Friday was the end of the “Fat Talk Free Week” Campaign… but that doesn’t mean we should go back to using it! So I wanted to do a follow-up blog featuring the talented singer-songwriter and youtube sensation/social entrepreneur Meghan Tonjes.
I discovered Meghan’s music a year or so ago. Through her youtube channel I’ve been able to watch her release her first album, “Be In Want”, the call for submissions for fans to be a part of her first music video, and the posting of the completed video for her song “The End”, as well as her posts of many brilliant covers on her Request Tuesdays which most have over 1,000 views each including her cover of “Circus” by Britney Spears which has 33k+ views to date and “Not Fair” by Lily Allen which has 122k+ views to date!
Not only has Meghan made a name for herself as a rising acoustic singer-songwriter on the internet, she has also created a collaborative youtube channel called Project Lifesize that has branched out into a whole social media network that acts as a support system and oasis for women and men to come together and practice self-love, as well as bring critical voices to the hypocrisies and double standards of society. Project Lifesize recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary and currently has over 2,000 subscribers on the youtube channel.
I asked Meghan if I could interview her for this blog, and the Q&A is below. What I love the most out of what she said was that Project Lifesize isn’t necessarily about weight (size or fat) acceptance, but about self-love in general. It’s not just for plus-sized people, it’s not even just for women. It’s about authenticity and participating in life regardless any body image issues you may be struggling with, as well as giving a voice to those struggles to show that no one is alone.
***Q & A with Meghan Tonjes***
7S: Why did you start Project Lifesize?
MT: I started Project Lifesize September 2008. It was a reaction to harassing comments and messages I was receiving on my Youtube videos, often centered around my weight and physical appearance. While I was rarely affected by these comments, I didn’t want my younger subscribers to see them. I knew many people avoided posting their own videos in fear of receiving the same hate. I initially put out a casting call, looking for 6 other women who could portray a more accurate and hopefully a more positive view of curvy women. The goal was always to create a dialogue,not about weight acceptance, but self love.
7S: Has Project Lifesize changed the way you view yourself and the world?
MT: Project Lifesize definitely opened a new world up to me. Until then I had never considered myself a part of a plus size community, mostly because there was no community around me. I was always the biggest girl and often felt alone because of it. The women and men who have been a part of the channel, on a regular basis or as Viewers of the Month, have really opened my eyes to different issues that we all are dealing with. It’s easier for me to tell my own story now, whether the stories are funny or sad, because I’ve interacted with the most supportive group of people. I’ve become more comfortable and confident with who I am inside and outside as I’ve seen all of the people who have dealt with the exact same issues. Beyond just men and women who struggle with weight, we’ve connected with people who have felt outcast in general.
7S: Do you find that women in your life fat talk, and if so, how do you react or respond?
MT: Weight seems to be something that women in my life are generally aware of. You know, I don’t think my parents were ever prepared for a plus size child and this led to some pretty hurtful moments in my childhood. Growing up, I’ve always been surrounded by women dieting and trying to be a certain size. I always avoided the topic when it came up. It wasn’t until recently that I connected and became friends with curvy, confident women. I remember going to New York several months ago, being on the Subway with two gorgeous, plus-size models. They didn’t care who was looking at them or what people were saying and it made a real impression on me. There was never a mention of losing weight to fit a certain mold, if anything they spoke of having curves as something to be proud of.
7S: Do these topics come into play as a singer-songwriter and/or as a performer?
MT: Being in the entertainment industry, people automatically want to put you in a box. You are told that in order to be known or successful you have to fit a certain mold and it can be in some ways I think you have to work a bit harder to win people over. Looking the way I do, I feel sometimes that people expect me to be bad. They want me to be a joke. I always see it as a challenge though, and enjoy shocking people out of their own misconceptions.
7S: Who are your greatest musical influences?
MT: Ah! That is a crazy question to even begin to answer. I’m always inspired by strong, female singer-songwriters. Sarah Mclachlan. Tristan Prettyman. Tori Amos. Ani Difranco. But, there’s something about guys with guitars…*sigh*. Jason Mraz, Joshua Radin, Duncan Sheik. Some of my biggest influences lately have been the indie musicians I’ve met through Youtube. I feel a kindship with them because it is a whole new medium. Chris Cendana. Frank Bell. Katelyn Autry. Allison Weiss. Mike Falzone.Greg Holden… The list just goes on and on.
