Carola Niemann, editor-in-chief of "The Curvy Magazine", has written a book. It's about our weight and how we deal with it. She vehemently clears up prejudices against overweight people and calls for people not to judge each other on the basis of external appearances. A conversation about curves, visibility and trends that shouldn't stay.
ntv.de: Something seems to be changing: all shapes, colors, all ages - at least in advertising and at some fashion shows. Am I correct, is there something going on?
Carola Niemann: Yes, something is happening, but to be completely honest: It's great that you see that - not everyone sees that - but we still have to fight for visibility. It's gotten better, for sure, but it's not enough. I'll put it this way: It's more of a kind of trend. And we know what happens with trends - they disappear again.
Exactly. It's still under "We have to do this if we want to be correct and hip", but I don't know if the topic "Curvy" has really arrived in real life. It still feels too much like an alibi to me. It would be nice if this "trend" could be lived. And even if this trend was even more popular in the shops. Because it's no use if I see something on the catwalk if these things aren't even for sale. It's easy to have a standard body when you're shopping - the moment you're overweight, it becomes difficult.
Buying is one thing, but what about the everyday life of overweight people? Do fat women still have to listen to themselves, for example when they have a thin man: "He could also have a thin one?"
It is not easy to walk through the world as a person with more weight. As a fat woman, it's actually even more problematic. A fat man can certainly date a slim woman without having to listen to comments, the other way around it's an eye-catcher. Just like an old man can have a young wife - the other way around is still not accepted. Behind it is that a fat woman is not worthy of being loved by a slim man. And why shouldn't she be loved? Because she has a flaw. And what shortcoming could that be? It could just be the fat. Does this start in childhood? Yes. Until now, women have mostly been brought up to see themselves as competitors: one has longer legs, nicer hair, whiter teeth than the other. And of course the prettier always won, as we could see in every movie, every romcom in the 90's for example. We women have to show more solidarity, for common empowerment.
The love interests should also develop accordingly. To think what a fuss there was when the first black woman and a white man kissed! It was in an episode of "Star Trek" where Captain Kirk (William Shatner) kisses Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Still a scandal in the US from 1968 as interracial relationships were a taboo subject. So it would be nice if fat women could also be the love interest of a normal-weight man, in films and in real life. It would be great if that were discussed. Years after Bridget Jones ate her fat out of grief, it really is time to give fat women normal roles. I feel the need to soften roles, break down barriers: body, age, skin color. Thelma Buabeng, for example, would like to play a lawyer or a lover and not always just the cleaning lady or a refugee. Everything is in motion, that's true, but it's not enough. That's why I've written this book now, that's why I publish The Curvy Magazine. That's why there are bloggers and influencers now, because we want to move forward. And that's why overweight people have to be shown a lot more in the media. It just has to be normal that fat people can also be sexy, sophisticated, funny, that they are lovable and desirable. Without having to serve a fetish. Men are more relaxed: the only man in your book thinks he's cool and sexy, even though he's fat. That's the difference: women were raised to optimize themselves. We live in a very masculine society that, to put it simply, is about being "fuckable". Example of clothes: A man tries on something, looks at himself in the mirror in the changing room and says: "They are too stupid to tailor pants that fit me." A woman in the same situation goes home frustrated and starts a diet. We have to get to the point of saying, "They're too stupid to put something on my awesome body." (laughs) From size 40 it becomes a challenge to find suitable things.
Overweight and health... This is one of the key issues for women who are overweight: If a fat woman goes to the doctor and says her shoulder hurts, or her hip or kidneys, then the doctor will usually advise you first , to decrease. As if a kidney problem would then disappear into thin air. But first people should lose weight before looking further at what could be going on. What diagnosis would a slim woman get if she had a headache? That she should lose weight?
That would mean yes, if I lose weight, all my problems go away.
Yes (laughs), that's a huge problem! There's already a lot of discussion going on in the scene. Addresses of doctors are passed on who don't bully you, simply because going to the doctor as a fat person can be a marathon. Many are portrayed as being undisciplined or unhealthy, but that's just not true.
On the subject of sport ... Something is happening here too: sport for overweight people is no longer just intended to lose weight or optimize, but to balance, for a feeling of well-being. There is curvy yoga and other curvy sports, and at the end of the day you shouldn't necessarily lose weight and be normal, you should feel good. Are slim people always healthy? Neither. Well, it's not true that if you're fat, you're also unhealthy.
Yes, that's also something I denounce: fat people are asked unsolicited about their health. You don't do that with slim people just because they're a bit paler than usual... Fat people have to hear a lot about their bodies, their health, their personality. Dick means undisciplined, lazy, underperforming - it's like not having a protective shield. It's outrageous. People who are starving or constantly refuse to eat are also mentally ill or at least battered. It is so important for everyone to feel good mentally.
Yes, that's a topic too. Someone who accepts themselves, even if they are rounder, is often in better spirits than someone who is chaste, anorexic, or has compulsive eating habits. We have to learn that our body is not our enemy, we have to do something to ensure that it holds us together, that it makes us laugh, that it is efficient, but it doesn't have to be a size 36 or 38 compulsively. We must learn to listen to our bodies, eat right, exercise enough, and then make peace with ourselves. Sometimes rounder people are happier than skinny people, but society always questions that.
It already starts with pubescent girls or earlier that they are dissatisfied with their bodies...
They wreck themselves mentally because they think they're not good enough for society, they're not pretty. We have to train ourselves not to judge each other based on externals. So "hey, you lost weight" means "great" and "hey, you gained weight" means "not great". Do we know if the person who lost weight might not be sick or grieved? We do not know. But slim means good, fat means bad. We have to break the habit of this for ourselves and our children! That's not up to date either! And compliments can also be given differently...
Let's get to the book - so many beautiful multi-weight people!
(laughs) Yes, I wanted to show many facets! Muslim woman, postwoman, actor - yes, I wanted to take a man with me - black people, married and single, with or without children, with a man - fat or thin - sex therapist, singer and so on.
What's the intention?
I present the people in the book in a way that others might feel inspired. I wanted to show people who are not on hold, i.e. people who are not waiting for them to finally get thinner and then their life will be beautiful. No, I wanted to show people who are fatter and still have a nice life. There are people in the book who say I've achieved everything I wanted: a husband, children, a job that fulfills me. To find out in retrospect that none of this had anything to do with dress size.
That's very reassuring.
Yes, but that must finally get through to people's heads, for example in industry too. Even perfume or lipstick is advertised with willowy women, although overweight women are definitely wearing them now too. The industry could use less sugar and spread less of the unrealistic ideal of beauty that frustrates many women - and men - immensely. These are social mechanisms that you, as a woman, have to keep reminding yourself: Why do I need lip surgery, liposuction, why do I actually have this pressure? How long can a normal person withstand that? We have to take the pressure off. And consumers should be very careful about who they entrust their hard-earned money to.
Sabine Oelmann spoke to Carola Niemann