Women on Top: Jennifer Dome King
Jennifer Dome King is a plus-size blogger, editor, and body-positive fitness activist. She recently added "self-published author" to her growing list of accomplishments. In Fat Girl Power: How I Built Confidence Through Body Positivity, Fashion and Fitness, King expands on her blog “Stellar Fashion & Fitness” and explores what it means to embrace the skin you’re in.
How did you get involved in blogging, and how did that shape you into the writer and editor you are today?
I started my first blog when I was in London for an internship I had with Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine. I wanted to document my travels for my family and friends back home, and I thought that would be a fun way to do it. It also gave me a writing outlet because I wasn’t sure how much writing I would do during my internship. That was my first blog, but of course, while I was there, I was interning for a fashion magazine, and I was paying close attention to the runways and things going on in that world. So, I was talking about that, as well, on my blog. That’s how it got started, but somewhere along the way — around seven or eight years ago — my relationship with my body and my desire to be healthier and more fit changed. I felt that all of that encompassed trying to make a more stellar person, which is where the name of my blog, “Stellar Fashion & Fitness,” comes from. Since then, my blog and my mission has evolved into becoming a more confident person overall and feeling better about yourself.
In terms of blogging, I think that being able to write whatever it is that I want to write while still paying attention to my love for grammar and punctuation and all of that (because I want to produce a high-quality piece of writing) has helped in my day job as an editor, too, because even though I don’t write about fashion or fitness at work, being able to come up with story ideas and brainstorm and learning how to package article ideas, like whether it should be a straight narrative or a Q&A or a Top 10 list or whatever, the creativity I get from blogging helps in my day job as an editor.
Tell me more about your tagline — “Stellar Fashion & Fitness: Building Confidence Through Fashion, Fitness and Body Positivity” and why you chose those words.
To me, there are times where the fitness world and the fashion world can be very judgmental, like they’re only for certain types of people. There’s not a whole lot of choices out there when it comes to active wear or cute clothes for larger women. You have Lane Bryant and Torrid and Catherine’s, but it’s just not as easy for bigger women to find clothing they like. It’s especially more difficult for larger men, too. I wanted to create a place where I could present ideas for fun things these women could wear for all sizes or fun things to do for all sizes — things I’m trying to do for myself and strides I’m taking to improve my health, but do it from a place of love for myself; not because I’m tearing myself down. I think there is the ability to want to change yourself and improve yourself while loving yourself at the same time. To me, I see it as growth, not necessarily change. I think it’s really important to give yourself that grace. Even labeling certain foods or activities as "bad" can have a big negative effect on our psyche. For example, if you label chocolate as bad in your mind, you’ll feel guilty every time you eat chocolate and you’ll feel bad about yourself. I wanted to talk about those subjects and remove the judgmental tones.
How would you suggest women find their own self-confidence, especially if that’s something they struggle with?
One big, key thing I’ve come to realize is that who you surround yourself with plays such a big part in your own self-image. I think the friends and family you give your energy to should be people who give you positive energy back. I think women spend a lot of time around people who, whether they know it or not, are tearing little pieces of their self-esteem down, especially on social media. For example, as women, when we go out to eat, we tend to say things like, "Oh, I really shouldn’t have this," and we judge ourselves by what other people have ordered. Just from the space of ordering what you want and eating it without comment; without saying that you’ll eat a salad later or that you’ll go to the gym later. We shouldn’t feel like we have to qualify our actions to the people in our lives because of this societal pressure that we are only supposed to eat certain things or wear certain things. I’m saying this knowing that I do it myself. A lot of what I write about in my blog or what I wrote about in my book is about how this is an ongoing journey. It’s not something I find easy every day. It’s a daily journey to work on and build that confidence.
