by Abaki Beck
The experiences of women of color are too often let out of body positivity narratives - and in particular, in discussions of eating disorder struggles and healing. This week’s Feminist Hero Friday addresses that issue through her eating-disorder awareness and body positivity site Nalgona Positivity Pride (nalgona means “big butt” in Spanish). Started in 2014, Gloria Lucas founded NPP as a space for women of color to be able to discuss eating disorders and body image in a supportive space. Lucas was inspired to start this project as she herself struggled with eating disorders. Society often deems eating disorders a “skinny white woman” issue - thus the experiences of other people are silenced and overlooked, leaving many feeling alone or like their issues are not real. In an interview with Huffington Post, Lucas noted the importance of groups like NPP as spaces for people of color to share their stories and be in community:
“NPP first addresses the fact that the problem isn’t really us; it’s the way the system works...People of color received very mixed messages about their bodies. There’s the message that we’re inferior, that we are dirty, that we are ugly, that we’re not intelligent.”
Nalgona Positivity Pride is perhaps most well known as a multi-platform social media site; posting images and messages of support, healing, and body positivity. She runs an online store (via etsy) selling t-shirts with messages like “Fat Artists Rule” and “Indigenous Women Resisting Colonialism and Patriarchy Since 1492.” Beyond her involvement with social media, her work is deeply rooted in community. Lucas runs an online support group for people of color to discuss eating problems. NPP formerly held in-person support groups in Los Angeles as well, but have switched to online only meetings to be more accommodating to people with disabilities and all those who want to attend. According to the website:
“This group was formed with the belief that eating disorders (ED) & disorderly eating are linked to historical oppression and current systems of oppression such as racism, colonialism, homophobia, and sexism….ED's are not individual struggles but a societal matter that must involve the community for healing. Therefore, it is key to create community-based healing that is grassroots and free.”
Her work centers community and empowering others to do work in their own communities. In addition to their own support groups, NPP provides advice for people interested in starting their own. Recently, she has also started providing consultation on community projects or community-centered small businesses. Based on her success with this business and the Nalgona community, her most recent project, called WOC Entrepreneurs, supports and promotes the work of womxn of color entrepreneurs.
Lucas’ work is inspiring and uplifting. NPP reaches a broad audience - from those in the support group, to those seeking her consultation, to those who may only interact with her work via a post on facebook. No matter how deeply you engage with NPP, it’s work truly makes an impact on those it touches. Stories of struggling, healing, and loving our bodies as women of color are too often left out of the mainstream narrative. The work of this self described “chubby warrior, DIY punx educator, and eating disorder survivor” will no doubt continue to have an impact on her community and those around her.