|Image courtesy of Kelly Shibari|
The fashion industry does not recognize overweight individuals when it comes to creating couture as noted recently when Emmy winner and Oscar nominee, Melissa McCarthy, could not find a single high-profile designer to create a dress for her on Oscar night.
Businesses won't often hire overweight individuals when the choice is between someone of a more appealing size and outward appearance even if that smaller person has less experience in the job.
Airlines make seats that are between 17-19 inches wide; small, even, for average-sized individuals, forcing overweight persons into the shame of purchasing two seats to accommodate them even when a gentleman of average weight, but large shoulders built up from body building extend into the seats on either side of him is not forced into buying two seats to accommodate his musculature.
Sizeism exists, and for adults, it's bad enough, but if you happen to be an overweight kid, it's far worse, and that's when bullies strike. It's no joke as far too many teenagers have struggled under the verbal and social media assaults by bullies heaping insults and threats of violence onto them. Too many of these kids choose to end their own lives rather than live miserably believing the negativity thrown at them. Adult film star and marketing businesswoman, Kelly Shibari, had a lot to say about this subject in this exclusive interview.
Shibari is breaking through the glass ceiling set in the adult entertainment industry for plus-sized performers by recently becoming the first-ever plus-sized model featured on the cover of Penthouse Forum. She has also partnered with fellow adult actress, jessica drake (brand name), to produce the first-ever plus-sized educational adult video due out June 25. She advocates size acceptance not by attending rallies or standing on the steps of our nation's capital demanding plus-sized equal rights legislation, but by writing about her own experiences as a guest blogger to hopefully inspire others, and by getting out there in front of the world and showing everyone that big girls are beautiful, they're sexy, and they are human.
So how does she handle bullies with nothing better to do than troll her social media sites and spew hatred?
"I ignore it. I know it sounds like such an easy answer, you know, but I think bullying has changed from when I was a kid. I'm going to be 42 in the fall, and so I went through the majority of my bullying in the 70s and 80s." As Shibari points out, this was before the internet when bullying was done face to face, and a person could walk away from it; go home, and be in a more peaceful environment. Today, bullying follows kids and adults into their homes via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. It isn't witnessed by just a handful of people who happened to be there, but by everyone on that person's page and their friends. Bullying has grown exponentially and morphed into a global activity that will follow a victim no matter where they are. It's seen by friends, family, and employers. It invites the ugliest of internet trolls to hop onto the bully band wagon, and before they know it, the victims find themselves constantly tormented.
'If you're told you're awesome, and you hear that all the time, you believe you're awesome. If you're told you suck, and you're told that repetitively, then you believe that too. So in the states, and Japan, too (Shibari is Asian), Japan is a kind of pop and media culture kind of country, especially for young people; outward beauty, first impressions of what you wear, what color your hair is, all that - the outside impression is the first thing that's criticized. Society has stopped putting a lot of importance on achievement. I didn't select my parents. I didn't study to be my parents' kid. I look this way because I'm a part of my parents."
With that said, she says that it would be nice if who she is, how she interacts with others, and her personality were what people celebrated rather than placing so much importance on the packaging.
Shibari says how she handles those who choose to target her for what they don't like about her is by blocking them. She will often first try engaging these people in intelligent conversation asking just what it is about her they don't like - not knowing her - and sometimes, just by being kind and inquiring, she can turn that situation around because, as she says, "it could be someone just having a really bad day, someone who had someone else bullying them and instead of finding a way to deal with that, they just let it roll downhill onto the next person they encounter." But that isn't always the case. "Sometimes when I look them up and see all their hateful comments to others, I just leave them a message saying 'thanks for taking a moment to tell me how much you don't like me. Have a nice day!' and then I block them. I am relentless with the block button. If I see a lot of discriminatory comments and negativity, I just remove them, and I concentrate on the things that make me happy."
She admits that twenty years ago, she might not have handled it all this well citing that she was still developing who she was. "I have a supportive group of friends, and my family is supportive of me as a human being, so if there are people who are bullying, I have a place I can go to kind of recharge. I think that's important for people who are bullied on a regular basis. Even if they have only one person they can go to, that's important for them to be able to recharge."
Parents today seem surprised when they find out, sometimes too late, that their kids were victims of relentless bullying. In the busy day-to-day activities of work, running a household, and raising kids, parents can miss the signs that one of their children may be suffering from bullying. Shibari shares that she wouldn't dream of telling a parent what to do since she is not parent, herself, but "I was a kid; a kid who was bullied." From the second grade on, she experienced being bullied. "I'm a girl. I'm Asian, and I'm chubby", (and later in her adult life, became an adult actress following working as a production designer in Hollywood). She says if parents notice their once outgoing child becoming withdrawn, not wanting to interact with friends, then something is wrong. 'Luckily, for me, my mom was cognizant of this. She worked from home so we had a very open line of communication. If I was having a bad day or being bullied, I would tell my them (parents). Unfortunately, my parents' response was 'you're a survivor. You can do it'." She says they wouldn't coddle her, but they would have a conversation about it.
