The Birth of ThiccRina


I walked into a cafe a couple of weeks ago and a familiar looking elderly lady did not take her eyes off me. She said, with so much confidence,


“This must be a Karunwi".

I smiled and asked

“Why do you say so, Ma?”.

I was shocked, but mostly curious.


“Your stature. You have the Karunwi stature. The broad shoulders, the *hand gestures to signify curves*. The way you carry yourself. Yes, you’re a Karunwi”.

The conversation went into explanations of how I’m ‘omo (child in Yoruba) Bayo’ but it was her statement about my stature that stuck with me. She had said it matter-of-factly because it is just that - a fact.

It was not an opinion, a compliment or an insult. It was just a fact about who I am.

It left me beaming with pride.



Any woman who’s grown up or spent some time in Nigeria knows that weight is a major and grossly unsolicited topic of discussion. I’m assuming it’s a similar situation in other countries in Africa.

As soon as you walk into a room of people who haven’t seen you in a while (usually women of the older generation) it’s either

‘Are you not eating? You’ve lost weight o.’

or

‘Watch it o, you’re gaining. You’re so fat now!’.


Around the same time I had the lovely encounter at the cafe, I had a complete stranger, a man, say to me:


“Congratulations! For someone who is *hands extended by his sides to signify being big* your tummy is very flat. Well done.”


In that moment, there was so much shock that I could not respond to this man. Seconds later, other emotions began to flood in. Embarrassment, insecurity and ultimately, annoyance/irritation. Physically, I was on my way home but emotionally, I was ready to make a U-turn and give him a piece of my mind. I didn't act on the emotions-there's too much traffic in Lagos to be making dramatic movie-scene U-turns. My logic knew that wouldn't change anything. Even if I attempted to explain to him that my body is absolutely none of his business and the fact that he was so comfortable passing a comment on a female stranger's body shows how disgustingly entitled he is, there would be no point.

He wouldn't understand because he wouldn't want to.






It's not okay, whether by a man or a women, to reduce a woman to discussions centred on her body, especially because she did not ask for advice or opinions. It's not okay to reduce anyone to such mindless and one-dimensional discussions. Majority of these discussions are rooted in comparison; of oneself to their old self. Of one to their siblings, friends, mothers. Women are not size fits all. We are dynamic and diverse.


Why can't discussions be on our well-beings and our achievements?


However, I've come to learn that we cannot expect people to treat us how we would treat them. We can only control our reactions.

Recently, I travelled to Port-Harcourt for my dear late Grandma's funeral. I walked into a room and saw an Aunt I hadn't seen in a year. I went to give her an excited hug. She said to me, in a room filled with family and strangers,

'each time I see you, you are getting bigger and bigger'

and she didn't mean in it an 'aw, you're growing way'.

Her eyes told us all that she meant it in a 'you're gaining weight' way.

Usually, I would will my face's muscles into a pained and forced smile, ignore the comment and change the subject to the well-being of the children of whoever I was speaking with.

That particular day, I was on my period.

My hormones we're having it.

There was a monster clawing through my uterus.

I wasn't in the mood.

I confidently retorted, in what probably came out in a slightly annoyed tone

'and I look great, don't I?!'.

This destabilised the negative conversation; she stammered a sheepish yes.


It's tough to find the balance between respect and not accepting rubbish, but we try.




Over the past year, I have put on weight.


I am at the heaviest I've ever been and I am also the kindest I have ever been to my body.


I have found a new sense of confidence and acceptance for myself which I'm exploring daily.

I realised that New York was the first place I never experienced judgement and snide comments about my weight. It was the contrary; full figured women were celebrated.


I learned how to celebrate my body and carry with me that sense of owning it. These experiences have brought me a new found confidence; it's one that I work on and protect.



I nicknamed myself ThiccRina on a random night in Brooklyn because I chose to celebrate the beauty of my body right now. Not when I reach some society-imposed summer body. I’m celebrating the beauty in body diversity. The beauty in my curvier hips, fuller waist, jigglier arms and bigger boobs. I refuse to get into the unhealthy cycle I've found myself in at so many points of my life already.

gain weight --- self-loathe --- go on some diet --- lose some weight --- struggle to maintain it --- struggle to resist temptation to fall back into my previous eating disorder --- relax on diet --- gain weight --- repeat.


Don't get me wrong, there are days where I'm not comfortable at this weight.

There are days when I look at old photos of myself and fall into a rut, wondering how I did gain weight.

There are days when I see the number on the scale and I am insecure and just don't feel attractive.

And all this is perfectly okay; because we are human.

We are human so there are also days when I look at myself and see a beautiful, feminine, full woman and I can't stop staring.

There are days when I get dressed and think 'damn, Kari' (I talk aloud to myself, it's weird but it's great)

I hold on to those days because I know that whether I do lose weight or not, I love loving myself.

I love building myself up and training myself to only seek and accept validation from myself.

I am enjoying training my eyes to look into the mirror to see the positives.

I am learning to thank my body for being able, functional and healthy.

I am enjoying observing as I develop thicker skin because at any size, people will always talk.

I am learning that confidence is everything.




Many women are refusing to subscribe to the cycle of striving to a goal weight and I love it. I'm here for it. As women, our bodies are going to change a lot over the course of our lives. As long as we’re comfortable with & taking care of the bodies we’re in, they’re perfect.

I am coming to love and learning to dress these broad shoulders, my height and my stature that I had silently resented because I was always one of the 'tall girls' in a class, room and groups of friends.

Standing at 5'8, people have always and still refer to me as 'big'.

This has always made me want to shrink and wish I was petite, dainty, unnoticeable.

However, that day at the cafe, the elderly lady's words encouraged me to sit up even straighter; to take up even more space.


Her words reminded me that my features and stature go far beyond me.

I am a part of a beautiful family of women who have unabashedly taken up space for years.

Why would I want to shrink those years of family history and culture?






Journey honestly,

Karina.


Photography: Deji Adejuyigbe

Creative Production: ItsPhugo