While plus size representation in the media still has a long way to go, the past few years have given us quite a few complex, well-written, plus-size characters to root for. We’re leaving behind the days of the funny fat sidekick, and we’re leaning into characters of size being more than their bodies. We’re seeing plus size leading ladies and main characters; we’re seeing real, human stories portrayed by real people based on their own lived experiences. For the first time, we’re seeing depth, nuance, and humanity, flaws and all, in characters who look like us. In Shrill’s incredible pool party scene, you know the one, I realized I had never before seen bodies that looked like my own portrayed so lovingly on screen. I’m talking about romantic lighting, dreamy music, lingering shots – the way film and TV normally looks at women, but never women like me. It was a profoundly powerful moment that I’m never going to forget.
"We’re seeing depth, nuance, and humanity, flaws and all, in characters who look like us."
Though plus size characters in TV have been around for a long time, we’ve rarely been cast as the trendsetters, the fashion risk-takers. Historically, even in shows featuring a plus character in a leading role, the wardrobe is often drab, plain, and minimizing, stressing layers, flowing fabric, and plain, dark colors. I wanted to showcase a few characters of size who have inspired me to live my best, most authentic, and confident life. They’re not afraid to take up space and live out loud, often taking fashion risks and ‘breaking the rules’ on what women should wear based on the size of their bodies.
So without further ado, here are a few TV characters breaking barriers and being unapologetically hot!
Annie, Shrill (Hulu)
Played effortlessly by Aidy Bryant of SNL, Shrill follows Annie, a women in her late 20’s through her everyday experiences, colored by judgement and fatphobia from the people around her. The show deftly handles the constant microaggressions that come from being a person of size, or any marginalized person really. We watched in real time as Annie opened herself up, took up space, and allowed herself to simply exist. And let’s not forget her killer sense of style – I mean come on, adorable.
Donna, Parks and Rec (Peacock)
Although Parks and Rec has been finished for several years now, I keep coming back to Retta’s brilliant portrayal of Donna Meagle as one of my favorite plus representations in Hollywood, period. Donna doesn’t hide or minimize her body. In fact, she draws attention by wearing bold and bright colors and patterns. Donna knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after exactly that. Her confidence and self love is what we should all hope to achieve someday, however long it takes us to get there.
Kat, Euphoria (HBO Max)
Played by Barbie Ferreira, Kat is a high schooler dealing with the pressure that comes from being the largest in size of her group of friends. This is a feeling I am intimately familiar with, which is why I relate to Kat on so many levels. She puts up a front of self-confidence, but it’s brittle and crumbles easily. Kat eventually finds confidence through exploring her sexuality on the internet, a familiar experience to a lot of young women today. We see her hit bumps and take missteps, which is so refreshing to see on screen. It’s raw and it’s real and I can’t wait to see where Kat’s journey takes her next.
Fran, Shrill (Hulu)
Okay, I know I’ve already added Shrill to this list, but Lolly Adefope’s Fran is too good not to include as well. I love her attitude and edgy androgynous style. A risk-taker and a trendsetter, Fran is the model for what the future of plus size representation should be. She’s also a fantastic reminder that you can have all of the confidence in the world, you can be flawless and fashionable, and you can still have bad days. And that’s okay. She’s real, she’s human, she’s flawed, and she is so loved, just like you and me.