Tess Holliday is Here to Say: Eff Your Beauty Standards!

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The 90s were no stranger to toxic ideas about what people’s bodies should look like. While we may still struggle with anti-fat bias today, fortunately we also have icons like Tess Holliday. She’s a businesswoman, activist, one of the world’s most famous plus-size models, and Ricki’s good friend! In a deeply open conversation, Tess, Kalen, and Ricki talk about the pressures that come when your weight is your brand. They talk about the visibility of being plus-size and having an eating disorder, Taylor Swift’s scale scene in the “Anti-Hero” music video, and more. Plus, Tess talks publicly for the first time about a dream gig that almost happened but didn’t.

Please note, Raised By Ricki contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all listeners.

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Ricki Lake, Kalen Allen, Tess Holiday

Ricki Lake  00:00

Hey everyone, heads up. In today’s show you will hear discussions about weight and body image which may be triggering for some listeners. If that is you. You may want to skip this episode, no judgement.

Ricki Lake  00:24

Well, hello everyone. Welcome to Raised by Ricky. I am Ricki Lake.

Kalen Allen  00:29

And I am Kalen Allen.

Ricki Lake  00:31

How you doing honey?

Kalen Allen  00:32

I’m good. How you doing?

Ricki Lake  00:33

Well, I am getting in the holiday spirit. How about you?

Kalen Allen  00:36

Me too, girl. You know I love the holidays.

Ricki Lake  00:38

You have a lot to talk about this holiday season?

Kalen Allen  00:42

Well, okay, so first, you know I’m a judge on holiday Baking Championship gingerbread showdown on Food Network.

Ricki Lake  00:49

I’m still waiting for my gingerbread.

Kalen Allen  00:54

Okay, so listen here. I had a bad experience in kindergarten with some gingerbread. It was a holiday party. And somebody had brought some Little Debbie gingerbread and even when I think about it, just I don’t know if it was a bad batch. But baby that stuff made me gag.

Ricki Lake  01:12

So now you’ve healed from that experience of hating ginger. That’s progress. That’s great. Do you use hairspray? Right? You saw the movie hairspray because it made me think of because you I had to eat those pink snowball things. Uh huh. And I had to eat a lot of them. And I hated them. And so it was one of those things I had, like, I remember having a spit bucket because you know, I model and walk down the runway and then I take a big bite in the camera. And yeah, that was like I, there were a lot of sacrifices that I made making that movie all worth it. Yeah, exactly. My hair. Yeah. But yeah, it just reminded me of that. So and you have your Christmas album coming out?

Kalen Allen  01:49

I do. It is an EP, because it’s only four songs because that’s all I could afford. And we really created something very special. The name of the album is feel a little Christmas. Because it was important for me that every song felt like what Christmas felt to me. So I grabbed some of my favorite songs. There’s an original called want to make a snow that I wrote. And then there is where are you Christmas is when Christmas comes to town when Christmas comes down from Polar Express where you Christmas is from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And then there is a gospel tract that was inspired by Whitney Houston’s joy to the world called, Oh, come all ye faithful and go tell it on the mountain. You’ve heard it.

Ricki Lake  02:34

I’ve heard it. It’s amazing. I was blown away. I mean, I knew you were in hairspray and you played you know, seaweed and all that. And that’s that, in and of itself is a really hard role to play. You can sing. Kalen, you’re so good. Oh, you can do it all. I’m literally obsessed with you. Honestly, I’m writing. I feel like I’m riding on your coattails.

Kalen Allen  02:56

Oh my god.

Ricki Lake  02:57

I swear, I’m so impressed with you. And it’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna be amazing. You love Mariah Carey’s Christmas, right?

Kalen Allen  03:08

I have gone to Maria’s Christmas shows for the past couple years since I’ve been in college. I adore her. We collaborated together when I was doing my digital series that Ellen on Kalen for her 25th anniversary of all I want for Christmas is you. It was the most magical experience. I think she is the queen of Christmas. But you know, I’m actually glad you brought up Mariah Carey because today’s episode, even though it’s not about Christmas, but it is about body image. And Mariah is also someone that has taken a lot of heat for her body and gotten a lot of criticism and a lot of people saying a lot of stuff you don’t and I think that is something that we exist. As far as society always has a critique. Do I think that it has changed somewhat, but are people still hypercritical of women’s bodies? Absolutely.

Ricki Lake  04:02

Of course they are.

