"The way our culture is designed is to constantly provide the means of gaining fat, while simultaneously living in crippling fear of the result, and shaming people who do get heavier," the artist pointed out.
When Crystal Walter set about working on her project of reimagining Disney characters as plus-size princesses, she merely wanted to call attention to the lack of positive representation of large bodies in pop culture. However, her beautiful drawings of curvy Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, etc., did not sit well with many social media users who accused her of "glorifying obesity" and promoting unhealthy lifestyles. The artist, who goes by the name Neoqlassical Art on Instagram, insists that this was never her intention and that she simply wants her fans to remember to love themselves just the way they are.
"I've never told anyone to get more fat, or that being fat is more desirable than being thin. Simply that fat lives are equal, and just as worth living as any other," Walter told Bored Panda. "The way our culture is designed is to constantly provide the means of gaining fat, while simultaneously living in crippling fear of the result, and shaming people who do get heavier." The illustrator explained that it was the lack of positive representation in cartoons and pop culture that inspired her to start the plus-size Disney project, so as to provide role models for people with different-sized bodies.
"Growing up, I couldn't find any positive fat role models in the media. Historically, fat people have been demonized, or used for comedic effect, or to visibly show that a character is less intelligent than their slimmer, more cunning counterparts. This is hideously damaging to a developing child, and like many others, it led to me despising my own body," she revealed. "I could not physically relate to the characters I loved, like the Disney princesses I've re-drawn." Walter explained that she'd developed disordered eating habits as a teenager, as a result of which she would often skip meals and overexercise to lose a few pounds.
However, her attempts to lose weight proved futile, leading her on the path of severe depression as a young adult. Exercising and intermittent fasting made her feel horrible and she remembers those teen years as one of the lowest points in her life. "This was the biggest wakeup call on my journey to loving my body, realizing that weight and joy absolutely do not correlate. Weight and quality of life do not correlate," Walter explained. "Through my experience, I've found that whatever size you are when you're living your most joyful, fulfilling life, is the size you're meant to be at that time."
The artist stressed that her drawings do not imply that being thin is bad or unrealistic but rather that all bodies are worth being respected and accepted irrespective of how much space they take up or what they can or cannot do. "It's true that the Disney characters I draw were unrealistic, to begin with, in that their waists were all smaller than their heads, but the reason I draw them fat is not to make them 'realistic,' it's to see myself in them. To help other fat folks see themselves in them," she said.
Speaking of the "obesity epidemic," Walter pointed out that body-shaming is not the solution. Rather, the world needs a major cultural shift. "One that provides more nutritious options in places where there are none. One that encourages fun activity, and safe places to do those activities. One that's closer to nature and is based on kindness. One that encourages bigger people to get out and live life, not to lose weight, but just to thrive as they are," she said. "Glorifying anything that is constantly shamed by the rest of the world is not the same as encouragement to be more of that thing. It's just recognition that the thing does not make you a bad person, or any less of a human being. I don't think that's too much to ask."
Here are more of Walter's plus-size Disney princesses: