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A few months ago, on a clear December day in Paris, France, Jes Baker was standing before a crowd as the city's guest of honor, wearing a shimmering gold dress and a beaming smile.

"La grossophobie, c'est ... bullshit," she told them.

As a fat activist and prominent body image author, she doesn't mince words, even in front of an audience that included the deputy mayor of Paris: Fatphobia is bullshit.


All photos via Jes Baker/The Militant Baker, used with permission.

She was speaking in the ornate salons of Hôtel de Ville as part of a conference of government officials, researchers, activists, and thought leaders from around the world. They had gathered to discuss discrimination against fat people.

The Parisian government, which hosted the event, also unveiled its manifesto challenging anti-fat bias and making a commitment to eradicating it. It was a monumental moment for the city, which had yet to include "size" in its anti-discrimination laws.

But it was also a deeply personal moment for Jes. She could never have imagined that her journey to make peace with her body would someday lead her to Paris, where she would assert the dignity of fat people around the world. And she would do it all while wearing a killer dress and heels.

Almost six years earlier, though, Jes wasn't quite that confident. In fact, she says, that's when she hit her "emotional rock bottom."

At the time, Jes was 26. She was working as a full-time baker, living with a partner who, she says, "would rather watch television while eating chicken nuggets" than be present and engaged with the world or with her. With a demanding job and a lack of intimate connection, Jes occupied her time with lifestyle blogs, including her own about vintage kitchenware.

Surfing the internet one night, Jes found the blog The Nearsighted Owl, written by a woman named Rachele. "I instantly connected with [Rachele's] love of thrifting, cats, and purple beehives," Jes says. But it wasn't the cats or vintage charm of Rachele's blog that captivated Jes the most — it was seeing a fat woman living and loving unapologetically.

While The Nearsighted Owl is no longer online, Rachele's fearless voice led Jes to an important realization. "[I thought] maybe I don't have to hate myself for the rest of my life," Jes recalls. "If she can love herself, maybe I can too?"

Up until that point, this deceptively simple but powerful idea had never crossed her mind.

Inspired, Jes delved into the world of fat acceptance and body positivity, reading everything she possibly could, especially perspectives that were different from her own.

And along the way, those writers gave her something she'd never had before: permission.

"[I found] permission to feel worthy. Of what exactly, in the beginning, I wasn't sure," Jes remembers. "But I knew I deserved better than I had been treating myself."

She continues, "I started to explore what I could do when I was relieved of some of the shame I had weighing me down my entire life."

She stopped blogging about the history of aluminum measuring spoons and did something much more vulnerable: She started writing about her road to recovery.

Her blog, The Militant Baker, became about everything from fashion photography — where she wore short dresses and swimsuits that she never would've dared to before — to political posts taking diet culture and fatphobia to task.

With a mix of vulnerability, humor, attitude, and unfiltered honesty, Jes's blog exploded in popularity, with media platforms like BBC, CNN, Time magazine, People magazine, and countless others featuring her work. But popularity was never the aim.

"For me, it's always about the power of liberation," she explains. "Freedom from any restrictions that others may push towards you. This includes freedom from subscribing to self-loathing and diet culture [and those who] have their own ideas about what that [liberation] should look like for you."

Jes says liberation is a journey — one that begins with giving ourselves permission to live life.

"Liberation is freedom from all outside expectations, even our own," she says. "Liberation is slowly learning how to become the best version of our whole selves."

Becoming our best selves can be an intimidating goal, though. That's why she has a few suggestions on where to start.

Diversifying who you follow on platforms like Instagram is one simple way to begin. "If we want our media feeds to represent real life (and ultimately show us that our body isn't strange, weird, or awful), we need to go out and actively find diverse images for ourselves," she writes.

Jes also advocates for gentleness. As she points out, the journey toward self-acceptance is difficult. "This is not the 'easy way out' in the slightest," she explains. "But just because it's not the easy way out doesn't mean it's not worth it."

Jes admits that sometimes she thinks dieting would be easier in a world that celebrates thin bodies. But if she's going to struggle, she'd rather work toward living her life on her own terms and not make her happiness dependent on something like size.

But it's not about loving her body all the time, either. Rather than doing a full 180 and forcing herself to feel one particular way, Jes found that not obsessing about her body at all — and finding a neutral, self-compassionate place — was most helpful in her journey.

"We used to want the three easiest ways to lose weight. When we reject that, we then start looking for the three easiest ways to love our bodies. It's totally natural," Jes says. "[But] asking someone to achieve body love can quickly become another unattainable prerequisite, much like the desire to change our body into what is deemed desirable."

"The real freedom lies in the gray area," she adds, "which is also the most difficult to sit in comfortably."

Jes unpacks all of this (and more) in her upcoming memoir "Landwhale." The title, which was once an insult used against her by online trolls, is now a source of pride.

Jes's journey shows that a simple idea — "I am enough" — can completely transform lives.

It's a powerful message that can touch people across communities, oceans, and even languages.

Jes was reminded of this power after a panel at that conference in Paris, when a man eagerly approached her to show off his new book. "I looked down and saw an entire section dedicated to the Abercrombie and Fitch campaign I had done years ago," Jes says. "I spoke little French and he didn't speak ANY English, but there was this moment of gratitude for and between both of us — it was humbling."

It's a message that Jes now hopes will come from new voices, too.

"[I want] to amplify marginalized voices that are far more important than my own through this platform," she says. She hopes that those coming up behind her will be a greater reflection of the diversity she sees in this movement.

She knows the road ahead won't be easy, but the right to live your life on your own terms is what ultimately makes it worth it. It's this kind of freedom that Jes keeps fighting for — not just for herself, but for every one of us.

"Trust yourself that you're doing the best you can and that it's enough," she tells me. "And if you ever need a cheerleader in your corner to remind you of this, I'm here for you."

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Democracy

Appalachian mom's speech on Kentucky's proposed abortion ban is a must-hear for everyone

Danielle Kirk is speaking up for those often overlooked in our cultural debates.

Canva, courtesy of Danielle Kirk

Appalachian mom gives passionate speech.

Many people felt a gut punch when the Supreme Court issued its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman's right to an abortion. However, for some this was a call to action.

Danielle Kirk, 27, a mom of two and an activist on TikTok, used her voice in an attempt to educate the people that make decisions in her small town. Kirk lives in Kentucky where a trigger law came into effect immediately after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Being a former foster child, she knew she had to say something. Kirk spoke exclusively with Upworthy about why she decided to speak up.

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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