#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE by Nicole Byer

Do you know Nicole Byer? She’s a comedian who does a bit of everything, but is most famous for co-hosting Nailed It! on Netflix. Apparently, Byer fills her Instagram page with photos of her wearing bikinis, and so she was prompted to create a book. Of course, it has to be a funny book — Byer is wacky and silly — but she’s also a fat activist. So, readers get the sarcastic book with a long title: #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #brave and Not A Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-dumps Weeping Fat Girl in A Bikini.

The title alludes to people calling fat women “brave” for wearing bikinis, as if skinny people are normal in swimwear and fat women have done something that takes courage. Maybe you’ve also heard the insidious cousin of “you’re so brave,” a dingleberry that goes by “you inspire me!” which is said, TO fat people, when they go to the gym. Ew. Stop objectifying other people — and this extends beyond fat people, which I won’t get into here. But long story short, if you assume someone is struggling because they’re not thin, white, straight, cis, able-bodied, and have money, then you need to go swim in a corner of the pool all by yourself because you’re not nice and no one wants to be your friend.

Byer explains her book with a mix of fact and sarcasm:

Real quick, I just wanna tell you why I wrote this book. I wanted to write a book about fat ladies — because I am one. Not curvy, not plus-size, not big-boned, not fluffy, not phat. I’m FAT. I am a fat lady who loves wearing bikinis. Which is #verybrave in our culture today.

How do you support fat women? How do you separate the seriously disgusting and deranged memes humiliating fat people from the humans you know? LOOK AT THEM! Whew, that’s easy. I believe it was Lindy West who wrote in her book Shrill that one way to get over fat prejudice is to look at fat people until it’s normal to see a body that is different (or maybe similar but you’re still prejudiced) from your own. Samantha Irby wrote a fat girl pool party scene for the TV version of Shrill, and the internet lost its mind in a positive way.

#VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE

There isn’t a lot of text in #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE and I think that’s done intentionally. Byer shows how much fun she has at the pool, the beach, and other random settings because it’s more humorous, and she’s nothing if not funny. There are some tips in the book, which are both serious and silly:

“Where can I buy a bikini?” #dontshophungry

The humor mixed with fat activism takes boiling body hate and slows it to still waters. What might a troll say about Byer’s body in a certain image? She’ll guess and write it on the page for them. While it might seem like she’s giving voice to trolls, what happens is you read more and more things actual people might say, and what they might say becomes delegitimized because what they’re thinking is so stupid. Here’s an example:

But Melanie, that’s hyperbole. No one throws up when they see fat people eating fast food. But you’ve surely heard other stupid things. Like the non-diabetic person who jokes they’ll need an insult shot because they ate one donut. Like a stranger on the internet commenting that Tess Holiday’s gym photo suggested she was preparing for a hot dog eating contest. Like Anthony Bourdain (yes, I know everyone loves him) and Ted Nugent arguing that fat people should be rounded up and left on an island to die (source).

What’s “truly wild” (thanks for that phrase, Nicole Byer!) is that the more photos of her I looked at, the more shocked I was when I turned the page and saw a thin model in a bikini. By comparison, she looked awkward, unhealthy, like she’d been photoshopped into a Popsicle stick. I don’t know if her image, or any image, was actually photoshopped, but here’s why the thin model was included:

This is a lady I don’t know. She’s in the book in case you needed a break from #bravery and fatness. This woman deserves to be in a bikini, but she is not #brave or fat. She just exercising her right to be a thin, happy woman. If you flip the page, we get right back to the #bravery.

Byer surprised me! I thought again of how looking at photos of people who are not thin models actually changes the way we feel about fat women. What’s normalized becomes humanized. Thin models aren’t often humanized because they’re placed in strange positions with unusual expressions on their faces, but since magazine photographers aren’t working with many fat women, people like Nicole Byer can take gorgeous, funny pictures that represent their personalities. And remember! There are no bad angles. Highly recommended book you can finish quickly that will make an impact.

25 comments

  1. This is awesome! I knew nothing about her until we started watching Nailed It but I started crushing on her hard, right from the get go. She’s stunningly beautiful and has a personality that’s larger than life. She’s so confident and so much fun. 🙂

    Like

    • Her podcast, “Why Won’t You Date Me?” is a lot of fun, too. In fact, she has Wes on as a guest in one episode, and I feel like I got to know him a lot better thanks to that interview. He’s a nice man, but he’s married!

      Like

  2. This sounds excellent and how interesting that you got accustomed to seeing the author and then found the thin woman weird. Great work by Byer and by you for sharing this.

    Like

    • It’s odd about the images because typically we do the opposite: we see so many pictures of thin, glowing women (and for a long time when I was growing up “thin” meant “emaciated”) that seeing someone who is even modestly fat looks weird, and that’s not good!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved Nicole Byer in a bit part in Brooklyn 99, and I especially loved that her character is acknowledged to be beautiful and sexy (which of course she is) with no “except for her weight” caveats. I’m glad you enjoyed this!

    Like

    • I think I’ve only heard of Brooklyn 99, but as I’m reading the comments, I’m learning she had small parts on many shows! I know she had her own show for a while, but it was streamed to Facebook, or something fancy like that that I would never do.

      Like

  4. Wow. A powerful review of what is, apparently, a very powerful book. I love the comment about how looking at so many photos of Byer and then a skinny model startled you. I don’t often watch TV or film, so I’m not often paying attention to stereotypically beautiful people. I find most models horrifying. I just want to feed them!

    This makes me so happy. Reserved at the library already. 🙂

    Like

    • It’s an easy read if you have pandemic/baby brain. She has a couple of essays that are hysterical, and then the rest is photos. I think you will enjoy it.

      Also, since you and I are the same age, I know you grew up in the era of thin to emaciated. I remember seeing news articles about how all the women on Friends were thin, and then as the show went on, they were downright starving for realz.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly! It was horrifying. Or Kate Moss being the epitomy of everything that is gorgeous, even though a moderately strong gust of wind could blow her away. It’s madness. Who knows, perhaps this is the start of a transition back to fat being the sexiest form of a woman? I’d be sooo down with that.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! This sounds like such a fun and positive book, and fitting that the author includes so many images alongside the argument that the best way to support fat people is to look at them. I’m not familiar with Byer’s comedy but I really like how informal and confident the messages feel here so maybe I’d enjoy more of her work.

    Like

    • Nailed It! is a great show to watch on Netflix if you need a break from anything. It’s so funny, but the fact that they have Nailed It! set in different countries, with different hosts, tells me the humor is all thanks to Byer and not just the show’s format.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We watched Nailed It a lot during the summer. It was such a good time and as a host/judge she keeps the show funny. I had no idea she had written a book, what a good review. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • What cracks me up is how many kids say that they love Nicole Byer and impersonate her, so their parents will let Byer know on social media. She always replies with how much she doesn’t like children, and she’s always clear about this! But parents keep trying to endear her to their offspring 😀

      I know there are versions of Nailed It! in other countries with different hosts (these are all on Netflix), but they’re just NOT funny without Nicole Byer.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Her energy really shines through in the quotes you pulled and the pictures! Here in the Philippines, when someone fat wears a bikini (which is actually quite rare – I don’t think fat activism has gained traction here), the usual remark is “Ang lakas ng loob niya,” which can translate to either “That girl has guts” or “The nerve of that girl.” Either way, it’s a compliment disguised as an insult, too. Byers sounds very fun—I’ll definitely check out this book in the future.

    Like

Insert 2 Cents Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s