This Dancer Refused to Be Fat Shamed and Was Selected by Shonda Rhimes for a Film

This Dancer Refused to Be Fat Shamed and Was Selected by Shonda Rhimes for a Film

“It's a radical act of fearlessness that, in my opinion, shouldn’t have to be that radical.”

Published May 24, 2017

It’s 2017 and we’re still tip-toeing around the word “fat.” But leave it to Dove Real Beauty Productions to remind the world that being fat isn’t taboo and that every body should be celebrated. The brand’s latest campaign pulled in mega-producer Shonda Rhimes to create a short film centered around Cathleen Meredith, founder of Fat Girls Dance (FGD).

“I think the entire model of what beauty is needs to be completely thrown out. And we need to start defining what beauty is for ourselves, and I think the definition of that beauty is you,” says Cathleen in the three-minute clip that shows her and her fellow FDG girls hitting some pretty sick moves. 

Cathleen is not a dancer. She’s actually a writer who took it upon herself to explore society’s warped feelings toward fat women when it comes to dance. What started out as a social experiment for a book she has in the works turned into a viral, body-positive movement that caught the attention of Miss Shondaland herself.

“I almost couldn’t believe it. To work with Shonda Rhimes is a dream come true. It’s one of those things like, ‘One day I’m going to work with Shonda Rhimes.’ [laughs] It was probably one of the best days of my life. She really is incredible, and smart and great. The entire team for Dove Real Beauty Productions was incredible. It was an all-female crew, Liz Garbus was an amazing director and all of the producers were so nice and hardworking. I absolutely loved every second of it!” the FGD founder told BET.

"People would be like, ‘Oh  wow, you move really good for a big girl’ or ‘You’re an incredible dancer for a plus-size woman.'"

“I started Fat Girls for the same reason I start everything, which is I want to tell a story that hasn’t been told. So I wanted to write a book called Fat Girls Dance. It was going to be fiction but still based on my experiences as a dancer just going to dance classes for fun — not dancing professional or anything. There always seem to be a kind of surprise around the way that I move and the energy that I move with, as if because I’m plus-size I’m supposed to sit on a log and never move. People would be like, ‘Oh wow, you move really good for a big girl’ or ‘You’re an incredible dancer for a plus-size woman.’ Always those types of comments which never really bothered me but kind of fascinated me.

Then I realized I didn’t really know anything about that world [of dance] and wasn’t going to write a book I knew nothing about, so I started Fat Girls Dance as kind of like a research project for the book. Very quickly, it caught on. We said we were going to do an online challenge, which was dance every week for a year and just kind of see what was the effect on plus-size women and what would happen if you weekly had to encounter something you think you can’t do and then you overcome that. What does that do to your psyche? What does that do to your dancing ability? What does that do to you as a person? So many plus-size women wanted to get involved, and then all of a sudden we were working with Dove and Shonda Rhimes. It quickly went from what I thought was going to be this quiet little research project to this online body-positivity movement.”

Cathleen launched Fat Girls Dance in August 2016, so the countdown is still on. To keep up with FGD, click here, and stay tuned for more inspiring videos to come from Dove Beauty Productions.

Written by Jazmine A. Ortiz


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