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It’s been two weeks since Nicole Arbour uploaded her now-infamous video “Dear Fat People,” and united the YouTube community in taking a public stand against fat-shaming. As of this writing, nearly 81,000 video responses have been uploaded to the platform—including viral pieces from Grace Helbig, AsapSCIENCE, Phil DeFranco, Boogie2988, and Akilah Hughes—that have started conversations with fans about body image, fat-shaming, and defining the line between comedy and cruelty. Arbour will be hard-pressed to continue defending her video after the intense backlash from her fellow creators and the director of the anti-bullying movie in which she was cast publicly dropping her from the film.
Arbour’s video may evoke the sound of nails on a chalkboard, but it’s also responsible for inspiring one of the largest YouTube conversations of 2015, and it has given us a chance to highlight deserving, body-positive vloggers working to make YouTube an inclusive, accepting space for all fans. So from across the pond in the U.K. to sunny Los Angeles, keep an eye on these five body-positive vloggers as they use their channels to celebrate viewers just the way they are.
Musician Meghan Tonjes is the queen of body positivity! She eats it, drinks it, and dreams it as the founder of the Booty Revolution and a long-time plus-size advocate. Her body image activism has earned her appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and made her one of the most prominent creators working within the body positive space on YouTube. In her videos, such as “Make a Fat Joke and Make it Funny,” “Dear Instagram,” and “Hate the Donut, Not the Fatty,” she breaks down plus-size stereotypes and reinforces the fact that beauty comes in every shape and size. Tonjes’ outspoken nature and candid conversations about relationships, bodies, and sex have inspired over 20 million video views. Uploading numerous responses to Arbour’s video on her own channel, Tonjes also appeared this week in the BuzzFeed video “I’m Fat But I’m Not ….”
2) Anna Akana
Akana’s purpose as a filmmaker, vlogger, writer, and comedian has always been to inspire others to be their best selves. In her video “How to Put on Your Face,” which has been viewed 3.2 million times, Akana presents a makeup tutorial that substitutes beauty products for traits such as confidence, bravery, and happiness. She’s an inspiration not only for her work as a female creator, but also for making her own opportunities as an Asian-American actress and director. Through her open conversations about social anxiety and body image, Akana has built a strong bond with her audience of 1.2 million subscribers and shown through example that feeling comfortable in one’s skin is an important step on the journey of self-care.
Through her comedy, Akilah Hughes has taken on the complex issues of race, feminism, and beauty in interesting and engaging ways. In her first viral video that put her on the YouTube map, “Your First Black Girlfriend,” Hughes calls out the annoying and often stereotypical questions asked of black women. Her content is relatable and celebratory of all our hot mess moments (heels, being single at Christmas, Friday nights in a onesie). Hughes is inspiring audiences as a black female entertainer who has risen to fame by being herself—an accomplishment foreign in the world of Hollywood. Her natural hair tutorial expands and evolves our definitions of beauty and gives fans a role model they can relate and see themselves within.
Started as a “YouTube support group” by U.K. creator Jimmy0100, this channel has spent the past three years interviewing prominent creators about body image, smoking, consent, sex, relationships, drinking, peer pressure, and confidence. By collaborating with such YouTube celebrities as Danisnotonfire, Amazing Phil, Tomska, Jack Howard, and Carrie Hope Fletcher, the channel is showing power in numbers as it continues to spread a message of body positivity to a diverse young adult audience.
Laci Green, Hannah Witton, and Dr. Lindsey Doe are the golden trifecta of sex education. With a collective audience of 1.8 million subscribers, these women are inspiring open conversations around body image, sexuality, gender, and relationships. Their judgement-free education has given men and women the tools to build healthy relationships with their bodies and reinforces the message that “normal” does not have one set definition. Along with speaking out against fat-shaming, each of these creators have used their channel to shut down slut-shaming, homophobia, and victim-blaming.
Screengrab via Smoothiefreak/YouTube
Carly Lanning is a journalist who covers social media. Her work has been published by Psychology Today, NBC, Thrillist, and Ms. Magazine.