Size and Identity
June 28, 2010 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in characters that are confident, despite the fact that they are overweight.

I'm interested in anything that depicts women who are content with the fact the are not thin. It could be fiction, non-fiction, TV, movies, print, articles, podcasts, whatever. I want to read, see, and listen to it.

I'm interested because I'm 20 pounds overweight and have been dieting my entire life. I think about my weight constantly and am over it. Please steer me to women who are confident with their size. Every time I read about, see, or meet a woman that is not obsessing about her looks, it inspires me. Thanks.
posted by Fairchild to Grab Bag (57 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Camryn Manheim on The Practice.

There's a really good YA fantasy, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey -- the heroine, Ellie Spencer, is fat, and has some body issues at the beginning of the book, but she's also a Tae Kwon Do black belt and she gets to kick a lot of ass and fall in love and be happier about her figure by the end of the book.
posted by Jeanne at 8:00 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, definitely.
posted by orange swan at 8:00 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Basically every role that Queen Latifah has ever played. Especially her short stint on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air as Dee Dee.
posted by General Malaise at 8:03 AM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is both a series of books and an absolutely excellent HBO series featuring a voluptuous and totally badass lady who solves mysteries and fights crime.
posted by Mizu at 8:08 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This probably isn't exactly what you're thinking of but there are frequently villains / bad guys who are overweight but behave confidently. The one who jumps to mind from recent years is Margaret Blaine, a recurring villain on Doctor Who.
posted by XMLicious at 8:12 AM on June 28, 2010

Also Camryn Manheim, her appearance as Snow White in Tenth Kingdom.
posted by Lifeson at 8:16 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Beth Ditto rocks!
posted by eau79 at 8:16 AM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cynthia Ettinger on Carnivale.
posted by oflinkey at 8:20 AM on June 28, 2010

FBI hacker Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds, played by Kirsten Vangsness.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:23 AM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Dawn French
Especially Vicar of Dibley.
posted by rocket88 at 8:27 AM on June 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Lucille Clifton, God rest her soul.

homage to my hips

by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
posted by cross_impact at 8:27 AM on June 28, 2010 [13 favorites]

Actress/comedian Dawn French in just about anything but especially playing Geraldine Granger in The Vicar of Dibley.
posted by ceri richard at 8:27 AM on June 28, 2010

Snap at rocket88!
posted by ceri richard at 8:28 AM on June 28, 2010

These are real people (not characters) but thought I'd post them for you.

Beth Ditto of The Gossip
Short video of a typical performance. I love how her whole attitude just says "Looks good? Feels good? Eff you, I'm doing it!"

April Flores is a, um, "adult" model (Googling her gets some NSFW links and videos), but here's an excellent interview she did with

This blog ( has some good entries about body confidence. This post is what brought me to that site.
posted by geekchic at 8:32 AM on June 28, 2010

Marianne Sägebrecht in Bagdad Café.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:36 AM on June 28, 2010

Vanessa "Nessa" Jenkins of BBC's Gavin & Stacey is not always a great person, but she certainly has confidence. See In praise of Nessa Jenksin.
posted by Xalf at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

This list contains links to a lot of photo sites, but at the bottom, also lists music videos, TV characters, and literary characters.
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2010

I've always loved the character of Sookie on Gilmore Girls, played by Melissa McCarthy. She's a beautiful, kind, funny lady and although she's definitely plus-sized, her weight is never made an issue. (I can't even remember if it's ever mentioned at all. She certainly doesn't seem insecure about it, or unhappy with herself.) Even better, she has her own life, family and issues, and isn't just the funny fat best friend.
posted by badmoonrising at 8:57 AM on June 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Bevin Branlandingham, who also happens to have an interesting (though unrelated) blog entry titled "Nobody Ever Died of Awkward."
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:00 AM on June 28, 2010

Jennifer Weiner's protagonist in Good in Bed.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:07 AM on June 28, 2010

Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime.
posted by Night_owl at 9:08 AM on June 28, 2010

Devine, John Waters' friend is both a real person and a character.
posted by cmoj at 9:11 AM on June 28, 2010

Denise Mina, one of Scotland's best contemporary writers (novels, plays, comics, graphic fiction) created series of crime novels featuring Ratricia (Paddy ) Meehan a journalist who is eminently human, over weight, competent, willful and very bright. She carries her weight with a realistic mixture of occasional self doubt, surrender and acceptance. Bt sheer dint of her personality her weight is only part of the background.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:15 AM on June 28, 2010

Devine, John Waters' friend is both a real person and a character.

