Fat, Black, and Flexible: Yoga star Jessamyn Stanley Says ‘Confidence Is a Fickle Bitch’

January 26, 2018

Sometimes, a footnote is more than an explanation. It is a declaration.

Such is the case with the second footnote of Jessamyn Stanley’s memoir and yoga guide Every Body Yoga, released last spring. In this brief note, she makes clear that the book is not a mundane manual of body-bending movies and balletic bodies. Instead, Stanley—a plus-size North Carolinian whose photos and videos of asanas have attracted more than 350,000 Instagram followers—extols the “restorative power of a Cook Out milkshake,” referring to a popular fast-food drive-thru in her home state.

It may not seem like an act of courage to mention a milkshake. But it’s a particular type of fame, this yoga game: part instruction on the right way to breathe and be present, part encouragement that there is no right way. And it’s a conversation made more complicated by others’ narrow ideas about ability and identity.

Stanley can reel off more personal experiences of public and private fat-shaming than she probably wants to remember. And it’s a shocking list of random people who deputize themselves to police her consumption and her curves. Fatphobia has emboldened fellow grocery shoppers who wouldn’t know her from Adam to remove “inappropriate” items from Stanley’s cart. Others have stared in frank disapproval when she loads her plate at the local Whole Foods buffet bar. When she’s donned short shorts, passersby have clucked and clutched nonexistent pearls. She shows her appetite without shame and shows flesh with the kind of dimples—those cellulite indentations—that are rarely considered cute even in a country of supersized food servings and people.

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