We Are Living Cute: Meet the Melbourne women promoting body positivity and diversity
Meet Jaimie Nicole and Lori Jane, the fun, gorgeous and fabulous brains behind We Are Living Cute, a vibrant online platform that is unapologetically shattering society's biased notions of beauty and health by celebrating and promoting body positivity, diversity and inclusivity.
Through their social media and Youtube videos, Jaimie, a 28-year-old professional photographer and Lori, a 27-year-old telecommunications professional, espouses the importance of body inclusivity and diversity and encourages brands and companies to create clothes and products that cater to the needs of all genders - men, women, non-binary, and bodies - thin, plus-sized, curvy, and disabled, among others. Their most recent campaign #Weareeverybody featuring 16 different Australian models of various sizes and body types has been creating a buzz online for its emphasis on representation, and body positivity themes.
TAL caught up with the two body positivity advocates to understand the inspiration behind their projects, the challenges they faced for not adhering to societal beauty standards while growing up and their efforts to create a world that doesn't shun but embraces body diversity.
Before we delve deeper into your wonderful initiative. Please tell us something about yourselves.
Lori: I was born in country Victoria, a little town called Yarram (population of around 2,000). I moved to Melbourne about eight years ago and work in the telecommunications sector. My hobbies include binge-watching various series on Netflix!
Jaimie: I was born and bred in Melbourne, and have lived here most of my life, besides a small stint in Canada and the U.S. While I am currently working in the insurance world I am also a professional photographer. My spare time consists of binge-watching Netflix, taking road trips, talking Lori’s ear off and travelling as much as I can.
What prompted you to start We Are Living Cute? What’s the story behind its inception?
Jaimie and Lori: I approached Lori with the idea of starting a body-positive community, as we had been friends for a long time and were also body positive advocates promoting body diversity and inclusivity on our personal Instagram profiles. We’re both passionate about creating a society that allows people to feel comfortable and happy in their own skin, and decided to start We Are Living Cute as a platform to spread that message.
Initially, the body positivity movement comprised mainly “plus-size” people. Today, the term has expanded to include a more diverse range of bodies. What, then does body diversity mean to you and who all come under the body positivity umbrella?
Jaimie and Lori: While we understand that body positivity movement was initially created for bodies that are marginalised by society and mainstream media, we are big believers that the best way forward for social acceptance is to be inclusive of everybody.
We never wanted to be part of the “us vs them” mentality and have created We Are Living Cute as a space for all bodies to feel loved and included.
Diversity to us is about representing all bodies, backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, ages, which is why we created the #Weareeverybody campaign in the first place.
What incidents prompted both of you to become body positivity advocates in the first place?
Lori: It was never a particular incident for me. I have always had the mentality that regardless of the way my body looked, I wanted to be proud of it and try to reflect that emotion of self-acceptance through my actions.
Jaimie: I felt uncomfortable in my skin for most of my life; being the weird, tall, chubby tom-boy when I was younger. I was bullied throughout school and have been called every name under the sun and even had a brick thrown at me (which hit me in the head) by another kid. I have always been a sensitive soul, but my facade of confidence kept me protected for the most part.
In the last few years, I have been consciously telling myself, “What other people think of me is none of my business”. I have come into my own, fallen in love with myself and know my worth. Being body positive is a journey that doesn’t really end; it’s much more about acceptance of self and ending negative self-talk than anything else.
As a young adult growing up in Australia, did you face a lot of challenges for not adhering to existing beauty norms? Were you bullied a lot? How did those experiences impact you, and how did you overcome them?
Lori: I feel at one stage or another we’ve all experienced some kind of bullying in high school. I think those experiences taught me that it is important not to worry about other people’s opinions and that growing and learning are the only ways to overcome self-doubt.
Jaimie: The bullying and negativity about the way I look (especially from friends and family, because that leaves an almost indelible mark on your soul) have definitely shaped me as a person. It has made me stronger and forced me to grow a thick skin. I think a large part of overcoming any challenge is accepting what you can’t change, and changing what you can’t accept.
For me, it’s been about understanding that usually people’s negativity towards others is a projection of their own insecurities, narrow-minded views and unhappiness. You cannot change what people say, only your reactions to them, and acknowledging that has helped me grow into the best version of myself.
Continuing on the topic of bullying, many young kids are bullied from a very young age for being different. Do you think schools and families should communicate and engage with children and teenagers on the importance of self-love and body inclusivity?
Jaimie and Lori: Absolutely! We need schools to promote acceptance of diversity, teaching kids the idea that self-worth goes beyond physical appearances and enabling them to understand that not everyone is built the same, and that is okay. We have had a few schools invite us to speak about our #Weareeverybody campaign to their students, which has been a goal of ours from the creation of We Are Living Cute.
World over fashion industries are opening their gates to plus-sized models, and social media is flooded with plus-sized beauty and fashion bloggers. But the same cannot be said about films and television. Though many movies and series have started including a more diverse cast in terms of ethnicity, they still shy away from casting plus-size or disabled actors. Why do you think that is the case, and how do you think the entertainment industry can do better?
