Grace Dlabik: What were you like as a child?
Laura Du Vé: I was incredibly shy. I didn’t talk to classmates until I was in prep, I’m pretty sure. I was always second guessing myself and didn’t want to be the centre of attention. I was very self-conscious but once I made some friends in primary school, I opened up a little. I hated public speaking but loved caring for people and being around other kids. From what I remember of myself as a child, I always liked trying to help people. My reports would always say I was accommodating and got along with the other classmates.
BE: Was it difficult to learn to love yourself?
LD: I didn’t love myself until I was 23. So yeah definitely. Society told me I was unworthy because of my body and I believed them for a long while. Throughout my entire life I was never taught to care for myself. I was taught not to put myself first: to put others before myself. I was taught to be caring and kind and nurturing and to stay away from vanity because it was selfish. For a young girl to truly love herself was relatively unheard of when I was a teen, unfortunately. If we weren’t putting ourselves down, we put down other young women. Internalised misogyny is a nasty beast and [in my case] it was paired with internalised homophobia, because I was terrified of being queer and being seen as different. I was already a fat kid, I didn’t want to be seen as the fat lesbian stereotype. (Look at me now, mum!)
BE: Was there a pivotal moment when you began to love yourself instead?
LD: I went through a breakup. My ex-girlfriend had always told me I was incredibly smart and beautiful—and for the first time in my life I actually believed it. Even after we broke up, I continued to see myself as worthy of love, care and support; I deserved to feel confident. I had made a bunch of new friends in the queer scene and felt for the first time that I actually had friends who looked out for me. I refused to go back to second guessing myself. I started focusing on the friendships around me. I surrounded myself with other queer women who were unapologetic in their care for themselves. I met Daisy, also featured in this magazine, in 2012. Meeting her was actually a defining moment for me. To see someone who seemed so sure of herself and her creativity was really inspiring. Seeing her not give a fuck about what people thought of her music taste or her clothes or her thoughts. She had an air of genuine confidence and care for herself that I hadn’t seen, and it pushed me to take care of myself. I’m pretty thankful to still have her in my life. As the years progressed, I met more incredible queer women and non-binary people who are powerful in their own right. [Meeting them] pushed me to be femme and to be strong and to not apologise for the strength I’ve found through surrounding myself with creative and positive people.
BE: What were the seeds you needed to plant to begin finding better ways to love yourself?
LD: To be honest, I reached out to people on Tumblr who were queer and Femme identifying. I found people online who were fat activists and body positive bloggers who posted cute outfits. I put roots down in an online community and tried to find creative people who were unapologetic in themselves and in their art practices. My self love came through fully accepting my queer lovin’ fat body and finding others who were also body positive. Tumblr and Instagram were truly monumental for me and gave me the confidence to see hips and big thighs in a way I hadn’t seen anywhere else. Representation matters. I fully believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without learning so much from Tumblr. Learning about queer identity politics, fat identity politics, race politics and Femme politics were vital to my care of myself and my body—and my learning of the world. Seeing bodies similar to my own was a huge part of me recognising my own beauty.
When I started posting photos of myself in lingerie on Tumblr in 2013, it was because I hadn’t seen anyone wear lingerie who was a size 18 (every lingerie model was at most a size 14). I was getting so frustrated because I thought I looked cute too and I deserved to be appreciated too.
BE: How has your journey of self acceptance and truly owning your body impacted your personal life?
LD: When you have confidence in yourself, people seem interested in knowing you. People are drawn to you. I still struggle with this as I sometimes feel as though I’m 15 and am just bewildered at how my life has turned out and why people even want to talk to me. I’m a very lucky to have had the experiences I have. I worked hard on myself and am proud of myself.
BE: How do you use your platform to spread your message?
LD: I never expected to gain such a following considering it started with me taking selfies of myself in some lingerie I bought from Hopeless, which is a Melbourne-based brand. So I guess I use my platform to spread a message of self care as a fat queer woman.
BE: Why do you think you’ve become insta-famous?
LD: Unfortunately, I think it’s still radical to love yourself if you’re a fat woman. People are constantly surprised that I don’t despise my body. I think it’s the fact that I don’t care if someone doesn’t like my body, because ultimately it isn’t about them. My body isn’t put on this earth to please you. It’s here to please me, to nurture me and is a vessel for my mind to learn and unlearn toxic attitudes.
I think posting some photos of myself in lingerie was seen as “risky”. When I started posting photos of myself in lingerie on Tumblr in 2013, it was because I hadn’t seen anyone wear lingerie who was a size 18 (every lingerie model was at most a size 14). I was getting so frustrated because I thought I looked cute too and I deserved to be appreciated too. Hopeless lingerie was actually one of the first brands to interact with me online after I posted a photo of myself in a set that I’d never seen on a body bigger than a size 8. After talking with Gaby (the owner of hopeless)she started workshopping with me on how to have more visible diversity in their brand sizing. Seeing Gaby take on something as important as empowering young people who love lingerie was exciting for me to see. Seeing other Melbourne-based lingerie brands pop up over the last few years that actively cater to more than thin bodies is really comforting.
BE: What is your hope for others beginning this journey?
LD: Be gentle with yourself. Find Instagrammers and Tumblrs with body positive bloggers, fat activist bloggers. It won’t be easy, but it’s a start. I had a lot of internalised fat-phobia when I first started seeking out other fat women. It was confronting because I was jealous that these women loved themselves and I didn’t. Thankfully, I quickly got over the internalised bullshit and realiSed these people are phenomenal. They are a strong community. They say fuck ‘flattering’ as a term for fat bodies to adhere to. Wear what you want, when you want. That was something I hadn’t considered. I was told my whole life that there are strict rules for fat bodies to work with. We still have a long journey ahead of us but uplifting bigger bodies and valuing them in the same way we value thinness is what is really needed. Especially considering the body positive scene was initially created by several queer black fat identifying women. Now it’s been whitewashed and taken over by the mainstream. This movement needs to remember its roots and the fat women who worked incredibly to get us where we are now.
Follow Laura on Instagram here.