It has taken CeCe Olisa a full decade of blogging to garner her nearly 50,000 Instagram “fan friends,” sharing with them her explorations of self-acceptance and body positivity. And while the plus-size influencer is grateful for every single hard-won follower, she’s well aware that self-love and acceptance is a very personal journey.
“I think everybody can relate to having the perfect thing said to them but from the wrong person,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “From the outside looking in, having tens of thousands of people rooting you on probably seems like an easy fix for feeling good about yourself. But at the end of the day, I’m the person that really matters. So even if they all think I’m great, if I don’t, then that’s a problem.”
Olisa’s platform was never about validating herself but rather about starting conversations on the many issues that she was grappling with as a plus-size woman. For one, the California-to-New York transplant says that moving to the big city was tough on her self-esteem: No matter how many times her “skinny friends” told her that she was beautiful, Olisa knew that cultivating self-love was the only way to feel beautiful herself. And to do that, she had to embrace what had always made her different.
“What a time to be alive — that celebrating what makes you different is becoming so valuable,” she says.
But doing that for yourself sounds easier than it is, of course. Olisa says there were many times when she received the message that she wasn’t enough, either because of her skin color or her size. She began to explore those parts of her identity from a critical place, and the difficult, open dialogue that came next was what ultimately saved her from self-loathing.
“It’s so terrifying,” Olisa says about the first time she used her voice to speak up about being a plus-size woman. “I never talked about my weight; I never discussed it. And so, in a lot of ways, I did feel like I came out of the closet as a fat person. I had to tell the world something that they clearly already saw. But it was more like me coming out to myself.”
Since then, her journey has taken many turns, including an exploration of her style sense and the formation of a community of curvy fashionistas who were being underserved by the industry. But now, 10 years into the business of blogging, Olisa admits that her message is still evolving. Most recently, it has been about fitness and health and the ways that plus-size women are still largely excluded from that realm.
Olisa cracked down on her personal fitness goals after she had a health scare in 2017, setting new, more tailored and realistic intentions for herself. As a part of this, she has refocused on her longtime video series “How to Get Fit With Bad Knees,” which includes exercise modifications for plus-size women.
“I find that when I know the modifications that work for my body, I’m way more confident in any fitness scenario — whether it’s a boot-camp class or just being in the gym on my own, walking to the weights area, where all the big guys [know] what to do. It makes it way easier to navigate those spaces. Because the health and fitness space, there’s a lack of diversity there. It’s not very inclusive, still.”
As Olisa gets more involved in the space, however, she knows she’s doing her part to champion that diversity.
“There’s that quote that says, ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger.’ I was a plus-size black girl from the time I was a little kid, and there was never anybody young and cool that I could look up to,” she says. “Inclusivity means that to be cool doesn’t look like one thing. To be pretty doesn’t look like one thing. Once things start getting more diverse, then we all can see ourselves in other people and have more hope for who we are and what we can be.”
Yahoo Lifestyle will live-stream theCURVYcon 2018 on Friday, Sept. 7, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bookmark this link to tune in!
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• ‘You can be unhappy with it or thank God for what you have’: Curvy influencer shares key to success
• ‘Cycle of abuse’: Model Katie Willcox on what it’s like to be neither plus-size or straight-size
• WWE star Nia Jax on how sports gave her confidence: ‘My body had its purpose’