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Model turns 'stranger-shaming' into body-confident battle cry

Simone Mariposa, a plus-size model, has launched a popular hashtag to encourage women of all sizes to love their bodies.
/ Source: TODAY

We wear what we want.

It's those simple words that launched a viral campaign for women worldwide.

Simone Mariposa, a plus-size model and body acceptance advocate, launched the hashtag with proud photos of herself and the phrase, "Your approval isn't necessary."

The 23-year-old from Hermosa Beach, California, was inspired by a Twitter post from someone who documented a stranger shaming a plus-size woman walking down the street. The incident got Mariposa thinking about what she could do.

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“I’ve always been outspoken about plus size and fashion,” she told TODAY. “I thought, why not showcase that ridiculing someone is unacceptable and do it in a fashionable and fun way?”

So she thought of hashtags like “fit and fabulous” and “breaking the rule,” but those didn’t hit the mark. “I remember when my mom used to tell me, ‘Don’t wear that,’ and I said, ‘I wear what I want!’ That works for this.”

An actor, singer and model, Mariposa is also a fashion blogger who uses Instagram as her main platform. She said she’s on a path to inspire other women to love their bodies.

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“It’s the best feeling in my entire life,” she said. Mariposa currently appears in a new denim ad campaign for fashion retailer Torrid, according to Plus Model Magazine.

“It’s definitely liberating to see such freedom of discussion around this,” Mariposa said. “There’s a sea of women who look like me — I know I’m not alone.”

Unfortunately, there's still cattiness that rears its ugly head online. “I try not to let that affect my positive space,” she said. “It’s easy for salt to get into sugar and mix it up. Frankly, I’m doing what I’m doing for people who care, and not for those who don’t.”

Mariposa doesn’t mince words in her Twitter posts, with affirmations like these:

  • “I didn’t ask you for your opinion.”
  • “If my confidence in my body triggers something within you that causes you to be inhumane and cruel towards me, I'm not the problem. YOU ARE.”
  • “I will not let anyone's rage/disgust towards my fat body cause me to hide & cower in self-doubt. I'm bigger(pun intended) & better than that.”

Among her #WeWearWhatWeWant supporters, Jessica Sziranyi of Miami, Florida, told TODAY: “I’m so in love with this hashtag. Growing up, I never had the best self-esteem. I never saw my size represented.”

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Sziranyi, 18, said she tires of the constant pressure to lose weight and the media’s incessant focus on petite, thin women.

“For someone with my body type, that’s just not attainable. Even if I lost all the weight in the world, I still wouldn’t look like that,” she said. “It’s normal to have some belly roll, curves, cellulite and stretch marks. We don’t have to cover up our bodies with baggy clothes. We should wear what feels good and not apologize for how we look.”

Ashley Blackwell, 19, of Birmingham, Alabama, told TODAY she’s been cyberbullied about her love handles when she's posted photos of herself online.

“I deleted those pictures (before), but no more,” said Blackwell. “I saw that new hashtag and the posts celebrating us plus-size women. We’re often seen as someone different, but now, we can let people know we’re no different from other people.”

When detractors post “bad comments,” Blackwell said she used to take them to heart. “But now, if people don’t like what I post, hey, it’s my page and my body. I want to show that we can wear different things and look great.”

Or as Mariposa wrote on July 25, “I’m summertime fine, and I shouldn’t have to hide.”