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From yoga to pool parties, RVA Fatties is creating inclusive spaces for plus size people.

click to enlarge Sean Taylor, who earned thousands of fans on the Netflix reality show, "The Circle," formed RVA Fatties and has been amazed at the outpouring of support for the group, which has grown from an ice cream social to a monthly yoga class and clothing swaps.

Scott Elmquist

Sean Taylor, who earned thousands of fans on the Netflix reality show, "The Circle," formed RVA Fatties and has been amazed at the outpouring of support for the group, which has grown from an ice cream social to a monthly yoga class and clothing swaps.

A decade ago as a theater student at Virginia Commonwealth University, Sean Taylor wondered why in every production she always had to play someone’s mother. Then she realized “a lot of performance majors have a substantial amount of fatphobia.” With her passion for acting dampened by prejudice, she moved to New York City to work at a plus size clothing company and immerse herself in the emerging culture of body positivity.

As a stylist and social media manager, her funny, fat-affirming posts caught the attention of the casting director for a hit Netflix reality show called “The Circle,” in which players never see each other face to face and have to choose between presenting their authentic selves or catfishing the other contestants to get to the end. Taylor chose to tell the other cast members she was a bikini model.

“The way I came at it is that my whole life is online, so I know the internet isn’t nice to fat people,” she explains. “I didn’t want to bank on the fact that the other players were going to have their body politics in check.”

The outpouring of support she received from the show’s millions of fans ballooned her following to over 170,000 on Instagram alone. Changing the conversation Americans have around body image and fatness had long been a dream of Taylor’s, and her chance stardom finally gave her the platform to pursue a career as a plus-size influencer.

Like many New Yorkers, after the pandemic hit Taylor and her boyfriend decided to leave the Big Apple in favor of a home in Richmond that would afford them and their two dogs a backyard and more space to make it through quarantine. “We loved Richmond so much that we always thought about moving back,” she admits. Upon her return she found an entirely different culture than she remembered from her college years.

“When I lived here in 2012, the clothing options for fat people were abysmal,” says Taylor. “All of my friends would shop at Short Pump, but I had to drive to Regency to be able to get anything. I knew there was an appetite for fat activism in Richmond, and I felt like it would just take someone calling folks together to build up that sense of community among fat people here.”

When Taylor announced the first meeting of RVA Fatties, a small ice cream social in Scuffletown Park in August of 2021, she had no idea who, if anyone, would show up. After dozens of people turned out for the impromptu event, it dawned on her just how eager the fat folks of Richmond were for in-person opportunities to connect.

“The amount of traction RVA Fatties has gotten has been insane and awesome,” adds Taylor. “I’m not an expert at all things, but I do have the platform to help people gather.”

Since that first convening of plus-size people, Taylor has set up a monthly yoga class at Body Arc, Richmond’s first queer-owned gym. The dedicated fat-friendly classes have allowed RVA Fatties’ followers unprecedented opportunities to explore their bodies without fear of the ubiquitous judgment that keeps so many fat people out of the fitness world altogether.

“We have had people at our classes who have never done yoga before because they weren’t sure it wasn’t going to be an inclusive space where someone wouldn’t say something hurtful,” says Taylor.

This summer RVA Fatties threw a rooftop pool party at Common House. Within an hour of the tickets going online the event sold out. The overwhelming interest convinced the venue to offer an additional 20 slots. Again, the pool party sold out in under an hour.

Showing local businesses the current demand for plus-size events and how to reach Richmond’s fat folks is something of a passion project for Taylor: “I know there are professionals and companies out there that would better like to serve this demographic, so it’s been great to be able to connect folks.”

On Sunday, Oct. 23, RVA Fatties is bringing back its signature fall event, Trunk or Treat, a clothing swap in the parking lot of Cirrus Vodka. People can bring the clothes that no longer bring them joy, snag new finds from other attendees, then grab a cocktail to close.

Generally the desired range of clothing includes plus sizes, extended sizes and anything size 14-16 and higher, depending on the brand. Those with higher end items will have a small area to sell their wares; however, the intent of the event is to focus on swapping clothes for free.

Taylor often fields questions on how big one must be to join in on or enjoy RVA Fatties’ events, but she doesn’t see the need for a hard rule on who does or doesn’t belong.

“The answer is, if you know you know,” she says. “If you regularly identify with the word fat and shopping is a struggle for you, so you have to only shop online. If getting quality medical care for you is hard. If dealing with seating in an airplane is a struggle. If you’ve had one or two experiences like that then you’re probably one of us. If that’s not you, then you’re totally welcome to join us, but just be mindful that this space isn’t centered around you.”

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