As we celebrate the new year, the rhetoric of goals and resolutions can make it easy to forget how important it remains to celebrate ourselves. Nobody embodies the celebration of self quite like Atlanta-based actor and content creator Nikki Garza (@itsnikki.g).
Garza loves her body and uses her platform to promote fat acceptance and body positivity. She found viral success on TikTok in 2020 using her infectious positivity to encourage others to love their bodies and unlearn harmful behaviors and ideas about food and body image.
As someone who “yo-yo dieted” and went to “fat camp” at just eight years old, Garza understands how harmful the dieting industry is. New Year’s can be complicated for anyone struggling with body image or a negative relationship with food when weight loss is a common resolution for people. Garza strives to be supportive for times like this, encouraging her audience to view food as a fuel source, not a reward or punishment.
Garza said her journey to self-love began when she saw other plus-sized models and influencers on social media unapologetically embracing their bodies. She says people like Nadia Aboulhosn (@nadiaaboulhosn), Gabrielle “Gabi” Gregg (@gabifresh), and Nicolette Mason (@nicolettemason) influenced her to love her plus-sized figure.
“It was the first time I realized you can be fat and stylish,” she said. “That was the most freeing thing: seeing other people with my body type and size, not limiting themselves. That freed me to start doing things.”
It was radical self-belief that led her to modeling, something she pursued once given the opportunity even though she didn’t believe she had the “measurements, the experience, nor the body” of a traditional model. Garza has since modeled for brands like Rihanna’s lingerie and loungewear brand Savage x Fenty for its Savage X Pride campaign in June 2022.
For Garza, a bisexual woman, the acceptance of her body and her exploration of her sexuality are closely intertwined. During Atlanta Pride this year, she posted a video about how her body image prevented her from even thinking about her sexuality.
“I felt unattractive,” she told Georgia Voice. “I would look at myself and think, ‘Who would want me? Who would love me?’ I never even explored my sexuality because I was so hung up on my body size.”
She said it was “unfathomable” to even consider what she would desire in a partner because she wasn’t thin.
“Thinness was on this pedestal that I had to reach… and I would [only] find love and affection at that point,” she said. “ So, on this journey, I let go of the shackles and realized I was always worthy of love. Then, I started to ask myself, ‘Well, what do I like in a person? What am I attracted to?’ Which led me to explore my sexuality.”
Now Garza uses her platform to promote acceptance and love for everyone. She is unapologetic in her authenticity and she continues to be an inspiration to her audience. Women like Nikki help to combat the negativity directed at those who don’t strive to align with societal beauty standards.
According to Virgie Tovar, an expert in weight-based discrimination, roughly 25 percent of women and girls who diet will develop an eating disorder. Additionally, plus-sized people are often undetected for eating disorders like anorexia, which is hallmarked diagnostically by an underweight body. Garza’s mission on social media to normalize fatness and plus-size bodies is part of a larger goal to reduce the occurrence of issues like these.
Self-acceptance is a long journey for most people, and social media can be a positive tool to support long-term self-love success. Nikki advises those struggling to love their bodies — especially young people — to “follow folks who give you the variety of life,” and maintains that diversity in who you follow is a key to positive social media engagement.
Byrdie reported the average American woman is between size 16 and 18. Despite this, movies, TV, and social media continue to represent beauty through thin bodies. If represented, a plus-size person is often the butt of the joke or is in some way negatively affected by their weight. As a queer, Latina, plus-sized woman, Garza insists that her confidence and self-love are necessary so young people can see themselves represented. She believes that representation in all forms is vital, and “until you see yourself reflected in a certain way, you are going to limit yourself.”