I dressed like Selena for a week and this is what happened

I’ve been gordita all my life and I was bullied growing up. I found myself playing make believe at an early age that I was like Selena Quintanilla Perez. I remember dancing to Selena y Los Dinos songs in my room as a little Tejanita with hair brush in hand, boom box blasting Como La Flor.  I would tell myself that one day I was going be like her and that my life would be very different. I just had to wait until I was older and skinnier. Well, I got older and fatter. And, for a long time I hated my body. I hated myself.

I was twenty-seven when I started modeling and it helped build up my confidence. But, I found that after three years of modeling, I still had a lot of work to do on the inside. Taking pretty pictures doesn’t fix everything, it doesn’t make you hurt less. You can only see yourself differently when you change your perspective. Now let’s make something clear, body positivity and self-love are two different things. Being body positive is political and self-love is the individual journey. Here is a brilliant article that eloquently describes it better than I can.

While my belief surrounding fat people and our rights to live freely and happily, including myself, changed, I was still working on my personal journey to self-love. Something that I learned through body positivity was the right to wear what I want despite my weight, body shape, size, height, etc. When Selena’s birthday month rolled around on April 2018, I told myself I was going to pay homage to the Queen of Tejano by recreating some of her most iconic looks. For so long, I thought I couldn’t be one of those super fans that could dress like her because I am not Selena’s body type. Then, I remembered that Selena was a curvy woman. She would have wanted me and so many of her fans to live authentically and embrace the beauty that we are inside and out.

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And, what happened was magical! The Selena series resonated for many people who follow me on social media, in my opinion, because it felt like the most authentic in a way, a Tejana representing a Tejana. And, that’s powerful.

I thought I could never pull off that purple jumpsuit.  And, I was scared of that low-cut top that showed my bra. It reminded me of that unforgettable scene from Selena, the movie, where her dad, Mr. Quintanilla, played by Edward James Olmos, was like “busti-caca de la menta! Es un bra!” It’s like that in our culture. You get shamed for what you wear as a woman, a plus-size Latina at that because people tell you that you’re too gordita for that, and that’s just caca to be honest.

For a week, leading up to Selena’s birthday on April 16th, I dressed like Selena to challenge this ingrained belief that gorditas can’t wear certain things, but also to show myself that I look damn good doing it too! Sheer tops, bustiers, pleather, midriff showing, you don’t have to cover up because you are a woman or because you’re fat like me. I get to decide what I wear, when, and where.

I strutted my way to the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX for a special screening of the movie Selena on her birthday in my purple jumpsuit ready for my finale. We sang along, took pictures with Selena look-alikes, ate pepperoni pizza, shook our maracas, did the washing machine move, and sang happy birthday to Selena while the room was lit with candles in honor of La Reina.

 

Miss.Shelo

IG: @miss.shelo

Photography: Tommy Kim at tommykim.net

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All the Single Ladies, Put Your Hands Up: Creating My Own Single Lady Guide

I’ve been listening to a lot of empowering music by women lately like Lizzo, Beyoncé, Selena, and Adele post break-up. Music can be therapeutic and it certainly put things into perspective for me about how my break-up was actually a good thing.

I found these powerful messages in music to guide me in being single and happy.

“Get a bigger smile on my face, being alone” – Beyoncé – Don’t Hurt Yourself

I’m happier being single without him than being with him and miserable. There’s a saying in Spanish, “mejor sola que mal acompañada”, which translates to, “I’d rather be alone than in bad company.” Beyoncé also raises a strong message about consequences for your partner’s actions. When someone lies to you, cheats on you, or abuses you emotionally or physically, there are consequences for those actions. You must hold people accountable. It is imperative to command respect and know your worth. In the end, it’s their loss, and your gain to be rid of a toxic relationship.

 “When you hurt me, you hurt yourself. When you play me, you play yourself.”

“Best thing I never had”—Beyoncé—Best Thing I Never Had

Queen Bey certainly does not disappoint when it comes to uplifting songs for women experiencing heartbreak. Love can be blind? No, obsession can lead to poor choices like staying with someone who does not value you. That’s what happened to me. After cutting off all communication, I was able to see things more clearly. I could see that the loss of this relationship was not a loss at all. The best thing that could have happened was the demise of this relationship early on rather than later. And, I was able to have hope for better things to come.

“I put the sing in single. Ain’t worried ‘bout a ring on my finger”—Lizzo—Truth Hurts

Lizzo’s Truth Hurts is the ultimate break-up anthem and I’m all here for it. So many songs cling to this happy ending where you find new love in a new man. Songs like that can send a troubling message about love with a partner being the end goal or the only goal. Self-love is important too. And, I had to stop putting so much pressure on myself to find someone to settle down with and marry. There’s nothing wrong with being single. There are so many pressures from society when “women of a certain age” aren’t engaged or married yet. This is why I love the lyrics from Lizzo’s song because they emphasize the importance of self-love and worth.