Was also not a woman.
posted by hermitosis at 9:18 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nonfiction - is a fat acceptance blog and is awesome. Check out the FAQ/most popular posts. I'd link but am on my phone.

Fiction - Jennifer someone has a couple books out w confident overweight characters. In some of the books the protagonist's struggle to accept her size is part of the plot. I cannot remember the author's last name, does anyone know who I mean?
posted by insectosaurus at 9:19 AM on June 28, 2010

Seconding Queen Latifah, especially in Chicago.

This may not be what you are looking for, but R. Crumb's artwork features a lot of women with generous proportions; for example, Eve of the Bible.
posted by amicamentis at 9:20 AM on June 28, 2010

I did a bad job reading the previous comments. I'm thinking of Jennifer Weiner, especially Good in Bed, as already mentioned.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:22 AM on June 28, 2010

I love this question!!

There are tons of examples out there. Here are a few of my favorites.

Marilyn Wann wrote the book "Fat? So!: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size" which is a fun read. She also created the Yay! Scale, which I highly recommend.

Fat Chicks Rule!: How To Survive in a Thin-Centric World by Lara Frater also gives great resources for how to own your size.

Fiction & Non-Fiction:
Pearlsong Press* publishes books that have fat heroes in it, are about size acceptance, written by fat authors etc.

I don't know if you are a Facebook person, but there are so, so many inspiring women of all sizes owning their bodies and having an amazing time out there. Just a few minutes of searching will turn up many. (And starting with Marilyn's page and seeing who her friends are is a great way to get started.)
posted by Kimberly at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2010

Kirsten Vangsness who plays Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds. She has a really fun sense of style and flirts shamelessly with the cutest guy on the show.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:46 AM on June 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

The heroine of Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is fat, and spends some time coming to terms with her size and her eating habits and eventually gives up dieting and tells her mother and ex-boyfriend to stop haranguing her about her size. It's a charming and funny romance novel.
posted by shamash at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2010

Teh movie "Real Women Have Curves" address this issue as it ties into cross-generaltional and immigrant vs. first generation American expectations.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2010

Nero Wolfe!
posted by Logophiliac at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2010

From science fiction, both Mary Callahan and Zoey Stonebender from Spider Robinson's Callahan's series.
posted by treblemaker at 10:30 AM on June 28, 2010

Sidney Stein, the main character in Inappropriate Men, by Stacey Ballis. I loved it.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:49 AM on June 28, 2010

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou.
posted by yawper at 10:49 AM on June 28, 2010

Christina Hendricks is pretty much the hottest thing on Mad Men, or all of TV for that matter, and she has some serious curves.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 11:20 AM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sophie Tucker

Nero Wolfe!

Also not a woman.
posted by trip and a half at 11:21 AM on June 28, 2010

[Devine] Was also not a woman.

Female, no. Woman, sometimes.
posted by cmoj at 11:45 AM on June 28, 2010

The works of Hanne Blank might also be useful to you-- she's funny, honest, sex-positive, and advocates self-acceptance.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:05 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Laura House in the short-lived, long-lamented "Austin Stories." She was AWESOME.
posted by GaelFC at 12:06 PM on June 28, 2010

I came in to recommend Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, but got beat to the punch. I'd also recommend Manhunting also by Crusie, which while the emphasis on the female lead's weight isn't as strong, she's also not the traditional wisp of a thing (there is one who is her comedic foil). Both are my standard "listen to the audiobooks in the car when I want to feel sexy about my size" go-tos, with a bonus that they're smart, sharp witted and professional women.
posted by librarianamy at 12:19 PM on June 28, 2010

Joy Nash's Fat Rant (YouTube) is good too.
posted by ceri richard at 12:24 PM on June 28, 2010

From a MeFite who would prefer to remain anonymous:
The answer is "Me"

I'm not skinny. I've always been rounded. But, I have been really really successful and long-term (almost 11 years, which is unheard of) in an industry where I was told in the beginning i wouldn't make it. That would be the adult (fetish) entertainment industry. I've owned my own business for over a decade, never had to do anything I would regret later on...
posted by jessamyn at 1:04 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Mercedes in Glee is totally amazing; especially when singing Bust the Windows From Your Car or Don't Hate on Me. I couldn't find a link to the videos but it's worth renting Season 1 to see those scenes.
posted by victoriab at 1:51 PM on June 28, 2010

Jen Lancaster is a 'fat chick' who writes about it in Such A Pretty Fat. She's occasionally irritating and very bitchy but extremely entertaining.

