In many ways, this has been the most significant year of my life – I turned 29 years old, became a new mom, and founded my first company. It’s been quite the rollercoaster, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. When people ask me why I took on so much, I can only answer that I’m working hard to build a world where plus thrives – one I’ve never known.
I was born in a town called Chula Vista, south San Diego, just across the border from Mexico. I’m Jewish, and grew up in an environment where most people weren’t. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve been plus size.
I vividly recall walking the playground at my elementary school at the age of 9, wishing I could fit in the sunflower-embroidered pants that other girls wore from Limited Too. I was a size 14-16 at the time, and instead of shopping at stores meant for girls, I was finding my pants in the women’s department and wearing ugly slacks instead of pretty embroidered sunflowers.
It was around this age that doctors started expressing concerns about my weight. I remember each check-up hearing comments like “her BMI is quite high” and “maybe we should consider some sort of fat camp?”
Things didn’t get easier. As elementary school went on, I stopped being able to fit in the school desks, and heard boys snickering because my breasts had come in. I had already grown tired of family members cautioning that I’d never find a romantic partner without losing weight.
As I entered adulthood, I experienced new ways that society marginalized me because of my size. At 19, I needed to buy my first-ever suit for college internship interviews. I was nervous enough for this high-stakes interview, and grew increasingly anxious after weeks of searching produced not a single suit that fit my (then) size 18 body. I remember crying in my dorm room one night, trying on a man’s suit – my only option.
Weeks later, determined to share my experiences and hopeful that I’d learn I wasn’t alone, I started a blog called The Pear Shape. Little did I know that blog would connect me with fellow bloggers and readers all over the United States – Little Rock, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between – who had experiences like mine. For the first time, I felt connected and inspired instead of “fat” or “different.” I had created a home for myself where I could celebrate who I was, and build a community of other plus-size women to do the same.
The reality is, nearly 70% of women in the U.S. are “plus-size,” or wear size 14 or above – but by looking at magazines and TV ads, you’d never know it. According to the Yale Rudd Center, plus-size women face more economic hurdles than their straight sized counterparts – they’re less likely to get hired, and face 12 times more workplace discrimination. They are more likely to get fired, and less likely to be promoted. Being a plus-size woman in this country comes with challenges that extend far and beyond clothing – her wallet is emptier, her opportunities are harder to come by, and she’s living in a world where she quite literally doesn’t fit.
Every plus-size woman has stories like mine – and my personal and professional experiences in the retail industry only illuminated them. While leading expansion at Poshmark in my early 20’s, I saw the hunger and eagerness in the plus community for deeper connection with one another. These things are what ultimately propelled me to start Part & Parcel, with the vision to become the largest plus community in the world. Part & Parcel was built to create a world where plus thrives – emotionally and economically, on the basis of community.
Starting a new company with this mission wasn’t the smoothest ride. As I raised money for Part & Parcel, I sat in venture capital offices with suited men, trying to explain the plus experience — to help them understand my world (and the world of 70% of American women). I wanted them to see the business opportunity – in retail, but also beyond. I wanted them to see that this is the fastest growing population of people in this country, and that, right now, the market is only thinking about the population in terms of clothing. I wanted them to see that there was room to serve her in more ways. I poured my heart out in these meetings, speaking candidly of all the challenges — and how I hoped to solve them all. And even more, I did this all while pregnant.
After fundraising meetings, I’d spend many afternoons in an obstetrician’s office. While supportive and kind, she’d continuously reference my body, reminding me more than once that if I’d “weighed just 20 pounds less,” I’d have fewer risks of complications with my pregnancy.
My daughter Anika was born in February – a beautiful bundle of joy. We didn’t know her sex before her birth, and when we found out, the world changed for me. I thought of all of my experiences and the ridicule my body faced, and I worried for her. I never wanted her to feel or experience the same.
Yet almost immediately, my fears were realized. I couldn’t help but notice how often my daughter’s body was also up for discussion. “Such impressive muscle tone,” said her admiring pediatrician. “Long legs already,” from a woman in the waiting room.
I don’t know whether Anika will grow up to have my plus-size silhouette. But however she looks and whoever she grows up to be, I hope that her worth isn’t defined by the size of her pants. I hope that kids in school value her for her kind personality and not her breast size. I hope the thought, “if I just lose or gain 20 pounds, I’ll be happier” never occurs to her. But even more, I hope she finds connection and community in a world where we often feel alone. Because whoever she grows up to be, she is valuable and worthy of a life where she thrives.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?