BODY-POSITIVE MOVEMENT USES INTERNATIONAL BODY SHAMING EPISODE TO INSPIRE CHANGES TO CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL COSTUME PRODUCTION
TORONTO, ONT. (APRIL 2018) – When #everyBODYplayahmas (EBPAM) founder, full-figured model Nadelle travelled to participate in this year’s Jamaica Carnival, she didn’t know that it would spark a positive change for her movement, as well as ignite an international body shaming event that placed her image and costume as the target of unwarranted negative attention. The online episode—that has now attracted thousands of views, likes, and hateful remarks—is now being used as fuel to inspire positive changes for full-figured costuming in Caribbean Carnivals around the world.
On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, a post from Jamaican publication The Jamaica Star was the beginning of what seemed to be an endless stream of mean-spirited commentaries and punchlines. It was a photograph of a pretty masquerader...wearing a costume that the majority deemed to be “not her size” or “unflattering” at best. While there were definitely a good amount of encouraging participants in the online conversation, the overall feeling was less than pleasant for many readers, and for the subject who was now the centre of an unintended spectacle.
#everyBODYplayahmas wouldn’t be what it is without taking this moment and turning it into something uplifting, transformative, and inclusive. EBPAM founder and CEO Nadelle did not lose focus on the overall mission at hand and has already taken the two-day old news spectacle and created something beautiful for individuals like herself who live to play mas, and love to celebrate the Caribbean culture overall.
#ConfidenceInCarnival is more than just a hashtag: it’s a mantra, and it’s supported by so much positive energy that even thousands of trolls and naysayers can’t stop the force behind it.
“I have been participating in Caribbean Carnivals since 2006, and I had a great experience in Jamaica. The backlash and being publicly shamed for doing something that I love has been difficult to accept,” said Nadelle. “Rather than fight back or crawl away from the public spotlight, I am going to use this moment to communicate to costume designers around the diaspora to ensure that they see our struggle and re-consider our various measurements and comfort when packaging our individual costumes.”
Stressing that the designer and section leader of the costume captured in the Jamaica Star photograph was pleasant, professional, kind, and accommodating (to the best of her ability, given the circumstances) Nadelle does not want to place any blame or spotlight on the band or individual. She takes full responsibility for wearing her costume, despite being unable to achieve the adjustments and coverage she had hoped for.
“I want to send a message out to the hundreds of carnival costume designers out there, from Jamaica, to my hometown of Toronto, around the Caribbean, U.S., U.K., and beyond that there is a population of women (and men) who adore the carnival experience, and hope to participate in it without ridicule,” said Nadelle. “My greatest fear is that other full-figured women will look at the attack that took place because of my courage...and decide not to participate out of fear of similar consequences.”
Nadelle and the EBPAM team have already started to contact costume designers, band leaders, and carnival organizations around the globe to see how they can help to accommodate the participants that may not fit into standard sizes. The organization hopes to put systems in place to welcome masqueraders of all shapes into an experience that shouldn’t be determined by body type or lack of resources.
“EveryBODY should be able to enjoy this beautiful celebration,” said Nadelle. “It’s easy for onlookers to tell us to just ‘lose the weight’ or to ‘wear your size’...but in the meanwhile—TODAY—I want to ensure that if someone wants to have the time of their life, that they can do so without waiting for that perfect moment, or that perfect size. #everyBODYplayahmas represents the individuals that may be going through personal struggles with weight loss, body image, health issues, or self-esteem, but still want to enjoy the festivities and feel accepted no matter what stage they are at.”
The Instagram and Facebook warfare, along with the discouragement of strangers won’t keep Nadelle and EBPAM away from Jamaica Carnival. Just one of many carnivals that the team travels to attend each year, Jamaica is still on their list of road marches to participate in for 2019.
“I’ll return to Jamaica next year,” said Nadelle. “Absolutely! I wouldn’t be leading this movement if I wasn’t strong enough to take all of that criticism and try to make a change so that other women don’t have to go through what I just did. I may lose the weight, or I may not...but my intention is always to be as healthy as I can, and have as much fun as I can. As long as I can keep smiling and do what I love, I don’t think there’s anything or anyone out there that can stop me from enjoying my beautiful Caribbean culture!”
The EBPAM website www.everybodyplayahmas.com outlines ways in which women around the world can encourage one another to enjoy carnival, and to live a happy and healthy life. The hashtags #everyBODYplayahmas and #ConfidenceInCarnival continue to circulate online and grow each day.