Jaimie and Lori: There is this whole idea that fat people can’t be happy or that it’s unrealistic for them to get a happy ending. Fat people are often cast as the funny sidekick/best friend but are very rarely given the main character to play. However, we think there is a shift starting to occur and representation is becoming more evident in mainstream films and TV shows, with series like Shrill, Tale of the City and Pose becoming popular.
We also feel it’s the audience’s responsibility to support shows and movies like these for networks and Hollywood are always going to create content that they feel can generate money and ratings. There are so many stories to be told; we think people are hungry for change, and it is time that Hollywood embraced body diversity.
Do you think Australian media, in particular, has an inclusivity problem? Almost all Australian films, ads, news feature mostly blond, thin, or well built people, barring a few. As body inclusivity advocates what according to you stops Australia’s off-screen multiculturalism from being translated on-screen?
Jaimie and Lori: Australian media comprises content that the producers think is or can be profitable. If they don’t believe a tattooed, plus-sized, or non-abled person is going to make them money, they aren’t going to feature them. It’s our job as their audience to tell them that they’re wrong. That’s exactly the point of the #Weareeverbody campaign, to show that different bodies exist and that we deserve to be seen.
One of your movement’s emphasis is on making brands more inclusive by having them sell products that meet all bodies’ demands. Brands like Victoria’s Secret have openly stated that they do not cater to all body types. Do you think it is wrong if a brand chooses to cater to a particular clientele? Why not leave the brands that are not interested in inclusivity out of the debate?
Jaimie and Lori: The problem is we have been told our whole lives which sizes are acceptable and which are not. This narrative, perpetuated by brands like Victoria’s Secret, that only certain body types are worthy of being represented is incredibly damaging.
Not only does Victoria’s Secret not sell plus sizes, but they have also publically stated they wouldn’t include Trans women in their campaigns!
We want to help change society’s perspective; who makes these decisions about acceptable sizes and body forms? Body positivity and inclusivity also make so much business sense! These businesses have the chance to make more money, as more people will want to buy from brands they feel included in.
When it comes to disabled people, the debate becomes even more difficult as they are mostly viewed through a disability filter. What narrative should be employed to encourage empathising with them?
Jaimie and Lori: We personally don’t feel like we have the voice to speak on behalf of non-abled bodies. However, we think tokenism is used in campaigns and not just with non-abled bodied people. Feeling sorry for non-abled bodies is not something we would even entertain. As one of our models Elle said in our campaign video “represent us because we are amazing people doing our thing, not because we have disabilities”.
Recently Nike’s use of a plus-sized mannequin started a heated debate online with many claiming that the sports brand was celebrating obesity. This is a common refrain one hears while talking about plus-sized models, that the latter is unhealthy and not a reflection of “self-love”. Where does one draw the line between self-love and unhealthy practices? Is there a line, or it is a debate best left to the individual in question, without others commenting?
Jaimie and Lori: We don’t comment on other people’s health and bodies period! You cannot make an assumption about another person’s health, based on the size of their body. Nike has taken positive steps to expand their market and through their actions have acknowledged that plus-sized bodies exist, and a lot of us buy active wear.
Also, the Nike mannequin incident is a perfect example of how people disguise their Fatphobia as ‘health concerns’. For plus-size people, seeing a mannequin that even slightly resembles our body type makes us want to shop in that store and buy from that brand. Actions like these show that we are visible to the brands and deserve to be represented.
Which brands and artists do you both look up to for inspiration and why?
Lori: I personally take inspiration from people around me, and find those expressing their most authentic selves no matter what inspiring.
Jaimie: I am inspired by badass, confident women and non-binary people who own who they are and encourage others to do the same. One of my current inspirations is performer and Instagram model Lizzo who seems authentic, talented, and completely self-assured. I am also inspired by a wide range of incredible women on Instagram and other amazing people in my life.
Your Instagram profile has pictures of glorious women in their undergarments. Needless to say, that is a magnet for hate comments. How do you deal with unsavoury reactions to your posts?
Jaimie and Lori: We have both women and non-binary people featured on our page. We have an overwhelmingly positive response to what we put out into the world, whether that being our Instagram or our campaign. If we do receive negative feedback unless it’s warranted, we don’t validate it with a response.
What would you like to tell brands that are not keen on inclusivity and would stick to conventional measurements?
Jaimie and Lori: We would ask them why they feel that way, and why would they choose to exclude a potentially huge customer base from their brand? We think it’s crucial to have brands and companies think about their intentions and question their train of thought.
What advice would you give to youngsters who are scared to express their personalities for fear of society’s rejection?
Jaimie and Lori: We would like to tell them that regardless of your looks, you are valid and important. Being rejected by society’s norms is fairly common these days since so many of us don’t adhere to socially approved beauty or behaviour standards. Breaking down what ‘conventional’ is so important to us.
As body positivity activists, what are your future plans?
Jaimie and Lori: Continue to make noise around body diversity and representation. It’s important to us to not pigeon hole ourselves into any box because we want to do it all. As long as we are spreading our message, we are happy. Soon, we will be releasing a podcast that will discuss a number of topics, including body positivity, sex, self-confidence, and the modelling industry, among others.
All the pictures are from We Are Living Cute’s #Weareeverybody campaign.
Follow We Are Living Cute on Instagram.
Watch #Weareeverybody campaign.