Fed up over the sham­ing of big women

Pretoria News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - VIRGILATTE GWANGWA Po­pagano Me­lamu

END­ING body sham­ing in the coun­try is Cle­ment Sibany­oni’s aim. And if that means ap­proach­ing plus-size fe­males and of­fer­ing them a photo shoot, so be it.

Sibany­oni said he was tired of peo­ple body sham­ing oth­ers in or­der to feel good about them­selves, and has now de­cided to do his bit to shed light on the mat­ter.

The 22-year-old first-year pho­tog­ra­phy student at the Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy has been hard at work ap­proach­ing plus-size women in the Pre­to­ria CBD and of­fer­ing to pho­to­graph them.

He said, how­ever, ap­proach­ing the women and hav­ing to ex­plain what he wanted from them was some­times hard to do.

“It is not easy ap­proach­ing a stranger and ask­ing to take a pic­ture of them be­cause they are plus-size. Some take of­fence, while oth­ers be­come very keen on do­ing it.

He said: “With the women I am cur­rently work­ing with, I have no­ticed that some are ac­tu­ally con­fi­dent and have em­braced their bod­ies for what they are, while oth­ers are a bit in­se­cure and still need con­fir­ma­tion from so­ci­ety.

“It is with this that I have learnt that not ev­ery­one has a thick skin or can han­dle body shamers, hence this body-sham­ing busi­ness needs to stop.”

Sibany­oni said the aware­ness was his way of let­ting ev­ery­one know they were beau­ti­ful in their own way: thick or thin, tall or short, it did not mat­ter how one looked. He started the aware­ness in Jan­uary and vowed to con­tinue with it un­til he saw changes of be­hav­iour in so­ci­ety.

He also said he wanted to open a plus-size mod­el­ling agency some­time this year.

He told the Pre­to­ria News yes­ter­day that he chose to raise aware­ness through pic­tures, not be­cause he stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy, but be­cause there was some sort of magic that came out of peo­ple when they saw them­selves on a pho­to­graph.

“There is some­thing about pic­tures that boosts one’s con­fi­dence. Pic­tures al­ways put a smile on peo­ple’s faces and make them feel beau­ti­ful. This is the rea­son women love their self­ies,” he said, laugh­ing.

Be­cause many body-sham­ing com­men­taries and in­sults took place on so­cial me­dia, Sibany­oni used the same tool to fight body-shamers.

“I use the same Face­book to post pic­tures I have taken of the plus-size women and by plus-size I mean women from size 38 and up,” he said.

There had been so much “shade” thrown on plus-size fe­males on all so­cial me­dia plat­forms which was shame­ful, he said.

“For in­stance, dur­ing the win- ter sea­son, so­cial me­dia users had of­ten re­ferred to plus-size women as ‘win­ter spe­cials’ mean­ing they were only good for a win­ter cud­dle and noth­ing else,” the con­cerned pho­tog­ra­pher said.

Just last month, Twit­ter users praised Le­sego Le­bo­gane known as Thick­Leey­once af­ter she dis­missed a guy’s com­ment who tried to body shame her.

The 24-year-old plus-size model, body-pos­i­tive ac­tivist and blog­ger’s pic­ture was “picmixed” with Joelle Kayembe’s who is also a lo­cal model and was posted on Twit­ter by a user named Ley­ton Mokgerepi with a cap­tion “girls I like vs girls that like me”.

But the body-pos­i­tive ac­tivist re­sponded within min­utes with a sim­ple “I don’t like you”, which led to so­cial me­dia go­ing crazy.

Cle­ment Sibany­oni, a student from TUT who wants to open a plus-size model agency.

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