 “Si una vez dije que te amaba no lo vuelvo hacer. Ese error es cosa de ayer. (If I told you once I loved you, I will never do it again. That mistake is of the past.)”—Selena—Si Una Vez

Selena’s music has kept my spirits up through difficult times in my life from my parent’s separation to heartbreaks as a teenager. In her song, Si Una Vez, she sings about an ex you regret saying, “I love you” to.  You hear people say all the time that you shouldn’t live with regrets. I think this message does not apply to every situation. I regret being in a toxic relationship when I had several chances to walk away and choose me. And, I can say that I regret saying, “I love you.” I may not regret the love itself, but I can say I regret my words and affections when they were undeserving of the person on the receiving end. Love is not just a feeling, it’s put into action. It allows me to recognize when love is reciprocated and when it is not. Having a relationship of any kind that is unbalanced is unhealthy. It may not always be straight down the line 50/50, but it should never feel one-sided.

“Up in the club, just broke up. I’m doing my own little thing.”—Beyoncé—Single Ladies

It’s important to embrace the fun aspect of being single. Whether going out with your girlfriends, sprawled in the middle of the bed all to yourself watching Netflix or reading a book, there are things to enjoy when you’re single. You should enjoy these even when you’re not single. But, I appreciate them so much more now. I recognize that I should never change my identity or compromise my self-worth whether I’m single or in a relationship.


Miss Shelo

IG: @miss.shelo

Photographer: Tommy Kim

Dumped On New Year’s Eve For Being Fat, I Clapped Back With A Photo Shoot

Early morning on December 31st, I was shopping at the grocery store picking out some fresh veggies, fruit, and some eggs to make my boyfriend and I breakfast. I get a text to come back to the hotel. That text was the beginning of the end. A couple of hours later, my eyes bloodshot red from crying, the radio cranked up to Selena’s “Como La Flor”, I was driving two and a half hours back home. I had been dumped hours before New Year’s Eve.

I had made the trip to go see my boyfriend out of town. I had packed some cookware to make him breakfast in our hotel. I took days deciding what dress to wear with the right shoes, jewelry, and hairstyle before my trip. I had spent time and money planning this important holiday getaway with the man I loved only to never see it come to fruition.

Now, breaking up on a birthday or holiday isn’t a unique experience. Countless horror stories about Valentine’s Day or anniversary breakups are out there for the world to read about. Just do a google search. But, what is unique about my horrifying experience was everything that led up to that breakup because I was dumped for being fat. I was dumped for my appearance. Here’s the twist. I am a self-proclaimed “Fat Babe”. I am a plus-size model and body positive advocate. So, how in the world did I end up with a fatphobic boyfriend?

In late 2017, I started dating my now ex-boyfriend. We met on a dating app for curvy/plus-size women and the men who love them. Sounds cliché, but I thought what the hell! I had been on other dating apps earlier that year and found that there were many men who were interested in me for…sex. There were many men who wanted to have sex with me because I was fat and confident, but not for dating. And, dating apps can be notorious hook-up hubs, so it was a huge let down when I ran into men with a fat fetish.

When I started my profile on this new app for curvy/plus-size women, it seemed promising. I thought to myself, “the men on here should know what they’re getting right?” I never pretended to be anyone else other than myself. I was honest about my body type, height, hair color, and posted several pictures of myself, some full body and some selfies.

I received a message from this really cute guy. From his description and pictures, I could tell he was tall, athletic, and had great style. His profile was different from the rest. He talked about how he was looking for serious dating to a relationship. He was 33, which was close to my age, 30, and how he was an avid reader and liked to write poetry. We started talking and every day I learned something new about him like he was a soccer coach, a single dad, and that he had interests in screenwriting. We had so many things in common that I thought this is too good to be true. Then, the questions about my body came after an exchange of pictures.

“How big is your tummy?” to “what kind of workouts do you do for your butt?” I immediately called him out. I asked him why that was relevant. I am a beautiful person inside and out, so how could that possibly matter? We went back and forth and he was clearly upset that I had a problem with his question. He felt entitled to this information. The conversation ended with a last message from him that he hated me for making him feel this way and that our demise was my fault. It made me feel terrible, and I didn’t message him. I thought to myself, “this is over and it sucks.” You invest so much time talking to someone and you feel crushed when things do not work out. Not only did they not work out, it was a blow to me as a plus-size woman. I took a chance to put myself out there on an app that felt safe for me because I am a fat. And, to encounter a man who judged me by my body size and shape felt all too familiar.

I stopped interacting on the app with other guys, and I didn’t message my now ex. He waited four days before messaging me. He talked about how much he liked me and how let down he was that I did not reach out to him first. We talked for about an hour and decided to continue talking. The problem with that conversation is that while we reconciled after a heated argument, our talk did not address the biggest issue. He still had a problem with me being fat.