Kalen Allen  04:03

I mean, we see how people treat Lizzo, it is absolutely so frustrating. I am always arguing with people on social media about the way that they talk about Lizzo and not just letting her live her life. But I’m very excited because today we are bringing on Tess Holliday, a friend of yours.

Ricki Lake  04:21

She is a good friend of mine. And more than that she’s just someone I’m really in awe of. I mean, she’s just, she’s probably the most famous plus size model of late. And she started something called f your beauty standards, just talking about body positivity and putting it in the light and she’s a trailblazer. And she’s stunningly beautiful. Like yeah, she’s incredible. So I’m really, really excited to talk to her and wait a minute. Wait a minute. I think I hear something. What’s that?

Kalen Allen  04:51

Oh, oh, bring the ding ding. Well welcome Tess, we are so happy that you are here. You know, Ricki raves about you. Okay, there’s probably not an episode that we have done where your name has not come up in some sort of fashion. Definitely knew that we needed to have you on this show. Now, I do want people to understand how you two know each other. So tell us a little bit how about how you two became friends.

Tess Holiday  05:26

So I was on the cover of People magazine, it was my first big cover. And Ricky literally messaged me on Twitter. And I was in my little 2009 […] on the 405. And I got the message. And I screamed, because I grew up with her as so many of us did. And I loved her so much. And she played such an instrumental role in who I am and loving myself. And then she was messaging me. And so I thought, well, this is my perfect opportunity to force my friendship. And that’s what I did.

Tess Holiday  06:01

I don’t recall it being forced.

Kalen Allen  06:06

Kalen Allen  06:06

You don’t recall that?

Ricki Lake  06:08

I recall the whole thing. Of course, I reached out to her on Twitter, social media has been a tool for me in that way of like meeting the people I want to meet and I was so just impressed with her candor. First of all, she’s so stunningly gorgeous. And like, like, like nothing you’ve ever seen before. She’s just a goddess. And it’s her messaging. And it’s her confidence. And it just resonated well, I could say it resonated with me. I you know, obviously, she’s like this the most beautiful creature, But I mean, I guess I believe that too. Thank you. But it’s something just you were so honest, and raw and smart. And you so young, and I just was really impressed with you. And I wanted to send that message I didn’t know we’d become friends. But I really was moved by your messaging. And you took a lot like it’s been like an up and down roller coaster for you. You’ve taken a lot of heat. And you’ve had to stand up for yourself and I just continue to be impressed and inspired by you. So my I’m so grateful to call you my friend.

Tess Holiday  07:17

I love you. I’m so grateful to be your friend. And it’s been a journey the last few years. And here we are, we’re still here happier than ever.

Ricki Lake  07:25

I mean, you’re laughing, but you do. Do you believe that? I know, for myself, I’m the most me, I’m the most comfortable in my skin. And it’s gonna be really interesting to having this conversation with you. Because, you know, I did the show so many years ago, and we covered body positivity or body image. I mean, it wasn’t called that back then. But I really wanted your perspective on it. Because it’s a weird thing for me to wrap my head around because I got famous for being fat in John Waters hairspray. So it was a positive for me. It was something that like made me set me apart from everyone else. And I you know, was believable as being the sexy girl who got the hottest guy and you know, but there’s a piece of me that, of course, was insecure. I was a virgin at 18. And I wasn’t in my personal life getting the attention from men, which , you know, it takes us a little off topic, but I was molested as a young child, which I know you dealt with sexual abuse as well as a child. And so that was what it’s a really fucked up thing. Because I was I turned to food to make myself less attractive to men through that hole. And my you know, it’s a whole loaded thing with my mother who was ashamed of me because I was fat, you know, she had such issues with it, but it’s what made me famous and rich. You know what, it’s what set me on the metro. It’s like this weird thing. And then when I would talk to big heavy people on my show, you know, I treated everybody equally. But I’m sure that we, you know, made mistakes and said the wrong thing or didn’t treat it with, you know, just the, I wasn’t as maybe ginger with it as I could have been. I don’t know, I really want to hear what you think?

Tess Holiday  09:08

It was a different time. I mean, your show was salacious, but it was also like informative, it was different than the other shows out there because it didn’t feel like drama. Like it was interesting to have these people on there and share their stories, especially the plus size folks, but I don’t really think that anybody goes back and sees those and they’re like, ah, you know, because that was very much the culture the culture was we talked about it, but it wasn’t necessarily something that we felt like we could celebrate and you did celebrate it, the best that you could at that time.