Also, Sara Rue's character in Less Than Perfect, and Ramona too.
posted by mippy at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2010

French BigBeauty. Her confidence is incredible (and her articles are often translated into English).
posted by OrangeCat at 2:53 PM on June 28, 2010

So it's not characters so much as real people, but: riot grrrl and feminist DIY culture recalibrates my body image like nothing else. Rocking ladies who are doing whatever it is they're doing, with size completely irrelevant.
posted by carbide at 3:40 PM on June 28, 2010

I was going to come in here and suggest Natalie Perkins ( too. she's a friend of mine and such an inspiration on the fat acceptance/Health at Every Size front. I'll send her this link, she'll likely have tons of resources.
posted by divabat at 3:53 PM on June 28, 2010

I just asked Natalie and she recommends the books Fat!So?, Screw Inner Beauty and Health at Every Size, as well as the Fatshionista LJ Community.
posted by divabat at 4:51 PM on June 28, 2010

I always loved Laura House from Austin Stories (which is totally worth searching out on its own merits anyway). She played herself as journalist at an alternative weekly on the show but I think she's a comedian in real life.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:33 PM on June 28, 2010

Thirding Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds. Crazy cool free spirit who's made of awesome on so many levels.
posted by Tamanna at 7:16 PM on June 28, 2010

Gabourey Sidibe is pretty impressive. Young, heavy and so very confident.
Women like that are always impressive.

Not sure how much of a help that is to answer your question though but I thought Sidibe deserves a mention.
posted by xm at 8:12 PM on June 28, 2010

want to second Sookie on Gilmore Girls -- i loved how she was a gorgeous, happy, confident character but it was never presented as "in spite" of her weight -- that was just never an issue or a part of her character. i like to think that weight doesn't really have to be that much of an issue when it comes to what kind of person someone is.

Also I'll second Gabby Sidibe. WOW. WHAT A WOMAN. she is more confident and radiant and comfortable with her body at 16 than I will probably ever be. and WOWZA. IT MAKES HER SUCH A BABE.
posted by custard heart at 9:26 PM on June 28, 2010

Thirding Penelope Garcia on Criminal Minds. Crazy cool free spirit who's made of awesome on so many levels.

Plus, Criminal Minds itself is a rarity among police procedurals in the US-- 90% of the time, they're not pathologizing lifestyles, unlike, say, CSI. The various members of the profiling team have a remarkable empathy for the victims of the crimes they investigate, and often some degree of sympathy for the conditions the perpetrators have endured.

It's hard to say that a show about people hunting down cannibals, dudes doing unauthorized spinal surgery, and child porno rings is warm and fuzzy, but CM comes as close as anything has.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:55 PM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all of these awesome suggestions. I appreciate every one.

I read Bet Me by Jennifer Cruise a few years ago. I was desperate for something to read and grabbed it from the grocery store. It was fun.

Thanks again. I will definitely check these out!
posted by Fairchild at 5:09 AM on June 29, 2010

Jennifer Hudson in Dream Girls. Ditto Sookie in GG!
posted by lucy.verdad at 8:26 AM on June 29, 2010

Not fictional, but I found some excellent, inspiring resources for this mindset in writing by Marilyn Wann (Fat!So?, "all bodies are possible, acceptable, real"), Nomy Lamm ("Really they're thin. But really I'm fat."), and Wendy Shanker's The Fat Girl's Guide to Life. There's also Hanne Blank and Big Big Love, etc. One key point Wann in particular was not afraid to bring up was that people who seem to be inherently, genetically, hormonally fat possibly do more damage to their health yoyo dieting and starving themselves periodically to seem "normal" than if they just fucking accepted their bodies. People hate to hear that and refuse to believe it which I personally find bizarre if you truly give a shit on a health and not aesthetic-fascist level.

I also like this ("It's okay to not always be the Good Fat don't have to bike ten miles a day to make up for it"), because she's addressing a common attitude people tend to have, inadvertently or not, about fat--that you can be "good" at being fat if you just try harder than thin people, all the fucking time, because hey, you're making an effort and that's required or something. Then people will pity you instead of just think you're gross or lazy or something. Bah.
posted by ifjuly at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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