So, one thing I definitely think women can do is work on who they surround themselves with. You can’t always cut out certain friends or family members, but you can coach yourself when you’re going to meet that person who may have a tendency to make a snide comment on your weight or if they put themselves down and wait for your to play that game, like if they say how much they hate their stomach and they wait for your to bash your thighs. You can coach yourself by saying you’re not going to let that person bring your down or engage you in that kind of conversation. Or you can change that conversation. When they start to say those destructive things, you can tell them to stop and that they don’t deserve it.
Do you ever feel exposed on your blog?
Oh yeah, for sure. Especially with the book where all of my stories are in one place at one time. I try not to talk too much about family or relationship drama. I will do some of that from the standpoint of confidence. I have some chapters in the book about dealing with people who give you unsolicited advice as well as being brave and trying online dating, which is how I met my husband, but I don’t want to talk too much about those sorts of things. But I am honest with how I struggle with my weight and I reveal how much I weigh in some posts and will talk about things with fashion like Spanx, shapewear and bras. For example, one of my most popular posts is about a time when a man called me a fatass when I was in the Target parking lot. So, if there’s a time where I ever face that kind of namecalling or judgement, I will open up about that. I think there are a lot of people out there who face those things or don’t know what bra size they should be wearing. So, even though it’s personal, I hope my experiences and perspective would help someone who may be struggling with a similar situation.
One thing you discuss in your book is what the word “fat” means to you. Can you expand on that and explain why you believe it’s important for people to reclaim that word and make it their own?
Fat to me is just what I have — it's not who I am. I think people attach a lot of other words to the word "fat" — like lazy, or gluttonous — and so when someone calls someone else or themselves fat, those words are also attached. But fat people aren't necessarily lazy or gluttonous. That's why I think it's important to start looking at that word differently, so it doesn't carry so much negative connotation. And it's up to us to be OK with using the word fat, but giving it a new meaning or new feeling.
What does the body positivity movement mean to you, and how are you seeing it take effect in your community and around the world?
I’m 37 years old, so I’ve been around a while, and the body positivity movement is something I’ve seen come about. It’s not something that has been present during my entire life. So, to me, it’s what this will mean for the next generation of women. Young women today seem so empowered by it. And I look at her and I think, "You’re stick thin. You have nothing to worry about."
But that’s what people don’t always recognize about the body positivity movement: it’s not just for fat girls. It’s for everyone, female or male because men have body image issues, as well. It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin and the promotion of having cool clothes for everyone so they can all feel good about themselves. It’s about going shopping with friends and not feel like you can only look at shoes or accessories. It’s this sense of acceptance and belonging, and I’m finally seeing some movement on the parts of fashion and even fitness.
There are so many people out there who feel like they can’t work out because they’re not fit when they’re the ones who should feel motivated and be working out the most; not because they need to achieve some number on the scale or some size of clothing, but because it makes them feel good. I know that I feel better when I’m more active and when I’m watching what I’m eating, so I believe it’s about promoting good mental health as well as physical health. To me, the body positivity movement isn’t telling people to lose weight or gain weight, or telling them to be skinny or that they’re too skinny; it’s about not casting judgement on someone else’s body and creating a positive, encouraging atmosphere where people feel beautiful and motivated to be their best selves, regardless of the number on the scale. I know it’s being championed more for the acceptance of larger women, but I think that’s because we’re more marginalized and we’re not represented in media as much. It’s not happening rapidly, but we are seeing more body shapes in TV, movies and magazines. It’s that feeling that you can see yourself in people who are widely viewed as beautiful on a celebrity level, and the more of yourself you see in people at those capacities, the more you realize how beautiful you are.
I do think that there is a lot of work to still be done, but I do believe it’s coming around. It’s not something I grew up with, so the fact that the younger generation of women is hopefully growing up in a time where people are fighting for body positivity and acceptance and even though we’re encouraging activity and healthy eating, we’re not doing it based on what someone looks like; it’s based on a more defined meaning of health. Health isn’t just your weight and your cholesterol number; it’s a lot more, and it encompasses your mental health, too.