5 min

Plump it up

Get yummy with your tummy

SWELLIGANT. Artist, editor and fat activist Allyson Mitchell flaunts her curvy goodness in a new Chubbalicious designer gown. Credit: Paula Wilson

“When you’re fat, looking fabulous is revolutionary,” says Allyson Mitchell, filmmaker, writer, queer activist, PhD student and fat fashion maven about town. “The only problem is finding sexy, revealing clothes that fit!”

Mitchell is a founding member of Pretty, Porky And Pissed Off, an activist performance art troupe of chubby chicks. “We got started about four years ago,” says Mitchell. “At our first performance/demonstration we dressed up in outrageous pink fun-fur house coats and feather boas and went down to Queen St to hand out candies and flyers about the lack of fashion available in our sizes.”

Pretty, Porky And Pissed Off will return to Queen St – and this time they’ve brought back-up. They’ll perform La Vida Porka (a new spin on the Ricky Martin tune) on Wed, Jun 13 at The 360 club, alongside an array of fat-loving acts in the Chubbalicious Cabaret.

This time the group isn’t just protesting, the girls are helping to remedy the situation. All of the proceeds from the cabaret will go to helping local designer and fat activist Edyta start production on her Chubbalicious clothing line.

“My line will offer an alternative to rags, tents and muumuus for super-sized boys, girls, drag queens and kings,” says Edyta. “It will feature swanky and tarty clothes in size 18 and up.”

According to Edyta fatphobia is the last totally acceptable form of oppression in the queer community. “Every big person I know has been called a fat cow out in public,” she says.

Instead of shying away from being noticed on the street Edyta turns the tables on fat-phobes with pride and visibility. The plan for her clothing line features bright colours, clingy fabrics and splashy food-inspired designs.

Edyta will take the stage herself, as Vasyl, one of the “Drag kings from behind the Iron Curtain,” says Edyta. “We are three Eastern European drag kings embracing our mother’s pieroshkis and the fatness of our culture.”

At the event Tawny LeSabre will run a fundraising hot dog eating contest. “The more people pay the more hot dogs she’ll chow down,” Edyta explains., “She wants to get big enough to be able to fit into our clothes.”

In between acts the Chunky Cheerleaders (aka Rebecca Saxon and Zoe Whittall) will rev up the audience with fat positive cheers. “We jump around a lot, smile and do fat cheers,” says Saxon. “It’s a fun way to be subversive and play with the image of the skinny, blonde cheerleader that people might expect.”

The evening will end with DJ Nicki Red spinning into the wee hours. People of all sizes are welcome at the cabaret, but Edyta hopes to see “a giant proportion of giant assed people” on the dance floor.

Two films by Allyson Mitchell will be screened at the cabaret. “In Cupcake, a chubby girl walks through the streets of New York looking for that perfect desert,” says Mitchell. “She looks like a cupcake herself and the film makes the connection between food and beauty. She’s looking at cupcakes and deserts and at the same time the camera is devouring her.”

Mitchell herself stars in Chow Down, a film about a big girl trying on one too tight outfit after another. “When she finally finds that perfect outfit it totally changes how she feels.”

Mitchell’s latest fat flick Bon Bon (co-directed with her partner Lex Vaughn) about an entire city made out of candy, will premiere at the San Francisco queer film fest later in June.

Mitchell first started talking about being fat four years ago when she was creating Pretty Porky And Pissed Off along with Lisa Asuyo, Mariko Tamaki and Abi Slone. “During our first event on the street I went up to total strangers and asked them if they thought I was fat. It was such a relief to say out loud what you always feel people are thinking.”

The troupe also approached a group of very thin teenage girls to educate them on size discrimination. “At first they reacted by wondering what these crazy people were doing talking to them, but then there was a crack in their universe and they started to get it.”

According to Mitchell getting involved with Pretty, Porky And Pissed Off was the start and not the end point of her journey towards self-acceptance. “It’s always a challenge to put your body out there. It’s a constant process and sometimes I feel like a fraud as a fat activist because of some of the feelings I have.”

Still, people have been quick to respond to Pretty, Porky And Pissed Off’s message of fat love. The group members have been asked to perform at countless events around town and were invited onto the guest editorial collective for Fireweed feminist journal’s issue on fat. The entire group recently hosted Blubber, a cabaret sponsored by an eating disorder awareness organization in Guelph.

“The queer community loves us. What we do is flashy and is a lot about performance. It involves gender performance as well – it’s kind of fat drag,” says Mitchell. ” There’s a subtle line between being the clownish fat lady who sings and being a powerful voice. We like to play on that line.”

Pretty, Porky And Pissed Off’s newest goal is to get funding to visit high schools and elementary schools to educate young people on body-image issues and fat-phobia. “We know how important it is, but it’s also very scary for us,” says Mitchell. “We all remember being teased in the school yard [for being fat]. And who wants to go back there?”

Despite all these accolades, the group has garnered its fair share of criticism. An article in The Globe And Mail last winter pitted Mitchell against a doctor from an obesity clinic warning about the health problems supposedly connected to weight. “The article suggested that we were just pissed off about being fat and should lose weight,” says Mitchell.

Mitchell has also been questioned by fellow size activists for not being big enough to claim a fat identity. “There are lots of ways I’ve been made to feel fat all my life,” says Mitchell, “not being able to buy clothes in ‘normal’ stores, being sent to a diet workshop when I was 13, being called fat all my life and wondering if I’m being judged every time I ride a bike or eat in public.

“[But] there are degrees of oppression. Super-sized people face a whole other set of issues in terms of access to jobs, health care and space.”

Edyta claims that chubbiness has begun to gain a bit of acceptance in the queer community, but being super-sized is still shunned. “If you have to buy an extra seat on the airplane, if you can’t wedge yourself into a seat at Inside Out [the queer film festival], that’s a whole other degree of oppression. Super-sized people have not been glamorized or reclaimed,” she says.

Mitchell, who is currently writing a PhD dissertation at York University on fat women, power and space, is pretty sure that fat oppression is not going to disappear overnight.

“Since the crisis in religion at the turn of the century, society has had to assert ideas about morality and control directly on our bodies.… In North America, where we live in such a consumerist culture surrounded by indulgence, the person who stays fit or thin is seen as more in control and therefore more moral,” says Mitchell.

“There are billions invested in the diet and fashion industries,” says Edyta. “There is too much money involved for paranoia about size to just disappear.”

Even if there is still lots of work to be done on the fat revolution, Toronto’s plump activists will soon look fabulous for the fight. Edyta hopes to launch the Chubbalicious line in spring 2002.

“My clothes are loud,” says Edyta. “They play with the whole idea of being food obsessed and include images of hot dogs, donuts, cupcakes – anything fatty. Fashion is my activism.”


$10 suggested donation.

7:30pm doors.Wed, Jun 13.

The 360.

326 Queen St W.

(416) 593-0840.