Chubby Vogue Diva #35

Mbali Nokuthula Siphesihle Nompumelelo Bathokozile Angela Patricia Mlangeni.

How does one child embody all those names?

I have been blessed in life with the love, beautiful experiences, harrowing trials, and the grace to keep going.

I am a child of God. I grew up in the Catholic Church, went to an Anglican girls school, and am a believer of Christ. That has been my saving grace, through Him is how I survive.

I grew up in the United States of America, for 10 years of my life I was a New Yorker in every part of my being and I loved it. I am a Swati, a Zulu, and according to my upbringing I’ve been deemed an honorary American. And I am a big girl.

In my early years I was an average sized little child, but as I grew so did my circumference. I gravitated towards baggy clothing and became the quintessential tomboy. Now I can’t say for sure whether or not this was my means of dealing with my larger than life body or a look I genuinely loved, but it was my reality.

Family can unintentionally influence how you see yourself. “Cover your arms”, my mom would say, sewing the seed of self-consciousness that I still possess to this day. So it might be one of the influences that led me to hide behind oversized shapeless clothes.

One day in my first year at varsity a friend reprimanded me telling  me that I could not dress the same as my boyfriend. We went shopping  and looking for items that flattered as opposed to hid me. I suppose that was my turning point. Some one pictured me as more and inspired me to aspire to be more.

I started playing with my look and learning to dress for my body. It helped build my confidence in ways I never imagined. Not say it skyrocketed to new heights, but there was a change. Taking part in this photo shoot was another such experience. It allowed me to see myself in a different light and afforded me to embrace my figure even more, I saw myself as beautiful, a word in generally shy away from.

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Chubby Vogue Diva #33

Earlier this year my cousin gave me a print material. We call them African prints these days I do not think anyone even cares to research where some of these prints come from including me. The past two months I have been looking for cool designs of dresses, pants and jackets looking for something that I would like. While searching I bumped into an out fit which was three piece a shirt and pants that goes with a hat all made of the same material and this picture took me back. This picture reminded me of this lady called Margaret from Uganda, she use to sell table cloths and couch covers to my mother while growing up in Eastern Cape in a small town called Butterworth. By the way my name is Chwayita and my surname is Kaule. Margaret would also bring the three-piece made from the material from Uganda and my mother without fail bought it for me. I was not the only one who wore that three piece by the way but when I wore it things were different because I am dark skinned so automatically people assumed that I too was from Uganda. That assumption was the beginning of my journey of hate for my skin tone and myself. I know that is not something that should bring one down but colorism is a huge problem in the black community. The thing is we can buy from the ladies from Uganda or any other neighboring country but looking like them now that is a problem.

By the time I was 8 years old I knew that I was different and I am treated differently because of my skin tone. It didn’t help that I was always teased for it, called names and that being dark meant I was ugly and I fall in the low level. I kept on growing with my self hate by the time I was 14 years old I was walking around praying and hoping that someone out there would love this skin tone so that I can also love it. Be careful for what you wish for, Indeed I met boy that liked me and another one followed and then next one followed and all seemed okay that now I too was accepted for the first time in my life. I remember my aunt visiting me and telling me that white men liked dark skinned women so I most likely to marry one in one condition though that I do not gain weight. So in all those relationships I made sure that I do not gain weight at least now the black guys have noticed me and if I stayed small the white men would come and eventually save me from my misery of being dark. It would be even better for my kids not to be black and dark skinned so that they never have to go through what I went through.

When I turned 16 years old everything took for a turn when I gained a lot of weight. Now I am not only dark but also now fat, I felt like God failed me with giving me a dark skin but now he also failed me by giving me a body that would gain weight just when the black guys were starting to like me. As for me marrying a white man that was now off the table for me.

Today is the 27 March 2017 its four days before my 28th birthday. Two days ago I had a photo-shoot with Chubby vogue and I met myself for the first time after 11 years of searching and waiting for someone to love me so that I can also love me. When a good friend of mine asked me to do this photo-shoot I first felt weird about it because I would have to deal with my body and skin tone. I would have to deal with the body that failed me years ago. The body that did not allow the white man to come save me and the black man to love me. Loving and accepting comes with conditions for me, I will only love myself when I loose this weight or when that changes or when someone else accepts me. So on the 25th March I did the photo-shoot with uncertainty of what will be the outcome or what will happen. Something strange happened that day a new journey with myself started, a journey of unlearning the lies about myself and accepting the truth about myself.

During the photo shoot I met a beautiful dark skinned woman who is also plus size. I do not know about tomorrow or the day after what I know is that today this who I am. I am still getting use to the change, I am aware of the work that still needs to be done in learning and unlearning things about myself. I am forever grateful of the opportunity of sharing my story through word and photography because in my story I find meaning and matter.

My advice is learn to be You, Love You, in all Your Ways, Always.