Fairen Kia Harris (she/her/hers) sits at a booth in the Old Louisville Coffee Co-op, surrounded by unsuspecting customers who might not immediately know they are in the presence of a powerhouse. She looks unsuspecting in glasses and what she deems her ‘teacher dress’… a long red sundress, arms out, braless, long blonde dreadlocks with rainbow accents flowing to her waist.
Even with more skin covered than usual, her “no holds barred” confidence commands the room. She is a Special Education Instructor by day, revolutionary by night… boss bitch everywhere in between.
This author/speaker/blogger/podcaster/public figure became popular on social media after casually starting the #LoveThyBelly movement simply by being herself and posting about her own body love/hate journey. Fairen now brings her unique brand of body advocacy to spoken word events twerking in dark nightclubs and shaking it in broad daylight. She displays her flesh as a “fatshion” icon without apology. Her bright shining light encourages others to do the same.
She has reclaimed the word ‘fat’.
She wears short skirts, tight dresses and see through clothing; She doesn’t hide behind societal expectations… anymore.
But before the triumph of unabashedly celebrating her beautiful body in today’s fat-phobic world, Fairen journeyed down a dark path many can relate to, before ending up at a place of self-love and celebration.
“I felt that my layers of fat and my layers of skin were this prison that I couldn’t escape. I kind of sat with myself and realized how it wasn’t my body that was keeping me trapped… It was my mind. And, me thinking that there was something wrong with me.”
“All the experiences I’ve had with people in reference to my body, whether those had been intimate and sexual, wanted, or unwanted experiences… It almost felt like I was a traitor to my body by making it feel like there was ever something wrong with it. At one point, I hated it. I didn’t look in the mirror for years of my life.”
The queen of body confidence spent many early years of her life with pieces of paper taped to the mirror, blocking her view from the face down.
“I had like different quotes, Bible scriptures and all these other things just taped around. I had one of those circle mirrors and I taped everything around it. The only thing I could see was the top of my shoulders up to my head. I just refused to look at myself. I didn’t take pictures for years.”
Now, not only does the Love Thy Belly creator work the camera as a pro at paid photo shoots and modeling gigs, she wears string bikinis on stage while speaking life into other women at events like the Body Kindness- Plus Size Women Empowerment of Louisville pool party.
“It’s been this journey with each piece of my body. I’ve been accepting more and more…”
Her legs. Belly. Back fat. The dimples, ripples and rolls that make a woman real. Unapologetically on display.
“My Nana would say, ‘You always naked like that Beyonce!’”
The hashtag #LoveThy Belly was a divine inspiration that Harris added to an early post online. Soon others started tagging their pictures with the same hashtag.
“In 2015, I first wrote a letter to my body, apologizing, then legit started posting about it. That’s what I did. First, I made this post about my body, and it was images of me being at my biggest I had ever been. I never thought anything about it afterwards. I just did it.”
As the responses grew online, so did the self-love, acceptance, and eventually, advocacy for others.
“When I started writing physical letters to myself, they were more than just letters to my body. It was just about me in general. I had already apologized to my body basically for just accepting what I felt was love at the time, from women and men, who I knew didn’t love me. But because they did something with my body, that translated to love for me at that time.”
Fairen decided to see the beauty in who she was by taking control of her own life and narrative.
“So, I just apologized to my body and told my body everything that I had understood and thought about it was not the truth. I was going to learn to stand in my truth and not what other people were saying to me, because that was their shit, not mine.”
But the weight of society’s expectations remain heavy, even for those who wear the crown.
Fairen began to lose weight after working out two times a day to achieve a desired version of herself others deemed acceptable.
“I used exercise as punishment. I was striving to become their ‘after’. I looked at myself as if I was bad, I was horrible.”
When Fairen entered a relationship that eventually turned toxic, she was a smaller version of herself but began gaining the weight back.
“I gained physical weight and mental weight.”
The damage of being in a toxic relationship compounded over the years.