Kalen Allen  09:46

So you watch the Ricki Lake Show. You were a fan and growing up, okay. Well, what really puzzled me is this is the first time Ricky that you’ve said that you were eating so that you would be unattractive to me and I’ve never heard you Use that perspective. And so then that started me thinking because I know that we’re talking about the times, and how times were different thing. And you know, but we’ve also watched episodes of the show, and I’ve been like, I’m surprised that you know, this happened or this was said, or that felt like it was, you know, fat phobic and stuff like that. So I’m wondering, is there any moment and I say this was someone that is sometimes I am able to pinpoint and recognize my own internalized homophobia. So I am wondering, is there any times that you find yourself trauma bonding, or projecting your own insecurities that society has put against you in on to other people out in the real world?

Tess Holiday  10:46

Yes, absolutely. Of course. I mean, I was the kid that was bullied in school because I was poor. And my mom was in a wheelchair, and I was fat. It was like, I was a triple threat before I even knew it. So, I’ve been hated forever, not to brag. So, you know, it was really hard growing up, kind of having to always defend myself. And then when I became, you know, well known, famous, however, people want to say it, it was really difficult because like, Ricky, I was all of a sudden famous for basically my size, like being fat. And yes, I did other things to get there. It wasn’t just my size; Ricky didn’t get just get the gig because she was fat. But it’s like that, all of a sudden, what people wanted to focus on. And I found myself constantly, for the first few years of my career, really on the defensive. And now when I do videos, or, you know, like, the internet calls a clap backs, right at people, I do it in like a funny, humorous way. And I don’t do it in like a mean, malicious way. And I think for years, there was definitely a lot of anger. Because I was tired, I was tired of people focusing on my size. And honestly, now still, that happens. And I still find myself frustrated that people diminish my accomplishments and who I am, because of my size. And that’s all people want to focus on, or my perceived health. It’s not really about the things that I’ve done, or sometimes who I am as a person.

Ricki Lake  12:20

So let’s talk about that, that that the industry loves to kind of pinpoint to you that you’re killing yourself or that right, that it’s not healthy.

Tess Holiday  12:29

Yeah, I mean, I can be talking about anything, I can make a video about anything. And it’s like, if I do like a TikTok, or if I, you know, I’m doing work or something like that, and I’m talking about something that really means something to me. And that has nothing to do with my size, or perceived health, the media. And really, the internet always has a way to circle it back to my size. And it’s really frustrating, because I’m so much more than all those things. But society likes to remind you that you’re very much those things. So you’re constantly having to just tell yourself, yeah, okay, maybe this is how I’m perceived. But this is all of who I am. I’m fat, but I’m also so many more things.

Ricki Lake  13:15

Okay, everyone got to take a quick break. We’ve got more with Tess Holliday in just a minute.

Kalen Allen  13:33

Did you ever feel pressured to lose weight? Or did you ever feel like you couldn’t lose weight, because that was a part of the image that you had created your brand through?

Tess Holiday  13:46

I’ve always been too big to do anything that I’ve done. I was, you know, too big to be a model. I was too big to get the Hawkeye like Ricki was saying I was always too big for everything. And so I do believe with my whole heart, that if I were to lose a drastic amount of weight, I would be rewarded through entertainment and media and fashion. Because guess what, then I could fit into the samples that they have more designers would be interested in me, I would now become this quote unquote, success story, because I’ve drastically changed and lost the way and I’m now a beauty standard, right? So now that’s something attainable now people are interested invested. I sometimes wonder if it’s actually more detrimental, that I exist the way that I do. But I’ve had to really do a lot of digging and soul searching with that. And the reality is, this is who I am. This is the body I exist in right now. And I firmly believe that opportunities will find me as I’m suited for them and nothing will pass me. So that’s what I tell myself when I’m feeling like maybe I should lose weight because then I could do XYZ. And I have to tell myself, like you were saying your own in term internalized homophobia, I definitely have to deal with my own fat phobia. And I really hope that in the future, we have curriculum for fat trauma, because people don’t talk about how often like our lives and our worldview is being shaped and how traumatic it is as a fat person existing in this world. And we can’t really talk about it because people kind of view it as not really accepted and people don’t care.

Kalen Allen  15:33

Ricki, when you started to lose weight, did you feel as though opportunities decreased for you or increase?

