In June 2013, YouTube personality Gloria Shuri Nava told Yahoo about the fat-shaming she’d faced from strangers, friends, even family members, during the 18 months she’d been dating her boyfriend, a student from Glasgow, Scotland.
“When people say things out loud, their comments range from cruel (‘Is he blind?’ or ‘He’s only with you to get a green card’) to quips such as, ‘It’s great he can see past your looks’ or ‘He’s so nice for being with you,’” said the San Jose, Calif., native, then 25, in I’m Overweight and My Boyfriend’s Not, Big Freaking Deal. “I usually respond, ‘He’s not doing me a favor, he’s my boyfriend!'” The post went viral, generating thousands of comments from supporters and haters alike, and leading Gloria’s guy, Ali Lawrie, then 23, to come to her defense in a follow-up article My Girlfriend Weighs More Than Me. So What? Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepard even talked about the couple on The View.
Now, four years later, Yahoo checks in with Gloria to find out if she and Ali are still together and whether the prevailing body-positive movement has quieted the bullies a bit. Here’s what she has to say:
Two months after Yahoo published my story, Ali left his home in Glasgow, Scotland, and moved in with my family in San Jose, Calif., so he could attend university there and study for his PhD in psychology. I threw him a “Welcome to the States” barbecue party, and my family and best friends were all there. We were in the yard, playing board games, when Ali suddenly stood up and said, “Can I have everyone’s attention? There’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while…” Then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
We hadn’t planned on getting married right away, mostly because we wanted some time to save up for the big day. But a few months later, we were driving and passed the hotel where I had my senior prom; we decided to check it out and ended up booking it. Three weeks later, I had our entire wedding planned! Picking out my dress was just as easy. I chose the fourth gown I tried on: floor-length, ivory, with a drop-waist corset and jewels along the neckline. When I saw myself in the mirror, I felt like a bride, and I cried.
A post shared by Gloria Shuri Henry (@glowpinkstah) on Jun 29, 2014 at 10:19pm PDT
There were lots of tears on June 28, 2014, as well — that’s the day I married Ali. The waterworks began when I first saw him standing near the minister, waiting for me, and I could tell he was choked up too. The song I walked down the aisle to was “I Could Not Ask for More” by Edwin McCain, because it said everything I felt: “I could not ask for more than this time together/ I could not ask for more than this time with you/ Every prayer has been answered/ Every dream I have’s come true/ And right here in this moment is right where I’m meant to be/ Here with you/ Here with me.”
As I started toward him, I looked around at our collected family and friends, many of whom had flown from far away to be with us on our big day. I thought, All of this for the two of us?! It was such a huge honor. But I also remember thinking: I want to be married already — can this go faster, please? Soon enough, I heard the words, “You may kiss the bride.” I leaned in a little, but Ali zoomed over and grabbed me, then planted a big smooch on my lips. It was the best kiss, because it meant we were husband and wife.
A post shared by Gloria Shuri Henry (@glowpinkstah) on Jun 29, 2014 at 9:37pm PDT
In the months leading up to the wedding, Ali decided he was unhappy with his PhD program and interviewed with a university in Manchester, England, to see if he could get in. We were at the airport en route to our honeymoon at Disney World when we learned he’d been accepted. I knew that we were going to have to up and move, but I wasn’t upset at all. It was like, “Oh my gosh, two reasons to celebrate! We just got married, and Ali just got into this new program!” Two months later, we were newlyweds living in a new land. People used to say Ali was only with me for a green card, well, now I live with him in Great Britain, so Ha!
I wish I could tell you that the public reaction to Ali and me has changed over the past four years, but people still stare at us wherever we go. If we’re checking into a hotel, the front-desk person will assume we’re on two different bookings. And people still hit on him right in front of me — women and men.
Most bizarre and disturbing are the instances when people take pictures of Ali and me, like the ones from the Yahoo articles, and use them without our knowledge or permission on websites or social media. For example, there’s a dating website for men who are looking for plus-size women that used us on their front page — even though we didn’t meet through their service! Then there was the “transformation” Instagram account that posted a photo of us that used me as the “before” image and a thinner woman who wasn’t me as the “after”!
Thank you all for notifying me. @transformationfeed I am not this person's before picture. My husband is NOT abusive and we are happily married. Edit: looks like the post was taken down. This isn't the first time it's happened and I just want you all to know that Ali is the most loving, caring and understanding person in the whole freakin world. People say shit about me all the time and it's gonna happen because this is my JOB. As much as I wish it wouldn't happen, it does. This is NOT Ali's job and I wish people would stop being horrible and get their facts straight before posting hurtful things. Thanks for reporting and we're very lucky to have you all on our side.
A post shared by Gloria Shuri Henry (@glowpinkstah) on Dec 29, 2016 at 5:21pm PST
Around the time that the Yahoo story posted, my life’s mission and my YouTube channel, Glowpinkstah, were already beginning to transition away from musical parody and makeup tutorials and toward general lifestyle content. But after experiencing the global reaction to my and Ali’s story, I decided to focus even more on body positivity. While I love edgy comedy (giving Sandra Bullock a “chola” makeover on George Lopez’s talk show, Lopez Tonight, was a moment I will never forget!), and I still dabble occasionally, seeing how much attention Ali and I got — and how much our being together freaked people out — made me I realize I had a more important calling.
Since moving to the U.K., I’ve become a voice for young women who feel alone or who lack confidence because of the way they look. I even recently flew to New York City for theCURVYcon, a gathering where women can freely be themselves while connecting with other plus-size babes in the industry.
A post shared by Gloria Shuri Henry (@glowpinkstah) on Sep 9, 2017 at 9:54am PDT
While I’m proud to be very much involved with the body-positive movement, there’s more work to be done. Many clothing companies call their campaigns “inclusive” and “diverse” when, in truth, their models don’t look all that different from “regular” models. While I think plus-size icon Ashley Graham’s gorgeous, and I think her much-deserved supermodel status is a step in the right direction, she only represents one segment of the plus-size community. She doesn’t represent me or my body type. She has a flat stomach and an hourglass figure; I have a double chin, small boobs, a big stomach, and a lumpy butt. I’m in the subgroup of plus-size women who are “too big,” and “not the right kind of plus size.” It’s time for gals like Gabourey Sidibe and Ashley Nell Tipton, the first-plus-size designer to win Project Runway, to be shown more love in magazine layouts.
That’s why I’ve been dabbling in the fashion world — because if you don’t see it, you have to be it. A couple of years back, while attending the Curve Fashion Festival, I was invited to be photographed for Slink, an international fashion magazine for plus-size women. I’ve always been silly and goofy, but having a professional take pictures of me made me realize that I can still be both of those things and beautiful at the same time. Oh, and earlier this year, the Style XL Awards named Glowpinkstah “Best Plus Size YouTube Channel”!
Now for the bad news: The body-pos movement hasn’t changed the way people treat plus-sized women, not that I’ve noticed anyway. I’ve been blessed with some of the most loyal supporters, and my YouTube channel and social media followings have grown, but sadly, so has the number of trolls who seemingly have nothing better to do than to call me fat — as if that has any effect on me anymore. My body is not for them, but they look anyway, then they become offended and feel the need to make comments about it in order to feel better about themselves. Like, “Huh huh, I told the fat girl she’s fat.” Eye roll.
By the way, I’m fine with being fat, so the rest of the world may as well get used to it. Ali loves the way I look, and so do I! In fact, I’m done with diets, and the words “weight loss” make me think of the number on the scale, which is something I used to obsess over and it wasn’t good for me. Now it’s about feeling happy with my body and getting stronger, which is just the way my husband and I like it!
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