“She didn’t like how I looked. The words were there and damaging. She didn’t want to be with me because I was fat. I generally felt like I was not a worthy person because of my size. By the time I realized that, I felt trapped again. It was all I knew. One of my biggest fears is that maybe I would be a burden on somebody. Or that me being fat meant I wasn’t deserving of love.”
After the break-up in 2019, Harris was ready to take her life and confidence to the next level. She began modeling and walked her first runway on what would have been the third anniversary with her ex.
“It was invigorating. At first, it was scary as fuck and I had thoughts like, ‘Am I good enough for this?’ But when I showed up for the model call, there were so many different shapes, sizes, colors, hair. It was about being in that room of brilliant, beautiful women… It was amazing. People clapping and cheering, it was great.”
Harris began booking photoshoots and speaking engagements at other body positive events.
Fairen Harris shared her message at the GlitterBomb Body Positivity Clothes Swap and Dream Board Party.
“I was being very publicly vulnerable about my experience and my own journey about my body, and my therapy journey, and other people started to notice. So, then they started saying it, too. And then they started tagging their pictures with #LoveThyBelly… Love Thy Belly became a fuck you to society.”
Soon Harris started receiving messages and texts that would say things like ‘Hey, you know, I saw what you posted today. And I just wanted you to know that I was really struggling with my body and seeing your post really helped.’
The responses coming in were also not from just fellow fat girls, but from many varying body types.
“The messages would be from people, who in my head, looked like the societal perfection of what a ‘good’ body looks like. But it doesn’t matter. That’s the biggest thing I have learned in this body work that I’ve done is that no matter what a person’s body looks like, how they feel about themselves is still a result of society’s expectations and their own life experiences. And that has been incredible.”
Hearing the honest struggles and hope of others have also continued to help Fairen in her healing journey.
“Affirmations have helped a lot because I do have intrusive thoughts. So, if I say something negative, especially about my physical appearance, then I counteract that by saying three positive things about my physical appearance.”
Her story is not all g-strings and glitter. There is an honesty and vulnerability to her words and posts that empowers others to keep working through their own dark thoughts, tendencies, and behaviors.
“There were times where I struggled with suicide and suicidal ideation. And sometimes, I actually still struggle with suicidal ideation, not so much attempts. I had attempted once when I was a lot younger. In 2019, I struggled a little bit too. 2020-2021 not so much for me, but I know a lot of other people did. Fucking rough years. That’s the result of a lot of isolation.”
Saying affirmations in the mirror became a preferred pump-up method and path to empowerment.
“I’m training my brain. For me, it’s the first thing I say. Because loving myself is going to help me survive.”
Fairen began covering her house and bedroom walls with positive post-it notes. Affirmations became a way of life. She complied her words into the self-published a book “Dear Fat Girls.”
“2018-2019 was a big year for me. I’d written ‘Dear Fat’ girls that year. I was writing so much about using the word fat as an identifier for myself that I felt like it was a word reclamation. My whole life that word was used to tear me down. But in that moment, it felt like ‘this is not mine to hold…’ Me being fat? There’s nothing wrong with that. So I just started using that as an identifier, kind of like the same way that I use the word queer. It’s just as a self-identify.”
Fairen first realized she was into women in 2016 and later officially came out in college by writing a poem. Her friends were not surprised.
“I’ve always found bodies attractive!”
“I thought I would identify as lesbian, maybe for like a day, but that didn’t feel good, that didn’t sit right. Then I started dating a trans person, and thought, ‘Maybe I’m bi, pan…’ I just kind of ended with queer and that felt like a very all-encompassing term for me.”
An all-inclusive self-love is now what fuels the ‘Fairen Effect’.
“I remember what I wrote in that letter to myself saying that no matter what I looked like, no matter how my body changed, I was going to love it regardless… I love me and I love my body.”
Keep up with Fairen Kia and future events at LoveThyBelly.org.