Ricki Lake  15:40

Okay, so I lost 100 pounds between cry baby after cry baby. And during the talk show, and that we’ve talked about, I made a conscious effort to just kind of go away for six months, because nothing was working. I had gained 60 pounds from hairspray to cry baby, and it wasn’t cute anymore in the industry. It wasn’t, I wasn’t being hired. You know, I was really alone. At that time. I was like, what I was 22. And I was like, I gotta do something to change this up, you know, and it’s like, it was all about what sets me apart, what’s going to get me some attention. And so it wasn’t about health. It was just like; This is what I can control. I can’t control if the guy is gonna be into me, or if I’m gonna get the next job. I gotta like, change this up. And I did it. And it worked. And it did get me I can’t say got me the talk show. But it’s certainly helped. Because I was the success story. And it made me relatable from the character in hairspray, I was already the girl that was like, people root for the underdog, you know, and so people weren’t threatened by me, you know. And so I was like, sort of that perfect package. But you know, I my weight fluctuated during the course of the show. And then I had my two kids, but losing weight, I definitely saw the power in that. And let me just tell the story. So and I didn’t know Tess at this time. I don’t even know if you are on the map at this time. But 15 years ago, in the business of being born, came out. And we had gotten into the Tribeca Film Festival. And I remember it was after Christmas, and it was coming up in the new year and was going to be premiering in April. And my publicist at the time said, If I were you, I would get yourself in the best shape of your life. And that way you come out with this film, you know, it’s very small, provocative film about the birth industry, but to get attention for it through changing my physicality. And I went on a crash diet. And I was like the thin girl, I was the sample size. And I was walking the red carpet. And after that appearance, I was offered four magazine covers. I think it was people, Us Weekly, Playboy, and okay are one of the other. I mean, it was like the power of that was unbelievable, not unbelievable, totally believable, but it was just like it happened to me. And to God to answer your question. I mean, it’s just Yes, yes, I got more opportunities, I got more attention. It was way more positive. I am conflicted. Because I am proud of myself when I lose that weight. It’s something I want the world to know, I did this, you know, it’s a lot of work and a lot of willpower. And so I love talking about it. But I also know how that is not the best thing to be celebrating and to you know, so I get I get the gist. It’s both and I you know..

Kalen Allen  18:28

You’re talking about celebrating like losing weight.

Ricki Lake  18:30

Yeah, just perpetuating that obsession we have with the diet culture, and I’m a part of it. And I you know; you relate to that?

Kalen Allen  18:38

Yeah. Because I think the reason why your publicist told you that and it’s fucked up, that your publicist told you this is the fact that your weight is the brand, it’s what people want to talk about. It’s the first thing they’re going to look at when you step onto a carpet, you know, and I can’t help but think about other people that have gone through this like I think of Monique, you know, back in the day when she’s bigger, all her jokes were about Skinny Bitches, you know, and then when she lost the weight, people were like, what those jokes don’t work anymore. You know? And then then I think about like Jennifer Hudson, you know, I think of all these people that have done the Ginny Craig’s the Weight Watchers and how weight has always been a thing.

Ricki Lake  19:22

Let me just jump in one second to say I turned down they all offered me million dollar offers to do Jenny all of them, all of them, and I’ve never done that. I’ve never ever taken that payoff because I feel so conflicted about it. So do you see it as a sell out? By me losing weight or someone like in that position?

Kalen Allen  19:39

No, no, no, I am all for body positivity. I want you to live the life that you feel comfortable in. I want you to be in the body that you feel comfortable in. I don’t think it’s anybody else’s business. The issue is like we have entered into this space and have always been in a space in the entertainment industry to where we take these things and make them about who they are, you know, like people tell Lizzo all the time. She needs a little weight because you’re not, you know, I got in trouble online while taking it in trouble but a gala pickup, because I spoke up when Kathy Hilton set was talking about Lizzo on Watch What Happens Live?

Tess Holiday  20:20

I saw that.

Ricki Lake  20:21

I didn’t see it. I missed it.

Kalen Allen  20:23

They showed a picture of Lizzo. And she was like, I don’t know who that is. And she was like, is it precious? You know, but she was mentoring she was talking about Gabby, was for reference, but the fact that she said a character name. Now it’s just like, there’s no way that Kathy Hilton is sitting down watching Lee Daniels film is going to reference. Because I was like, when precious came out. If you are a dark skinned plus size woman, everybody made fun of you by calling you precious. It was used as a derogatory remark. And I said, so no, I don’t find this reference to be entertaining or funny. And I also just be in a place of like, leave Liz all the hell alone. It is so exhausting.

