Picture it: you're scrolling social media waiting for the latest drop of your favorite Carnival troupe's costumes for the upcoming year.
You're mentally prepared for the fete. Ready to drink to your heart's content and sweat it out on the road. Prepared to adorn yourself in beads, feathers, and all the trimmings. You're ready to let it all go in the streets with women of all shapes, sizes, and skin complexions.
The pictures drop. Each costume is modeled by a woman with an almost "perfect" shape. Airbrushed to perfection. You - a plus size woman - look nothing like her. It's hard to get an idea of what this costume will look like on you.
So you brush it off and turn the TV on. Fete is fete. You'll be there anyway, but deep down you might wish that these troupes remembered that not all women who take to the streets are a size 2.
On the TV a commercial appears. It's an advertisement for your Caribbean birthplace. A smile comes to your face as you see the lush beaches, historical monuments and hear the familiar sound of your native music. Suddenly, a woman flashes across the screen on horse back. Like every woman in almost every commercial you've ever seen about your home - she's White. If not, she's racially ambiguous. Not a true depiction of so many of the women you know. Not at all close to the beautiful dark skin you've always been proud of.
Is anything inherently wrong with a skinny woman modeling a carnival costume? Or casting white, racially ambiguous, or lighter skinned Black women in tourism commercials? Of course not.
But can Caribbean media confidently say that it doesn't have a problem with colorism and fatphobia?
In a world where fat Black female superstars like Lizzo and darker skinned Black actresses like Lupita Nyong'o are finally finding some mainstream admiration of their beauty, people may want to comfort themselves by believing that we finally live in a truly body-positive society. While the world has made some progress, thanks in large part to activism by Black women, the progress has not come as far as it needs to. Communities of color continue to further marginalize people who fit very outside of the societal standards of beauty like dark skinned women and fat women.
The Caribbean community and its media outlets are no strangers to fatphobia an colorism, but are almost entirely unwilling to admit that there's a problem. This could be due to the Caribbean's makeup as a majority-Black region.
It's difficult to start a conversation about the marginalization of groups like fat people, darker skinned people and even LGBTQ+ people in a region that is already marginalized due to race and other factors like socio-economic status. There tends to be a belief that because we are all marginalized in some way, the conversations surrounding fat phobia, colorism, and the centering of Eurocentric standards of beauty are not warranted.
If we continue to accept that however, we erase groups of people like the fat Black women who exist in our every day lives.
The challenge to media and tourism entities is not to celebrate only the women who fit into these marginalized groups. The challenge here is to eradicate colorism and fat phobia within our own communities by normalizing media that includes them alongside the women who for so long have been centered and celebrated.
Carry on with the horseback riding scenes of white tourists living their best lives on our shores - but maybe consider the fact dark skin Black women travel and go horseback riding too. Release the phenomenal carnival costumes modeled by average-sized women - but be sure to consider that fat women will purchase those costumes too and should be able to see what they look like on their bodies like everyone else can.
Celebrate the beauty of the Caribbean women you've been celebrating while being conscious of the fact that the Caribbean is comprised of many beautiful women: of all shapes, skin tones, sizes, and backgrounds.