April 22, 2019 | 54° F

Body positivity takes full form with 'Pretty Big' performance


Rutgers contributed to the body positivity movement by hosting a performance by the explosive dance troupe  Pretty Big Movement, who embrace inclusivity and self-acceptance.

Sponsored by the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities (SJE) last Monday night at the Douglass Student Center, Pretty Big Movement performed to hip-hop and ethnic music for a crowd eager to experience first-hand their collective confidence and self-love.

Pretty Big Movement is a group that first became popular after they appeared on "America’s Got Talent," branding themselves as women dancers who defy stereotypes and are now leaders in the body positivity movement.

“(Pretty Big Movement) are a group of women of color, who are full-figured, flexible, fabulous (but also) very personable, who have stories around body image,” said Keywaun Caulk, associate director of SJE. “They have been making this movement big to accept your body and (see it) in a different light.”

Their first set was a contemporary hip-hop routine. Members of the troupe showed their mastery in dance and dominated the stage in hot pink sequence tops and combat boots. Full of energy and zealous to show off their collective talents — Pretty Big Movement had everyone’s full attention from the first beat.

The second set, which came after a wacking and voguing tutorial, was performed to an ethnic music mix. The group members wore customized Dashiki tops fashioned for their hip-swaying and shaking.

The members see themselves filling a visual void in the mainstream that lacks plus-sized female artists, founder and CEO Akira Armstrong said. And with more than 75,000 likes on Facebook, they’ve become role models to many.

“It’s really important for everyone to see physical appearance doesn’t limit (anyone’s) abilities as dancers or artists,” said Pretty Big Movement dancer Teese.

This is the second annual Body Positivity awareness week happening at the University and is part of a continuous effort to make Rutgers more inclusive, Caulk said.

Co-host of the event Cheyenne Davis, who also runs her own body positivity blog, describes the movement as being comfortable with who you are. It’s all-inclusive and grounded in acceptance and healthfulness.

“People think healthy is just physically healthy. It’s also psychological and emotional,” School of Arts and Sciences senior Davis said. “(And) it’s not a one-night thing. It’s life long. Self-actualization is body positivity, it’s mental clarity and all of those things combined.”

Caulk said that with events like these, all students can feel more than just present on campus. Beyond being a diverse school, recognizing narratives in the body positivity movement makes the University inclusive.

“Inclusion means everyone is welcome. We don’t just give you a pass to be here, we give you an opportunity to be free here,” she said.

The short series of body positivity events on campus will bring awareness to different body sizes, politics and privilege surrounding body shapes and will help deconstruct societal views of body standards, Caulk said. It also puts body positivity on the same platform as other social movements.

“A lot of times in college spaces, we don’t talk about body positivity,” Davis said. “For example, (some) Rutgers (students) have a lot of negativity about people that are larger (than) the realms of ‘societal’ normal … You need to see other facets of life, you have to see other perspectives, so you can learn … how to be more inclusive and accepting of others.”

After their performances, the members of Pretty Big Movement sat on a panel to share their personal experiences with self-love and professional dancing as well as experiencing discrimination and rejection because of their bodies.

Being women of color as well as plus size means they have faced layers of discrimination: Being overweight, being women and being people of color can’t be separated, Caulk said.

“It’s very, very intersectional. You can’t just think about one and not the other,” she said.

The members of Pretty Big Movement all had unique stories and experiences, but a common theme among them all was that it’s important to share with others the self-acceptance and love that they now have. A sentiment that isn’t dissimilar to that shared by Davis and her blog.

“At the end of the day, you shouldn’t do anything alone,” Davis said. “And body positivity is far from solitary.”

Brittany Gibson

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