Tess Holiday  21:11

It’s been funny because I met Lizzo years ago, we were friends way before she popped off. And it’s been interesting to watch the media’s narrative of her because and we are different star power, but right still in the same realm of like fat celebrities. And I remember when I first blew up, that’s all people wanted to talk about, right was my size, weight, whatever. And that’s all still people want to talk about with Lizzo. You know, she’s won a Grammy, she’s won an Emmy, she is on tour right now. She’s working out constantly moving her body, I guarantee that she is quote unquote healthier and fitter than probably Kathy Hilton. But it’s just like you were saying, people are so obsessed with it. And fat phobia is so ingrained in our culture, that people will flippantly say things that are fat phobic. And I don’t even think that they realize it because it has just been so accepted by society. And we see, like Ricky was saying, people are rewarded, when they do lose that way. What Ricki was saying she turned on those offers, as part of why I’m grateful to be her friend is the integrity, people don’t realize how much integrity it takes in this industry, especially when you are fat, because people will offer you all kinds of things to not be fat. And it’s hard to say no, when you have money, but at the end of the day, I have to sleep with me. And I couldn’t do that if I were doing those things.

Ricki Lake  22:47

What is body positivity mean to you?

Tess Holiday  22:50

I mean, you know, I think it’s really just what you want to do with your body, what makes you happy, it’s hard to put a blanket statement on body positivity. And I think early in my career I did, I would say, you know, you need to do this, and you can do this. And it was all coming from a positive place. I didn’t necessarily embody all of that at the time, because I was fighting some very dark demons during kind of the rise of my fame. And now I have more of an understanding. And I think it really just comes down to the individual. I mean, nobody can tell you what feels good in your body and how you feel. And as long as you’re not harming people and harming yourself, then I’m from a place of we should just let people do what the fuck they want to do with their bodies. So it’s more of kind of maybe a body neutrality. And just for me, I always tell people don’t make comments about yourself and about other people’s bodies. We don’t congratulate weight loss, we just, you just don’t need to do that. You can just say somebody looks nice without making it about their size. But on the flip side, I have really bad body dysmorphia. I have an eating disorder that is restrictive.

Ricki Lake  24:07

What is exactly the eating disorder that you have, if you don’t mind?

Tess Holiday  24:11

I have anorexia nervosa or anorexia. It’s a restrictive eating disorder. And it’s not pretty. I’m doing okay with it right now, kind of, but it comes and goes. And so I will not eat for an extended amount of time. And it’s, you know, done a bit of damage to my body and to my hormones. And it’s something that I’m currently in recovery for.

Ricki Lake  24:44

And is it challenging for you? Because I’m sure people hear the word anorexia and they think how could a heavyset person have anorexia?

Tess Holiday  24:52

Yeah, and I’m so grateful. The New York Times actually just did a really wonderful piece that came out last week and the tie I’d love it was you don’t look anorexic to me. And they really studied a few individuals about that have the same eating disorder that I do that live in larger bodies. And I was so grateful that they backed it with science, they backed it with medical professionals saying that the eating disorder that I have is one of the least researched the least diagnosed, having the diagnosis has drastically changed how I look at myself and view myself, and I just want that for other people. Because if I would have known that I had this 10 years ago, I wonder, you know, where I would be and what I would look like, but then I can’t do that to myself. So I just think like, I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to be alive. And I’m gonna love this body until the wheels fall off. Dammit.

Ricki Lake  25:58

Yeah, I was just going to ask, are you using that on your platform? Are you talking about that on your platform?

Tess Holiday  26:02

Yeah, yeah, I talked about my eating disorder regularly. You know, I, when it first came out, it blew up, right? Because I talked about it. February, will be two years ago. And I kind of just post it flippantly. I got my diagnosis. I didn’t even tell my team. And I remember my manager was like, how did you not tell me about this? And I just thought, I didn’t really think people would care. But I didn’t realize that there hadn’t been a fat person in the public eye that was talking about having a restrictive eating disorder. And so when I talked about it, and everybody caught wind of it, and it’s still to this day, people make fun of me. I get trolled every single day, because people are like, oh, she made it up or she’s saying that to be relevant, which is so gross. It’s just been something that I’ve, I’ve had to kind of deal with, but it’s helped a lot of people get help, and I’m gonna keep talking about it.

Kalen Allen  27:02

I have a question. Are both of you Taylor Swift Fans?

Tess Holiday  27:06

Yes. Oh, the music video that she did recently. Yeah, we are fans, she stepped on the scale and the scale said fat, it was really disappointing. was super disappointing. I was very disappointed because she has a lot of young fans. And I know that she’s talked about how she struggled with her own eating disorder, by to have to in that scene, it was portrayed as a negative thing, like her stepping on the scale, the disappointment, the word fat. And I just thought, like, Wow, are we still doing that? Like, are we still perpetuating that? And I know that she probably wouldn’t have wanted to hurt anybody. I think that, again, that’s probably an example of how deep all of this runs. And people just, they don’t think about it, you know, and I would like to think that it’s not coming from a bad place, because that doesn’t seem to be the kind of person she is.

