The embodiment of beauty that is seen everywhere is white, thin, tall, and submissive. The varying shapes and colors of real women are often hidden and underrepresented in a society founded on patriarchy and white supremacy.
Sophomore Clara Nieblas is an art education major at Humboldt State University. On Instagram (@elotepreparado) her name is listed as Xochiquetzal, the goddess of love. In an effort to challenge the dominant universal idea of beauty, she uses social media as a platform to show that beauty takes form in many different shapes, colors, and sizes. With 13.9K followers, Nieblas is a courageous pioneer in the body positive moment by naturally being herself. She is a person of real beauty, from the inside out, encouraging others all over the world to simply be themselves.
Nieblas admits that in this movement, you can’t change everyone’s perspective, but you can start by planting that seed. She constantly attempts to encourage others to talk about these issues collectively.
“I talk about subjects surrounding the Chicanx community, and what it’s like growing up in a low-income, single parent home as a first generation student,” Nieblas said.
Nieblas identifies as a first generation, unapologetic, fat, carefree woman from the eastern Coachella Valley. Every day she strives to challenge white hegemony because beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. As a brown woman, she has different expectations than a white woman does.
Becoming Body Positive
“People think that the body positive movement is bashing on skinny women,” Nieblas said. “It’s not that at all. It’s not about the binary of being skinny and fat, it’s about loving yourself the way you are and look.”
She explains that what happens in the body positive movement is that white women don’t share half of the oppression women of color share, but are the face of beauty. This is problematic since young girls of color don’t see themselves in the media, they don’t see themselves as beautiful.
“It’s hard to look up to someone you can’t relate to,” Nieblas said.
She noticed at a young age that she didn’t look like the faces most familiar in mainstream media. In an attempt to be socially accepted, she tried hard to mold herself to the standards of European beauty. Not being able to ever see a picture in the media that resembled herself, her self-esteem and confidence suffered.
“I tried looking skinnier and morphing the way I projected myself onto social media, and it was really based off of beauty,” Nieblas said.
This fake identity of who she wasn’t started to take a toll on her and she grew tired.
“I felt rebellious, and I thought, I’m not gonna hide behind social media and pretend to be something that I’m not,” Nieblas said.
She started to become more politically active in social issues that work to deconstruct systems of oppression and beauty standards, especially relating to women of color. Nieblas posts an eclectic variety of pictures, from makeup selfies to videos of her dancing to corridos to pictures of her body.
One popular post on her Instagram was a picture of her stomach and stretch marks. She captioned it with a long paragraph about how she never sees pictures of stomachs like hers, and how throughout her life she was ridiculed by her family and society for having stretch marks and being overweight.
Nieblas concluded the post with an explanation of why she was showing off her stomach in the first place: the post is a bold step on her self love journey. People who looked like her were humiliated on Instagram and she could relate. Nieblas is unapologetic. She loves making people feel uncomfortable.
One girl responded, saying, “We have similar tummies, and this made me feel really good about myself, thank you.”
It takes deconstructing those thoughts and perceptions to become conscious of socially constructed standards of beauty. When she started learning about her culture, the Chicanx identity, and the politics of it all, she learned to see beauty in everything that challenged the norm.
“I stopped caring, and it takes a lot of work not to care about what other people think about you,” Nieblas said.
Another one of her posts was a full body selfie, followed by a luminous makeup look. The photo was captioned, “What a time to be alive and unapologetically FAT.”
A follower responded with, “this makes me more positive about my body, thank you for spreading self-love.”
Many of her fans write to her daily, thanking her for sharing her journey towards self-love. Men and women, young and old, thank for her for changing their lives and helping them recognize the love they didn’t know they could have for themselves.
“When you rebel against these social constructions, it challenges others to think about them more,” she said.
Nieblas has built a community online that she has naturally impacted so deeply, she now feels like this is something she can’t let go of.
“Be who you want to see, and be that for other people,” she said.
Nieblas wants to help others by sharing her true feelings and encouraging others to share what’s real about them.
“Existence is resistance,” Nieblas said. “I learned how to love myself by myself.”