Body identity can be complicated to explore, experience, and discuss. Yet, with physical bodies becoming more heavily debated and politicized, it’s crucial that members of society have platforms to share their perspectives and lived experiences.

For their capstone media fellows project, senior English Writing major Nina Thompson has been working to assemble and distribute Fat Magazine, a print publication intent on destigmatizing weight and lending strength to the voices of active artists, writers, and thinkers. For Nina, this process begins with the magazine itself: a physical product at odds with an increasing digital media presence. She articulates how print publications are a “deeply intimate transaction, whether that’s viewing art and picking out details, or seeing many or few words on a page.” The magazine design expands on this concept to affirm that fat people aren’t a stigma, but instead real people who “take up space just like the magazine does.” Nina reinforces this concept within the pages of the magazine as well, with some art submissions taking up extra pages. 

Critically, the magazine consists almost entirely of voluntary user submissions, which Nina has been collecting through several intentional outreach efforts. Fat Magazine boasts an active Instagram page that includes a form for user submissions to the publication. Furthermore, Nina has actively worked to connect with artists in other circles, and they’ve noted that current submissions include works from artists in New York, Minnesota, and beyond. The pieces within the magazine are also varied, ranging from abstract paintings to pointed body horror. Fifteen submissions have already been sent in, and Nina emphasizes that she wants to give “everyone a shot at submitting, as everyone has been exposed to weight stigma at some point”. 

Even though publication is over a month away, Nina emphasizes that their project is already generating excitement within several communities. In her discussion with artists, she notes: “This is something people get excited about and something artists have been looking for.” She explains that many artists and community members are also pushing against weight stigma but simply lack the platform. With the publication of Fat Magazine, specific steps can be taken to increase acceptance and share ideas. Nina identifies one specific target, explaining: “I think the word ‘fat’ too is a big part of it…the word itself is eye-catching and controversial because we think of it as an insult, a way to put people down and instill insecurity.” They describe how the magazine’s physical, “right in your face” design calls attention to this issue, as the word fat can “evoke some discomfort reading it aloud or saying it, but that’s the intriguing part.” Through intentional art and education, Nina hopes that people will be able to eventually say “fat” with “kindness and/or neutral terminology.” 

Despite the intentional goals and significant contributors, the production of the magazine has encountered some challenges along the way. Nina is the sole contributor to marketing, submission management, social media, layout, and distribution. Furthermore, they’re still working to acquire a grant to print the magazine, another barrier to physical publications. Nina also hopes to receive more varied submissions, explaining: “I’m not worried that it’s only attracting women, but I believe that it is.” While they mention this isn’t an explicit problem, Nina states she “would emphasize that people of all gender and body sizes have been exposed to weight stigma, including the manliest of men. If you take a second to think about it, you will remember something about when someone expressed how they hate their body, or how their clothes don’t fit, or how people got bullied in school.” Weight stigma is complicated, but affects all of society, and Nina is hopeful that more submissions will come from further demographics and perspectives. She concludes that “the person we’re most intimate with is ourselves. Once we allow ourselves to create, that intimacy can be so raw and beautiful, and I think that having someplace to put it like a magazine is a big way of honoring yourself, your past, your trauma, your body.”

Fat Magazine will continue accepting submissions until April 1st and will be distributing 50 print copies at the Media Fellows showcase at the end of the semester.