Kalen Allen  28:01

Well, I think also because I for one, I hate it when skinny people try to, you know, say that they’re fat, or come from that type of perspective, because I think it’s, it just, it isn’t the same. It’s not you may be skinny or whatever. But it’s like your body size is not preventing you from equal opportunities. You know, so like, that’s, that’s the issue. Like there’s privilege in your size, you know, and I think where it gets so tricky, and this is something that I’m always trying to understand because I can admit that I don’t always understand body dysmorphia. When it comes to, when I’m hearing it from bodies there Sunday’s like muscular or skinny. I’m like always like, I don’t really understand that. So, I want to know, from your perspective of what is your relationship with like body dysmorphia? Like when you look in the mirror? What are those thoughts that run through your mind?

Ricki Lake  28:58

Well, I mean, I used to actually think I was thinner than I was, because I would talk myself into it, you know, I’d have to talk myself into.

Tess Holiday  29:09

I’m laughing because I used to tell people that I had reverse body dysmorphia. But I would be like, I’m so fine. And then I’m like, I know I’m fat. But like I really am out here thinking I’m a Chihuahua, but I’m a German Shepherd, you know? Go ahead. Sorry.

Ricki Lake  29:29

Yeah, you know, what I used to do that really isn’t buddies. It’s more people when I was so heavy, and I was so I like I was so big, and I got a movie part. And the stylist would call me to get my sizes and I would just fly about the sizes, because I didn’t want to admit, you know, nothing fit and they had to put the two that I mean, I was just like it was such a, it was such a weird balancing act because it worked for me and then it didn’t work for me. So I still I mean to be honest, I still grapple with even shaving my head letting my hair go gray and accepting myself. I mean, what I think test you have at this point in your young life is you are really accepting of yourself and who you are. And as you are, and I think, sometimes, yeah, it still comes up. I mean, I’m 54 now and I really do, I’m really content, I’m okay, I’m never gonna fit back in the dresses I still have from when I was, you know, in my heyday, it, it just, it’s being a woman, it’s being a woman in this world. And it’s harder for us, it is a struggle with weight.

Tess Holiday  30:29

It’s also just all of that is so deeply tied in to aging in the industry and everything else and the closer I get to 40, and I’m fat, the more I wonder how society is still going to treat me, because I know I’m beautiful. And I probably will always be beautiful. Baby Jesus willing, but it’s hard when you add the weight into it. It’s just one more thing that people don’t want to deal with.

Ricki Lake  30:59

Okay, we’re gonna step away here. When we come back, Tess is going to tell us for the first time publicly about her dream gig that almost happened last year, but didn’t, don’t go anywhere.

Kalen Allen  31:25

How do you deal with haters and trolls and criticism? What is your approach? Like? How do you practice creating a boundary where you are protecting yourself?

Tess Holiday  31:35

For a long time? I didn’t? And my answer used to be I would check my bank account when I was sad, but realistically, right, it’s sometimes not that easy. I have to just remind myself that they don’t know me, they don’t know my lived experiences. And at the end of the day, I know my reality. And that’s all that matters. And I’m not doing this for people that are quote, unquote, haters. I’m doing this for the little girls like me that grew up not having the representation I needed. And that’s why Ricky was so important to so many of us, because even though she was fighting her own demons, and even though she didn’t realize what she was doing, that was something that we needed, and it meant more than people can really put into words. And so I remind myself that to so many people, I’m their Ricki Lake, you know, and I just feel grateful that I get to exist in this world, the way that I look, have the opportunities in the life in the body that I have. And it’s not something that I take for granted. And it sucks. It really sucks. And I don’t think people realize how hard it is. But I do believe that this is what I was meant to do and is your purpose and people are always gonna hate me. So whatever, you know?

Ricki Lake  32:58

Kalen, can you see why I reached out to her on Twitter? Like, why? Like, I because I don’t think I have. I mean, I have a pretty thick skin. But I get the stuff you said, you know, think back when I shaved my head and I kind of became the spokesperson for women’s hair loss, which, you know, was this one of the scariest things I did in my life.

Tess Holiday  33:17

I remember that day.

