4 min

One uppity girl!

Natasha Tony's clothing has heft

Credit: Kevin Teneycke

Natasha Tony is the chief chick with Uppity Girlz, a local design house that caters to all sizes, shapes and forms in the name of fashion. In a force-fed world of unrealistic ideals for what a woman is “supposed” to look like (anorexic) it is about time someone like Natasha demonstrates that beauty is diverse and that big is beautiful. It’s a lesson the gay world could learn.

Michael Venus: Hey girl what is going on?

Natasha Tony: Well, in regards to the activism end of it all I like to sponsor certain groups in the city. There are three organizations I am involved in. The first is St Paul’s Hospital with Patricia O’Hagen-she does the eating disorder clinic and resources there. We will sell or donate our T-shirts there, shirts that say for example “Fat is not an emotion” for their different conferences. Another woman, Jacquie Gingras does these workshops called “Chocolate Covered Discontent.” Jacquie is a nutritionist. She talks about the relationships we have with food. I sponsor her as well with freebees. Then there is ANAD which is another eating disorder group that does different week-long events where we donate proceeds. I think it is really important to give back and these types of events are where people who are dealing with body image, whether they are big or small. I had a friend who was in the eating disorder clinic and we dressed all of these little women at the clinic in the “Fat is not an emotion” shirts and it was sad but had that beauty in it that they are obviously there to get better and they get it. Even though they are pushing their IVs along, it is still in-your-face activism, they want to get better. I make the T-shirts in all sizes from small right up to five X. So the activism is with these messages of celebrating your body or “I love me.” It’s a reminder. I have gone through my journey and it has been great. I had a kid, she was in private school , I was making good money, I had a great partner, yet I was still sabotaging myself with that “fat thinking.” Since I have made the shirts and clothing I have had such a great response because you can maybe squeeze yourself into something on Robson but there really aren’t a whole lot of options out there.

MV: What brought out your desire to start designing?

NT: I was always into sewing; my mom taught me how to sew when I was a kid. Then I learned even more when I was in theatre school; for a couple of semesters we made costumes and learned how to body block and so on. Uppity Girlz first came about with the shirts.

I realized that is no one else was going to do it, it was up to me. I had some time off from my other career (I am an extras casting director) and wanted clothes for me and then made some samples which I showed at some stores, and Changes Consignment Clothing Co in particular. The owner Rhonda was really positive about them. She had a goddess section that was lacking; I e-mailed her and the rest is her-story. The market word has spread and we’re in a few other stores. Bodacious, which has been around for a long while, was really open to designer clothing for 14-plus sizes-you know, not just the big shirt with special flowers on it (we both laugh). Moo-moo’s are back in! I’m going to work it! I think hooded moo-moos! I remember when I originally sent out our press release the only magazine who responded was the Oprah Magazine; we all have grown up with her and know what she’s about. So it has been a bit shocking. I don’t know if the whole industry will change all that fast, but I hope so. It’s about asking people to go outside their norm.

MV: Tell me about where you come from and all that jazz.

NT: Well I was born here.

MV: What? You’re lying. No one is actually born here!

NT: I have a card to prove it! I did spend some time in Saskatchewan from about 14 to 22, where I was educated at the University of Regina and then moved back here I guess 10 years ago. I moved here to act and I did a little bit, but being a big mama there wasn’t a lot of work. We then began to produce our own stuff and called ourselves The Uppity Brown Girlz. We have for years now been disbanded but I kept most of the name for the clothing. I then became an extras casting assistant for a few years before going out on my own. My partner, Christine, is an assistant director so we are both in film and that is where we met. She came to a dinner party where I was trying to set her up with a friend and after six months of working together I realized that I wasn’t going to set her up with a friend, I’m going to date her. That was six years ago. I also have a groovy 12-year-old who is a bodacious babe and a full-time dancer at Arts Umbrella.

MV: Within the gay men scene there seems to be big time body image crisis with all the steroids and stuff. To me it seems the lesbian sector is a little more laid back and accepting.

NT: For the most part, yes. I just finished casting on a lesbian pilot for Showtime called Earthlings. I didn’t get chance to represent that idea. It’s in LA and Jennifer Beals and Pam Grier are the stars so putting real-life women in there wasn’t possible.

MV: When will it all change?

NT: I do think there is a movement with men and women being accepted. It starts from within and then through dialogue and kinda in your face. One day we will start seeing it as the norm.

MV: But it seems the media just likes to warp reality.

NT: Right and then you choose to believe or to compare yourself to those images. It’s all about realization. Thinking positive about yourself is the answer, celebrating ourselves because everyone, no matter what size, has issues and we have all been taught to think that way.

MV: It’s all about unlearning.

* For more information of this revolutionary fashion line check out