Fast forward two and a half months later, I found myself facing the ugly truth. My boyfriend was dumping me because I could not be what he wanted me to be. Throughout our long-distance relationship, he made comments about my hair style, fashion choices, and even devalued my thoughts and opinions.

I cried. I got angry. I even tried being his friend in hopes that we would get back together. I brought myself down so low that I had no place to go but up. I decided that part of my healing process required something that I could physically do to channel my emotions in a positive way. And, the answer was right there. I am a plus-size model. I take pictures often for many reasons, and I was going to prove to myself that all the “flaws” he pointed out about me were beautiful and part of my identity.

On our first date, I wore one of my favorite Selena tees with some black leggings, cute black booties, and hoop earrings. After spending a weekend together and returning home, he messaged me. He pointed out the fact that he didn’t like what I wore on our first date. He said my Selena tee was not sexy enough and that I looked more like I was going to the store versus a date. He proceeded to tell me that, in the future, he expected me to only wear these shirts at home or to the grocery store.

I love Selena! She is one of the most iconic Latino figures in the world, and I’ve been dancing and singing to her songs since I was a little girl. Selena Quintanilla-Pérez changed the way many Tejanas like myself envisioned themselves in the world. My love for her is part of my identity. Her music, style, and entrepreneurial spirit have influenced the woman I am today. And, I think Selena and her fans would agree that you can rock your Selena tee anywhere you go and look damn good!

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And, my now ex, wasn’t done with his list of criticisms. Next was my shoe choice. Since he had seen pictures of my modeling portfolio, he expected me to look exactly like the woman in those pictures 24/7. No kidding. He had a problem with my boots. They weren’t sexy enough according to him. Well, what do you think now? These boots are made for walking and that’s just what they did when they walked all over you and out of your life. Boy bye!

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Then, there were my glasses. On my second trip, I was expected to leave the glasses at home and wear contacts. And, like a docile girlfriend, I purchased a year’s worth of contact lenses after my eye exam. I hardly go anywhere without my glasses except for casting calls and photo shoots. I’ve been wearing them since I was a teenager and I think they are cute. They are a part of me.

My lovely hair was next on the list. He hated the fact that I wore my hair straight most of the time, which is my natural hair type. But, most of all, he loathed the bangs. He said they covered up my face too much, and he said, “You’re trying to be like Selena with those bangs. I want to see your beautiful face. I love you not Selena.” He made statements like these often, which is common for people who are passive-aggressive. He tried to convince me to change something about myself like my hair style, which I purposely chose because I loved it. He justified this by calling me beautiful and saying “I love you.” The problem with this statement is that he did not love me. When you love someone, you love them for who they are, as they stand, bangs and all. And, if Selena could rock them bangs like a boss babe then so can I.

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And, of course, there was the issue with my weight. I remember a phone conversation where he told me that he wanted me to lose the weight to be “healthy” so that I could live a long life. What he failed to acknowledge was that I was already perfectly healthy at the size and weight I am. This was something I made him aware of because I do get my annual checkups. But, he persisted and I clearly remember him using the words, “you just need to tone up and get rid of the unwanted fat.” And, there it is, that word, “unwanted”. I was unwanted for being fat. I was unwanted for my sense of fashion and hair style. I was unwanted for my shoe selection. I was unwanted for speaking my mind. I was unwanted for just being me.

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It is no wonder he dumped me. All the signs were there from the very beginning. And, I want to give a clear answer as to why a person like me, a body positive warrior, a plus-size model, could allow such blatant disrespect, but I cannot. Perhaps I was lonely. Maybe I was feeling the pressure of finding a partner to finally settle down, get married, and have kids, that I scarified my dignity in the process. Maybe it was because I had such a horrible year in dating that I wanted to cling onto anyone for comfort. What I do know is that I did not feel sexy, beautiful, or worthy when I was with him. I was not respected when I was with him. I did not respect myself when I was with him. And, recognizing these truths now made it very clear to me that I still have much work to do on my journey toward self-love and body acceptance. I allowed a man to wipe away three years of hard work to love myself in two months, and that is unacceptable. I hold him accountable and I hold myself accountable.

And, my hope is that my story helps someone else from continuing to be in an unhealthy relationship. I felt ashamed admitting that I was in this relationship because I am a pretty open book on social media. I post about body positive activism and self-love frequently. And, I consider myself an active member of a movement for fat acceptance. I felt like a hypocrite. And, this is me owning up to my poor choice, my wrong choice, in a partner. And, I want my story to reach men as well. The ridiculous expectations placed on women have consequences. They perpetuate gender roles; they can cause emotional and physical harm through eating disorders, suicide attempts, depression, and this is wrong.

I don’t think a photo shoot will fix everything. And, it will not completely heal me from this breakup. But, it’s a good start to show myself and show the world who I am as I stand.

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Miss Shelo

IG: @miss.shelo

Photographer: Tommy Kim