I struggled with body issues when I was younger. I was a heavyset girl and I think a lot of my insecurities stemmed from a lack of representation – I never really saw girls that looked like me modeling cute clothes with confidence. Then one day, at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2000, something switched in my mind.
In June of 2000 I was high school. I decided to go to the Puerto Rican Day Parade the year after the big scandal that involved 15-25 men running rampant, sexually harassing women for 35 terrifying minutes. (You can read about it here). I was a little nervous while I’m there, but I’m a naturally curious person so I wanted to see where the scandal took place.
As I walked around people were celebrating Puerto Rican culture - they were happy, dancing, drinking, and having fun. In other words, it ended up being an incredible time.
I was wearing a three-quarter sleeve shirt and jeans. I never showed my arms before this, so three-quarter sleeves were a big deal for me. I saw another young lady walking with a man. I thought they were both attractive, but something about her really struck me: she had a similar body type to me and she was walking around in a little outfit with confidence! I think it was the first time that I saw something like this. It was my first introduction to “body positivity.”
I don’t really know how this woman felt about her body, but I know that she made me feel empowered.
I wore a tank top for the first time the following summer. It was an even bigger deal for me than wearing the three-quarter sleeve shirt! Everyone was making comments to me like, “Cassie, you’re showing your arms, don’t you hate that??” “I gotta do what I gotta do!” I said.
My journey to body confidence began the previous summer and I was leaning fully into it at this point.
Now that I’m in my 30s, I can say with certainty that accepting myself and claiming my space in the world hasn’t been easy. Sure, today there are many more full-figured models. But it wasn’t like that when I was growing up. It would have made things a lot easier.
Throughout my life, I am always recalling the young, confident woman that I saw at the Puerto Rican Day Parade. She has no idea that she gave me the courage I needed to wear a tank top the next summer. Finally, I thought, I wouldn’t be blazing hot during the summer because I was no longer afraid to show my arms!
So, thank you to her, wherever she is and whoever she is.