Writing Center
Fall 2005 Edition

There's More to Me Than Just Fat

Felesha Cairo
Expressive 1010 Voice

 “Who’s that girl over there? You know, the pleasantly plump, outgoing, Hispanic, beauty over there? Is that Felesha Cairo?” Yes, that’s me. I’m the fat girl in class. Is that such a bad thing? Not for me. There’s more to me than just fat. Take a look. When you first see me, you think, “Dang, she’s fat.” But when you sit down at your desk and class drives on, you find yourself looking at me again…then again …then again. You begin to notice my sun-kissed skin and the golden flecks in my dark brown sugar hair that seems endless in tangles of curls. You take note of my soft smile and rosy cheeks. After being lost in my forest green eyes, you find yourself thinking, “She’s really not that bad. In fact, she’s really not that fat … more like pleasantly plump.” After realizing that I wear no make-up, you come to the conclusion that I’m naturally beautiful and perfect just the way I am. Being plump is just what people see me as from the outside. As humans, we make assumptions by first impressions. It’s when people stop and really look at others that they start to see the true beauty of them. Every human being is a work of art, each with his/her own colors, shapes, curves, and movement.
One of my colors comes from being Cuban. My grandfather was Cuban but died when my father was still a toddler. I have an appreciation for the Cuban culture,e even though I know little about it. Cuban music has had an effect on me. Yerba Buena is one of the Cuban bands that make the blood in my veins start to pump. The beat of the music enters my ears to penetrate my body and dictate the movements in my chest, his, arms, legs, and feet. When you’re lost in the rhythm of the music, all else falls away and size doesn’t matter anymore. You can just be you.     

Behind every piece of artwork is a story. The home and environment that I was raised in plays a significant role in shaping me.  Coming from a “broken” home has helped shape me to be the woman I am today. As a little girl growing up in San Diego, I was exposed to “life outside the box.” Drugs, alcohol, and infidelity within marriage constantly surrounded me in my own home. My mother was the strong one in our family. She couldn’t keep me away from the fumes of drugs when my father would use them in front of me. Nor could she cover my ears when he would be drunk and yell and argue with her. However, she did protect me from ever taking up the habits of my father. When she finally built up the courage to leave him, I had just turned twelve. We moved to Utah, and I had to become the strong one in and for the family. Taking care of my five year-old brother while my mother went to work caused me to become a mother at 12 years old. Having to raise my brother was a hard task for a 12-year-old, but through this challenge, I gained a close and binding relationship with my brother that can’t be broken. This chapter of my life caused me to grow up much faster than most kids my age, but has helped me gain the knowledge and experience that helps me to be a real woman in these modern days.

Having a “pleasantly plump” figure is sometimes a roadblock for other people who can’t look past it. When people finally do see past the outer me, they see a confident, outgoing, outspoken, and independent girl. I spent many years of my life being shy. Being plump gave me a sense of insecurity since I looked “so different” from other people. This, in turn, made me aware of the way I looked compared with the outer appearances of the other people around me. I had many friends from all different social classes, but I could never bring myself to say “hello” to the new kid in school. That would have been too outside of my shell to deal with. After moving to Utah in the seventh grade when my parents separated and spending my entire junior high school years with my head down, I decided it was time for a change.  I popped my own bubble. Since that life-changing moment, I have made friends more easily and have a more positive outlook on life.

Having a more positive outlook on life has empowered me to accept the way I look and even scheme to make my body help me achieve my pursuit of becoming an actress on Broadway. In acting, body shapes can help portray a type of character. For example, a skinny person that walks hunched-over and shuffles can easily be the “nerd” or “brains” of the show like Steve Urkle from the television show Family Matters. “Fat” people are generally associated with the comical character of the show. This is the character that I want to play--the chunky, stumpy, funny, but-oh-so-adorable character that you can’t help but laugh at and fall in love with like the character of Sister Mary Patrick in the movie Sister Act. Using the shape, curves, and movement of my pleasantly plump body can help me as an actress obtain these roles and play the characters I want. In theatre, we call this a character choice.

No matter how many rewards I seek to realize from my size, being a plump actress will always be an issue to some people-- especially those from my Mexican/American/Cuban background. Hispanics, as well as many other nationalities, disgrace women who are overweight, or “gorditas” as they call them. “If you are a gordita, how will you ever find a husband?” asks my Mexican Grandmother and darling friend who is still stuck in her traditional ways. “Aye, Felesha, I pray to God that you marry a rich, white man that will take care of you for the rest of your life. Pero, first, you have to lose weight--you are too fat.” When this idea is repeated to me every time she sees and/or visits with me, I can’t help but laugh at my little Grandma and her Spanish accent.

Possessing the ability to laugh at myself and accept the way I am is all a part of learning to love myself, despite the “imperfections” I might think I have. But, then again, maybe there really are no “imperfections,” for everyone is a beautiful work of art, each with his/her own colors, shapes, curves, and movements. Those who know me use other words to describe me. Those words include “fun,” “loving,” “weird,” “emotional,” and “so-out-there.” Hence, no one word or category defines me. I’m just me, Felesha Eva Cairo. I’m the fat girl in class, but there’s more to me than just fat. Take a look.

Works Cited:

Sister Act. Dir. Emile Andolino. Perf. Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Kathy Najimy,
 Wendy Makkena. Touchstone Video, 1992.

Family Matters. By William Bickley and Michael Warren IV, Dir. Richard Correll, Perf.
 Jaleel White, Darius McCrary, Jaimee Foxworth, Judyann Elder, Valerie Jones,
Telma Hopkins, Reginald VelJohnson, Jo Marie Payton, Kellie Shanygne
 Williams, Rosetta LeNoire, and Bryton McClure. ABC, 1989.