size clothing are Ashley Stewart, Lane Bryant and Avenue. Those are the three stores in the U.S. that every full size woman knows about and you can definitely find something there to wear.
“The problem though is that you show up at an event and there might be five other girls there with the same outfit. There is a lack of variety as the market is not saturated with plus size clothing…Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger do plus sizes, but they don’t spend a dollar in advertising so no one knows about what they are selling for the plus size community.”
“I am all about empowerment for plus size women and the plus size community…I want to be the go-to girl for all that is plus related to the point where I am so saturated in the market that people forget there is a plus stigma attached to it and it just is the way of life.”
Jamaican-born Georgia Greenwood launched the Expo and Trade Show to empower, educate and motivate plus size women through workshops and seminars, and provide industry vendors with the opportunity to showcase their products.
Greenwood, who migrated to Canada 17 years ago, also runs an image consultancy firm to make full-size women feel good about themselves.
“I was in for a serious culture shock when I landed here for the first time,” she said. “Besides the weather, I had to deal with the way plus size women were perceived in North America and I became very depressed and tried every possible diet to reduce my size.
“I had to go back to Jamaica for three weeks (in 2004) to rediscover myself, regain my roots and realize that a fuller woman can be appreciated like any other woman. It was only then that I felt better about myself and I wanted to share that with women who were experiencing the same difficulties that I encountered.”