Ricki Lake  33:19

called you. I called her that day. I was doing it. I was on a beach walk. Yeah. Oh my gosh, I was on a beach walk. And I called you. And I needed a makeup artist. I kind of didn’t. I knew I was doing this. And just so you know, Kalen, we may have talked about this before, but I don’t know. So I made a plan. Like I was struggling when I was living in London for three months. And I did the X Factor. And I was wearing this kind of hair piece extension piece. It was becoming harder and harder to manage because it was pulling my hair My hair was coming in finer, and finer and finer. I was having to color my hair under this air. And here I am trying to be authentic. And I love myself, you know, I do I totally fucking love myself. And this was like my secret it was eating me eating at me. And so I made this decision. I looked at the time clock it was coming up a new decade of 2020 it was the end of the year. And I said I’m going to do this. I’m just going to do this bite the bullet and, and I couldn’t be private about it. Because if I just shaved my head and didn’t announce it, people would have thought I had cancer or that I was Britney Spears having a mental breakdown. I just, I needed to tell my truth. And I know I’m going off topic but I called tests and I just I need to make like because I was having my friend is a really amazing photographer. And I was going to have my dear friend do it with me. I wanted to like document it, you know a documentary filmmaker, and you were so helpful to me. And I thank you for your support because you really got to like say it before anyone really knew I was doing it. And it just, it whatever you said really made me think of that and having to be like to be this on the soapbox that you don’t want to fucking be on.

Tess Holiday  34:54

Kalen, you said something that I’ve really been thinking about is that the brand was I size and I really think that my brand is authenticity. And I never thought about that before until you said it. I’ve always really thought that my brand really did revolve around my size. But I actually just think that it’s authenticity. Because as you were talking Ricki, like, you’re very similar. It’s like you’re, you’re speaking yes, my size is why I’m here. And people are always going to give a shit about my size. But at the end of the day, I’m always vocal about injustice is whether that’s to our Black and Brown individuals and to different marginalized communities, trans individuals, you know, folks of size, whatever, but I’m always going to be authentic. I’m always I have to; I’m going to speak my mind. And maybe people aren’t going to like it. But I don’t know. Thanks for that, though. Because you’ve given me you’ve given me some stuff to think about.

Tess Holiday  35:33

You know, this is the part that sucks in the industry, is, I often tell people, you know, the thing that makes you different from the rest is what’s going to get you your success. But it’s also going to be your […]

Tess Holiday  36:15


Kalen Allen  36:17

I mean, and this is completely on a different spectrum. So, you know, and I know that we wanted to talk about this later on, but even with like doing this podcast, I’ve stopped reading the comments. Like, I don’t read the reviews anymore. Because a lot of the reviews were either about me being Black, or being gay. Like, I remember, there was some wine comment, right? Like, this isn’t news, there was a comment once, that was like, Why does Caitlyn always have to speak in this Black gay man voice? And I’m like, because I’m a black gay man. Like, what does that make like  that nonsense to you, you know what I mean? And the reason why I was asking about, you know, if you ever experienced it becoming internalized, because I know for myself, sometimes I do find myself judging people that come out, but more. So what I’ve noticed is sometimes if I see them, and they look similar to me, or have a similar voice to me, I get nervous for them. You know, because I know that I have the strength to be able to, to endure the racism or the homophobia, but I know that everybody else doesn’t have that self-awareness and self-confidence. And I think even speaking about you in Reiki, it’s like you are two very strong women, you know, and there aren’t a lot of people that have that same strength. And so I often get concerned about how we are approaching these topics, and the conversations we were having about them. And if we’re taking on any accountability, are we really doing the work to change the way that we talk about things? Or are we standing up for the people that we should But speaking of authenticity, what I do want to ask you, is, I want you to tell us a little bit about your eff your beauty standards campaign.

Tess Holiday  38:15

I found it after beauty standards in 2013. And it was really out of frustration, because at that time, you know, like Ricky was saying body positivity was a very new term, we didn’t quite understand what it was. And you weren’t seeing like we didn’t have Lizzo we didn’t have like a lot of these plus sized celebrities like you do now wearing like, tight dresses were like having their cheeks out in their arms out and all of that it was that did not exist. And so I really started it as a rebellion and told people you know, it, post a photo, this was on Instagram, have something that scares you something that excites you something that you’re told that you can’t wear as a society. And so when I created it, and I saw different people sharing their stories, it really opened up my mind and my eyes to really how deep all of this goes. And it’s not something that fat, you know, women deal with. This is something that we all struggle with loving ourselves.

Ricki Lake  39:19

Yeah, you did that. So are you are you going to have a talk show? What’s happening?