7S: Who are your greatest role models in regard to size acceptance and health at every size?
MT: I grew up not really feeling like I HAD any one to look up to in regards to size acceptance. I didn’t even know acceptance was an option. I feel like I sort of had to become the person I wasn’t seeing represented. Every day I think we’re finding positive role models who happen to be musicians, artists and writers. I find Joy Nash to be a positive influence on size acceptance in the Youtube community and was really influenced by Wendy Shanker (writer of “The Fat Girls’ Guide to Life”). Every day though, I meet men and women who don’t fit the “norm” and prove themselves to be the most beautiful, giving and loving people. They are my role models.
7S: Any words of wisdom for girls out there who think they can’t pursue a career in a performance-related field because of their size or appearance?
MT: Whoever said “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was a bold faced LIAR. You’re going to experience a lot of resistance, but if you’ve found something you love and you’re willing to fight for it…then the only person who can stop you IS you. For every person who hates you because you dare to look the way you do and try to be anything other than miserable, there are ten more who are inspired or moved by your passion. I know that the fear of what someone might say can be paralyzing, but talent and hardwork will lead you to people who “get it” and who genuinely want you to succeed. So, just do it already.
For more information about Meghan and her music please visit www.meghantonjes.com. You can also view her original music as well as her Request Tuesday cover songs at www.youtube.com/tonjesml and be sure to check out Project Lifesize at www.youtube.com/projectlifesize. Below is Meghan’s official music video for “The End”.
Monday October 19th began Tri Delta’s week long campaign to end fat talk – Fat Talk Free Week.
Fat Talk Free Week is an international 5-Day body activism campaign to draw attention to body image issues and the damaging impact of the ‘thin ideal’ on women in society. It is about ‘body activism’ – the power to control the way we think and talk about our bodies to affect positive change and prevent eating disorders. The idea came about when Dr. Carolyn Becker, as associate professor of psychology at Trinity University, leveraged the unique organizational structure of sororities to disseminate a groundbreaking peer-led eating disorders awareness program.
The key message of the campaign is “Friends Don’t Let Friends Fat Talk”. I love this concept, because so often women fall into the pattern of sticking together in their words of self-loathing and dissatisfaction. It’s courageous to step outside of that and say, “hey, don’t say that! we’re beautiful just as we are!”
Related to that, is how “natural” it is in our culture to praise women for losing weight and to give compliments based on appearance. Most people don’t think twice before gushing over someone for losing weight, but we have no idea if that person lost the weight in a healthy or dangerous manner. We also don’t know how someone will react to compliments and to “new” attention. Why not compliment girls and women on their demeanor? Their personality? Their intelligence? Their insight?
It breaks my heart every time I hear from friends of mine in recovery from anorexia but who are still underweight say that they go clothes shopping and all saleswomen do is compliment their tiny bodies and speak with envy wishing out loud that they looked like that. How frustrating and infuriating! But the flip side is, those saleswomen probably feel frustrated and infuriated that their bodies don’t look like that and probably never will. What they don’t know if the extreme pain and suffering those women endured to reduce their body mass to that extent.
I grew up listening to my mother say, “I wish I could be anorexic.” So many people still don’t understand what these illnesses really mean. Fat Talk runs THAT DEEP so women WISH FOR A MENTAL ILLNESS in order to fit the thin ideal.
So hopefully one by one we can change the way we speak to ourselves, the way we speak to our friends and family, and the way we speak to strangers. We can change the way our society views the female body and the female spirit. Tri Delta’s campaign is a great start.
Here is their first video which has over 70,000 views since October 2008 on youtube:
And I recently found their newest video for this years campaign, I love it!
You can find more blogs that have written about Fat Talk Free Week at Beautiful You and Frozen Oranges. I’ll continue adding more as I find them. Feel free to leave a comment with a link to yours as well!