I Am Fat And I Work In Fashion

Fashion Intern Billie Bhatia on telling her story in ELLE


I was asked by ELLE to write about my relationship with my body and working in fashion for the July Issue.


My first-ever magazine article. All about me. The brief for the article in its simplest terms was - fat and in fashion. Or, what it's like to be an outsider trying to crack a notoriously difficult nut.
The article came about when our Deputy Editor read my blog fromfattofitbillie.blogspot.co.uk – the musings of a plus-size twenty-something trying to find their feet in a sample size world. Much to my delight, she liked what she read and asked me to write a piece for ELLE.  


Anyone who writes a blog puts themselves out there to an extent. But writing for the ‘biggest selling fashion magazine in the world’- well, that’s another thing entirely. So I wrote an outline at 2am to be handed in the next day – swallowed my most painful pride and acknowledged that the things I needed to write about were going to be tough.

This was further confirmed when I received my brief back, heavily peppered with difficult questions. 'Do you think your weight has ever hindered you?', 'Was anyone ever unkind to you?' 'How did that make you feel about your body?'
These were questions I had deliberately avoided. If they ever did float to the forefront of my mind I was very good at squashing them back into those darker depths. As I sat writing at my kitchen table with a bottle of wine and TLC blaring, I began to answer them all. Taking large swigs for the more probing questions. Needless to say, I was fairly smashed by the end of it.
It took me a while to be comfortable writing the words 'fat and in fashion'.

It’s a tricky word really, ‘fat’. I mean, it's just an adjective, like tall, small, long, short, fat, thin. But why does it hold such gravitas? It’s the connotations that come with it – unattractive, lazy, unhealty. And, maybe to some… ugly.

But to me, it’s still just a basic adjective the same as the rest, no connotation needed. I was happy enough to say it to my friends because I knew they looked beyond that, but how would a stranger take it? Was this going to be read with ‘woah, she really went there, she really used that word’?
I was unbelievably nervous in the build up to the issue coming out. I barely slept the week before: ‘Will anyone read it?’ ‘Will they like me?’ ‘Will my Twitter get trolled?’ ‘Will Kate Moss read it and want to travel to the moon with me to test out my theory?’
In fact, reaction to the piece has been more positive than I could have ever imagined. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing.


There have been congratulatory texts, Facebook posts from classmates I had not seen or spoken to in many years offering their pats on the back, and supportive tweets cheering me on. I was completely overwhelmed by how kind everyone has been and before I knew it, I was in tears. (FYI, I'm not a pretty crier.) What really struck a cord was people saying they were proud of me for doing what I always wanted to do, even in the face of aversion.
There has been a lot of buzz around the topic of size and style recently with Channel 4’s Plus Size Wars and Tess Holliday’s Guardian cover.
What frustrates me is the barrier between main fashion and plus size fashion. Why do either need to be categorised: ‘us’ and ‘them’? Surely one is just an extension of the other.
It p*sses me off that Tess Holliday cannot be mentioned without the tag of ‘size 22 model’. Can she not just be called a model? Is that not by definition what she is doing?
The same can be said for the pretty incredible Ashley Graham, who I was lucky enough to feature next to in July’s ELLE. She is beautiful, she is talented and she is a model. Let’s just leave it at that.
Writing my story has taught me to be unapologetic for who I am, because I have managed to get somewhere on my own merit.

I am by no means at the top of the ladder (I am very much on the baby rungs of the monkey bars), but I have worked hard to be good at my job, and I have worked even harder to take away an all-consuming label.

My blog has helped me do this and through it I have been able to laugh at myself and be truthful; been able to take the weirdness and the sting out of that three letter word. It will never be easy to not fit in. It will always be painful. But if you prove your worth beyond an adjective then you’ve won. Fashion may not be entirely welcoming adversity with open arms but they are certainly up for giving it a firm handshake.
And just FYI, Mossy, I’m still waiting by the phone.
Read Billie’s article in July’s Issue of ELLE

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