When Brynne Huffman stopped by her local UPS store last week, she thought she was just dropping off a package. She hadn’t planned on becoming a torch-bearer for body image acceptance, but that’s exactly what happened. For Huffman, 39, there’s no going back.
While waiting in line in Frisco, Texas, she engaged in cordial chit-chat with other customers when the woman behind her — also in her early 30s — complimented Huffman’s hair. Instead of stopping there, that same customer then dropped a verbal bomb when she quietly added, “You should probably rethink the shorts.” Ironically, this same person was wearing a “Coexist” T-shirt with peace and religious symbols on its front, according to Huffman.
“I thought to myself silently, ‘Did she really just say what I think she said? Did I misunderstand her?’" Huffman told TODAY. "I thought, ‘I’m not going to let this lady chase me out of there.’”
The clothing in question is a pair of mid-thigh denims shorts Huffman said she hesitated to buy in the first place. As she shared in her Facebook post on June 24, her legs, “while tan from swimming and muscular from dancing, are (1) not where I would like them to be and (2) are not up [to] traditional beauty standards (read: Photoshopped) because cellulite.”
At that excruciating moment, Huffman could hardly believe her ears. Instead of lashing out verbally or otherwise, she calmly completed her transaction, even though she really just wanted to cry. “All I wanted to do was go home and change my clothes. And THAT made me angry,” she wrote.
It apparently made a lot of other people angry, too, because the post has been shared more than 150,000 times on the Facebook page “Love What Matters,” where it’s garnered more than 370,000 views at publish time.
Since then, Huffman has been on a mission to effect change and she knows it starts with herself.
"Gender doesn't matter. Race doesn't matter. Religion doesn't matter. Sexual orientation doesn't matter. But fat? Apparently fat matters," she wrote in that now viral post.
“I didn’t grow up plus size,” she told TODAY. “After college I was in a bad marriage, I had depression, and a combination of factors led to me gaining weight. I think fat-shaming is the last legal form of bigotry in the United States, in spite of the fact that the body acceptance movement is very strong.”
Huffman found that same discrimination as an actor in both professional and community theater. She learned quickly that her body type limited the types of roles she could play.
“They’d ask me at auditions, ‘Why are you here? You wouldn’t be believable as the romantic interest heroine.’ Costumers would say they couldn’t fit me,” she said. “Directors would sometimes see past the size, which is not a deterrent to my stage presence.”
And as the mother of two children, son Andy, 5, and daughter Lucy, 4, Huffman says her little girl has already been bullied at preschool. “Another child told her she had a big tummy and she’s not even a little bit overweight,” Huffman said. “I believe that kind of comment is a learned behavior.”
Her husband Andy, 49, hopes the flood of hundreds of supportive comments from around the world about his wife’s brave admission will counter the emotional pain inflicted by such a thoughtless remark. “I hope all of their positive energy can erase anything that’s in your head, to keep you on track, loving yourself and being happy with your body,” he said to his wife.
Huffman felt it was time to do share that sentiment with others, so she started a new Facebook page as of Thursday called “The Body You Have,” which is also her Twitter handle. It’s a closed group, but the description asks members to “Celebrate each other. Every day.”
“I want to have an ongoing commentary in a safe place about what’s going on in my life, along with suggestions from other people about how to love yourself, shop for clothes you love and feel as beautiful as you are,” she said.
In the short time since the page was launched, Huffman has already heard from a women who said she hasn’t bought a pair of shorts in 20 years — that is, until now.