"I think whether victims are kids or adults, all they want is to be heard. There's no need for a father to go to the father of the bully and beat 'em up. There's no need to respond with bullying and violent behavior - more negative behavior. But I think that a lot of times, especially these days, everybody is so busy, and whether you're a kid in school or you're an adult, it's important to take the time to talk and to be heard. A lot of times when people lash out, it's a last resort."
The actions of suicide or homicide taken by victims of bullying are not something that happens after one or two incidents. Shibari says "when someone finally does blow up - and that phrase by itself, when they finally blow up - it's not that they woke one day after an amazing life and say 'I think I'll go to school and shoot some people up today. It's the result of shames that have happened over a period of time. I'm not a scientist. I'm not a psychologist. I can't say that I believe all the things I read on the internet, but there have been news reports that some of the people who have been going around shooting people have been on antidepressants."
She knows a thing or two about this having been on one for a period of time, herself. After being misdiagnosed with depression, she went on Effexor which, when taken diligently leaves a person with a sense of well-being, but if missed, even once, can cause out of control emotions as well as physical pain such as migraines. Shibari had a difficult time getting off this medication because coming off it escalated these problems. She had to go back to her doctor and be put onto a different medication that she could be weaned from slowly so that her body could adjust. Turns out, she was over-stressed, not depressed. "I don't have a chemical imbalance, I'm just dealing with a**holes." Another danger of our pharmaceutical culture - medicate the problem instead of finding and treating its cause. In her case, the doctor asked her only five questions - "Do you have days when you don't feel so happy? Well, of course the answer should have been yes! I'm human. On top of that, I'm a woman. I have non-happy days a week out of each month! The questions were like so - 'Hey, do you like the color pink' - like that. You know, I was in my thirties, my body was changing so all kinds of things were going on. That was the caliber of the kind of questions he asked." Word to the wise, seek a qualified physician who specializes in treating clinical depression for diagnosis.
She cites the recent media case of Alyssa Funke who committed suicide following an onslaught of bullying by former classmates when a video of her casting couch audition for an adult film was released online. People first blamed her short stint in porn, but discovered later that the straight A student who was attending college had suffered bouts of depression as a teenager. Her formative years were marred by the stigma of being poor, and having a father who spent time in prison and a mother who used and sold drugs. Smart and pretty, you'd think life would've been easy for her, but jealousy from other girls, and her lack of being able to wear the expensive clothes other kids wore left her the object of years of bullying. Funke tried to brave it through, but after a last phone conversation with her mom in which she explained how upset she was over all the negativity (it was reported her mother said she didn't think at the time that her daughter sounded as if she would harm herself), she went out, purchased a shotgun, and killed herself. For Funke, the recent bout of bullying was simply the last straw.
It was not reported whether antidepressants had anything at all to do with the Alyssa Funke case, but many cases do share this in common. The side effects listed on antidepressants include increased feelings of suicide or homicide. This doesn't happen to everyone, and the various antidepressant medications usually help those who take them to function well, but it is something friends and loved ones of patients prescribed these meds must be aware of.
"This (bullying) is a fixable problem. Medications should not be applied to things that are a fixable problem. These victims of bullying are sad. That sadness turns to fear, fear turns to anger, and anger turns to violence." Shibari wants to see this nipped in the bud before it gets to the 'violence' stage. And that brings us back to recognizing when someone is going through something, and then taking the time to sit down and just inquire and listen.
"I know Belle Knox, the Duke University student. It's funny how both were students who were outed by people they thought were their friends. In terms of Belle, she was like 'look, yes, I'm gonna own what I did. This is what I do.' And it turned into a media frenzy, and she's lost some friends because of it. She's probably talking to fewer family members because of it. But she's decided to own what she does, and not allow the bullying to get to her. I'm sure she's created a support system of people around her to guide her so it doesn't overwhelm her. It's something she'll have to deal with the rest of her life. Now she's an outed porn performer. There will be jobs she can't get. There will be people that will make fun of her and try to devalue her the rest of her life. She's chosen not to let any of that get to her."
Shibari continues that in her experience, bullies don't really hate the people they are bullying, but are trying to mask an inadequacy or insecurity on their part. "So by lashing out at somebody they think is weak, they feel like they get some surge of power which they think makes them feel better about themselves because they're trying to cover up something that makes them feel bad."
"In the case of Alysse Funke, she didn't have that support system in place where she could just say, hey, "eff" those people. And that's the proper response! Ignore those guys."
Kelly Shibari wants everyone to know that if you're a victim of bullying, "it's not you, it's them!" The problem belongs to the bully. Second, walk away, block, ignore, and leave that bully standing there. Third, get that support system in place. Everyone needs someone to talk to, to vent with. It only takes one good friend or significant other. Finally, if you see someone being bullied, help that person. Don't just stand there being part of the problem. Be the solution. Lend your strength of character by defending friends and family from bullies. Remember that who you are is not defined by how you look, but by how you treat those around you.
"So take the time to get to know the people in your life" says Shibari. "Getting to know the people in your life a little better will help you understand their perspective. And everyone needs to feel understood."
Follow Kelly on Twitter at @KellyShibari for articles and video release dates.