This MTV star didn't let her size stop her from rocking a bikini. You shouldn't either.

Nicole Byer is confident. And why shouldn't she be?

She's a beautiful, sharp-witted comedian, performer, and star of her own show on MTV, "Loosely Exactly Nicole," which is loosely (OK, pretty tightly) based on her life as an up-and-coming actress in southern California.

Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images.


You may not know her though. By her own admission, people like Byer don't usually have their own shows.

Fat. Black. Dark. Just over 30. Byer isn't at the top of the typical Hollywood casting list, which makes her success hard-earned and refreshing.

"I shouldn't have a show, on paper," Byer told The Hollywood Reporter. "A fat black lady who just f——s people left and right on her show, and we never talk about how she's fat and black? That's crazy! (Laughs.)"

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV.

It's refreshing to see a fat woman on TV whose sole goal isn't to lose weight. Byer — and the Nicole she plays on TV — are fully-formed, complex, interesting people. She credits actresses like Monique and Queen Latifah for paving the way and making her career and television show possible, but Byer's wit, knack for storytelling, and zest for life didn't hurt either.

Her pluck and enthusiasm aren't just for the cameras. Byer lives out loud. Even on vacation.

Byer and her best friend, Sasheer Zamata of "Saturday Night Live," recently vacationed in Mexico. In between dolphin excursions and cocktails, Byer stayed cool in a collection of fun and sexy bathing suits.

She captioned many of the images with the hashtags #sofat #sobrave #veryfatverybrave #sofatsobrave. It was a tongue-in-cheek response to stories you typically see about fat women online and in magazines.

Byer uses the hashtags whenever she dons a swimsuit on the 'gram, which is pretty frequently, as she makes time for self-care and fun in the sun.

Bravery has two sides. #veryfat #verybrave #sofat #sobrave #ashyfeet #juicybutt

A photo posted by Nicole Byer (@nicolebyer) on

Fat people are expected to feel shame about their bodies. That's bullshit.

I should know; I've been big all my life. We're expected to minimize our bodies and strength and not draw too much attention to ourselves, unless we're the butt of a joke. We're expected to suck it in and take up less space in the hearts, minds, and airplane seats of the world, often sacrificing our physical and mental well-being to do so.

When someone like Nicole Byer comes along and proudly wears a fierce two-piece on her beach vacation it is an act of bravery, but not for the reason you think.

It's an "eff you" to the strangers and trolls who dare ask her to minimize her body or her talent. It's a "hell no" to the Hollywood agents and casting directors who tell actresses they're too big, too old, or too dark for a role. And it's a high-five to women everywhere who ever felt less than or were silenced by who they see (or don't see) on TV.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for MTV.

Nicole Byer doesn't minimize her body or her talent, and why should she?

With bold patterns, vibrant colors, and even a pizza print, Byer laughs in the face of Western beauty standards and lets her beautiful, big, black body take up space. She stands front and center with a smile on her face, working hard, chasing her dream, and loving the body and mind that make it all possible.

She's not here for your outdated beauty standards. Why should she be? Why should any of us?

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV.

Canva

Prior to European colonization of North America, millions of bison roamed the Great Plains. By the turn of the 20th century, those numbers had dropped to less than 1,000. The deliberate decimation of buffalo herds was a direct attack on the Native American people, who colonizers saw as an obstacle to their "Manifest Destiny," and who the U.S. government engaged in a systematic attempt to eliminate or force into docile submission.

For thousands of years, bison were a sacred, inseparable part of life for Indigenous tribes of the Great Plains, used for food, shelter, utensils, and clothing, in addition to spiritual and emotional well-being. Wiping out the bison population nearly wiped out the Native tribes they were connected to.

Though bison numbers have increased significantly thanks to conservation efforts, governments are still grappling with the ugly legacy, and some municipalities are taking steps to try to repair some of the damage done. As one example, the city of Denver, Colorado has taken the step of giving some of the city's bison population managed by Denver Parks and Recreation to Native American tribes engaged in bison conservation efforts.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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