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.
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.)"
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.
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.
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?