Body Haven club founders embrace self-love, body diversity and fat liberation education

By Kimberly Kapela, Staff Reporter

Although they are film and television majors, club president El Concepción, right, and vice president Bri Ramirez, are passionate about reimagining the “heroin chic” aesthetic within fashion through body positivity. Sam Tucker

Showing self-love for one’s body manifests in many ways, including wearing comfortable clothing, eating three meals a day or saying body positivity affirmations to yourself. For the Body Haven club president El Concepción and vice president Bri Ramirez, self-love shows up in their passion for body diversity and fat liberation education.

Concepción, a junior film and television major, started Body Haven last year after researching fat liberation and wanted a club to reflect their passion for body diversity justice.

“We strive to create a space that is body inclusive, different ability inclusive, just anything centered around body positivity with the focus on fat liberation,” Concepción said. “And we also have to acknowledge that there is a marginalized group that we are trying to reach out to and create a safe space for.”

Ramirez, a sophomore film and television major, said the club’s focus on body empowerment includes “all ends of the spectrum,” which is expressed in the club’s logo that features the words fat liberation and body positivity.

“We acknowledge all sizes, but we specialize in reaching out to people with fat liberation as well as body positivity,” Ramirez said. “That’s why our logo says body positivity and fat liberation, because body positivity was started by bigger folks.”

Beyond providing a safe space for the community, Concepción said working and growing Body Haven has been an act of self-care.

“[Body Haven] helped reinforce the ideas of body neutrality and body positivity,” Concepción said. “And it’s just really helped reinforce everything I learned.”

Concepción and Ramirez use Body Haven’s newsletter and Instagram to expand their inclusive community online, where members can read positive body affirmations, share stories with other members and even discuss the “horrors of the dieting industry.”

“At the beginning of every month we share a newsletter. … We also provide a daily affirmation from ‘My Body Is Not An Apology’ by Sonya Renee Taylor,” Ramirez said. “And for our Wicked Week event, it was titled ‘The Horrors of the Diet Industry.’ We talked about how the diet industry is there for some people, but for others, it’s not.”

The founders of Body Haven are preparing to host their first “Freak Like Me” Y2K-inspired fashion show on the 5th floor of the Student Center, 754 S. Wabash Ave., on March 12.

Body Haven club president El Concepción, right, and vice president Bri Ramirez, kick back and discuss their upcoming fashion show, “Freak Like Me,” a Y2K-inspired fashion show on the 5th floor of the Student Center, 754 S. Wabash Ave., on March 12. Sam Tucker

The key features of models from the Y2K era include pale skin, flat stomachs and an extremely thin frame. Ramirez said Body Haven is reimagining the harmful “heroin chic” aesthetic into a celebration for models to show body diversity.

“There are certain fashion trends that don’t include all bodies, which is the utmost reason that we chose Y2K,” Ramirez said. “Low-rise jeans were one of the heights of heroin chic.”

Members of and models of Body Haven expressed excitement about the upcoming Y2K-inspired fashion show, as well as the club itself.

Ayla DeBord, first-year acting major, member of Body Haven and model for “Freak Like Me,” said Body Haven is a “safe environment” for inclusive events, especially for plus-size people.

“The club is for liberation for all body types, and being in an environment in which marginalized bodies can be accepted and celebrated,” DeBord said.

Mollie Baker, first-year interior architecture major and model for “Freak Like Me,” said she has struggled with eating disorders and body dysmorphia and sees the difference that the body empowerment movement has made to help every size feel included and beautiful in their own body.

“I think that what [Body Haven] is trying to do is just make people feel comfortable in their bodies and put people out there who maybe don’t fit the societal norms of a typical body,” Baker said. “We just all need to come together as a community and really help everyone feel comfortable in their own bodies and spread the message that everybody is beautiful.”

Kacie Brown, junior music major and model for “Freak Like Me,” discovered the club through Convocation and was drawn to its message of inclusivity for all body types.

Brown said self-love and body empowerment go hand-in-hand.

“I think it’s so important to have all bodies celebrated and included in everyday life,” Brown said. “I’m so excited for the fashion show because I feel that every body type deserves to be represented, and every body type should be able to wear what they want to wear.”

Those interested can register to attend the “Freak Like Me” fashion show on Campus Groups, and look for more updates and meetings through Body Haven’s Instagram.