Tess Holiday  39:25

You know, that’s my dream. I was. I think I told you. I can’t say the names publicly, but I had a talk show. Last year, it was basically I haven’t said this publicly, but we got the greenlight and I had two amazing co-hosts and then one of the co-hosts really got in a huge scandal and they pulled the plug. And I remember thinking to myself at the time, I had to tell myself, to keep from being sad that this was not my moment. It wasn’t meant to be and I was so grateful that this scandal happened before we had the show. And I thought, wow, look at Baby Jesus and His timing or whoever you believe in. Because if this would have happened when we had the show, I would have gotten pulled into all of that. But, you know, that’s my dream, my dream, maybe not a talk show. But I would love to have a show where I travel and meet people and have them share their stories because I really feel like I’m a vessel to other people for them to share their stories.

Ricki Lake  40:36

That’s what I feel I was.

Kalen Allen  40:38

I know you were, and I need you to executive produce.

Ricki Lake  40:44

You know, I was thinking that, I was gonna say that no, the two of you, the two of you.

Tess Holiday  40:48

I would scream, cry.

Ricki Lake  40:52

Mama’s tired over here. […], I’m totally down for that.

Tess Holiday  41:03

You know, I feel like everybody has a talk show. But I still feel like they’re missing something. I feel like you know, even with, like the view, it’s been on forever, or whatever. Like Lonnie was really the only plus size person on TV the past few years, I can’t think of anybody else that has had a regular..

Ricki Lake  41:28

Sherri Shepherd is now on, I like her. I like very real and authentic. And she’s very clever and funny.

Tess Holiday  41:39

But the fact that we’re struggling to think of names. And there’s so many people out there, too. I think things are changing. I do. They’re not changing fast enough. And I’ve said this before online, and people didn’t like it. But I do firmly believe in my heart that I don’t know, if we’re going to see the type of change that needs to happen in my lifetime. I think that a lot of the work that we’re doing will benefit future generations. I just don’t know what it looks like for this generation. And that’s not me being you know, pessimistic. It’s just me being realistic

Ricki Lake  42:16

tests. I just adore you. I really every time every time you know, we don’t see each other that often, you know, every couple of months, just every time I connect with you, I’m just you’re just doing something really big. And it feels, I mean, whatever I you know, that I say that and I’m like, we’re mirrors, you know, but I just love you. And I’m so grateful for your friendship and for your voice in the world.

Tess Holiday  42:46

I am grateful for you. And I needed to hear that I’ve been having a hard time. So you know, it’s our we don’t see each other often. But when we do, it’s always needed at that time. I’ve noticed and I told you that last time I saw you, and I’m just I’m grateful to be here and to be a part of this.

Ricki Lake  43:03

Thank you, honey, I love you, come get your sunglasses.

Tess Holiday  43:09

Ricki has my […]. It’s like when you hook up with somebody and you leave your toothbrush behind. That’s what I did.

Kalen Allen  43:22

So you had to drive back to Malibu?

Ricki Lake  43:31

Wow. She’s great.

Kalen Allen  43:34

I tell you all the time is like people know me for last. And I can, you know, always bring joy. But I love talking about things like this, because I think that’s the only real way to educate people. You know, I think we can throw around terms like fat phobia, and we can talk about homophobia. But if we don’t tell our actual stories and our lived experiences, I don’t think it ever really resonates with people.

Ricki Lake  44:06

Do you feel like you learned a lot from her today?

Kalen Allen  44:09

Yes. But I think what I learned the most was just like this, the perspective and the nuances and the layers that exists. When we talk about these things that a lot of people don’t talk about, you know, right. There’s so many layers that you have to take into consideration. I think having this conversation allows that perspective to be put into the ring. Well said

Ricki Lake  44:29

Well said, my friend. Well, thank you all for listening today. It really was. See it was personal for me. You know, she’s actually my real friend, and I’m just so proud to know her and thank you guys. Please, if you can subscribe, rate and review, right? Thank you. I’ll see you next time.

CREDITS  44:51

Hey, if you want more Raised by Ricki, just subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Every other week. I answer listeners questions subscribe now. Raised by Ricki with Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen is a Lemonada Media Original. This show is produced by Claire Jones and Nancy Rosenbaum. Our associate producer is Tiffany Buoy. Our senior director of new content is Rachel Neill, VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson and our executive producers Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and DeRay McKesson, and the show is mixed by Johnny Vince Evans. Music is written and produced by Jellybean Benitez, Jason Peralta and Jay Coos for Jelly Bean Productions.

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