This past July, you may have seen artist Allison Tunis’ drawings all across social media. Tunis, who has degrees in fine art and art therapy, had released a body positive coloring book titled, Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book, and the response was massive. The book is equal parts therapeutic and educational, and it was a natural extension of Allison’s background in art therapy. For her, it was a small way to give back to the community who has given her so much. We are so incredibly inspired by Allison and think she’s a total #BossBabe.
So your awesome book, Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book, just came out, and we love it. What was your inspiration?
What inspired me was my own journey through self-love, body acceptance and finding body love. It has been a tough road for me, as a plus-size woman and struggling to exist in a world where I am told my body is wrong. Through the body positive and fat activism movement, I have found bloggers, models, designers and other personalities who have personally inspired me along this journey and I ended up deciding to feature them in this book.
You’re right. Body positivity is a journey! Once you had the idea, how long did it take you to get everything together?
Once I determined the folks I wanted to be in the book, it then came down to who responded! I was so blessed that everyone said yes, and then once we had finally agreed to requirements, it took almost six months to get the project completed. From drawing, re-drawing, editing, formatting and then publishing on Amazon - it was no easy feat!
We’re really blown away that you’re donating a significant portion of your proceeds to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Can you tell us more about how that came about?
I gave each of the participants the option of earning their portion of 25% of the profits (25% divided evenly among all the personalities), or donating their portion to the Canadian Mental Health Association in their name. I wanted everyone to have this choice as I felt very strongly that none of my participants should have to work for free; they all take time and work making and creating content for their blogs, so I shouldn’t expect to use their images for free. The option for the donation was so that we (as activists) could fight back against the effects that weight based stigma and fat-phobia within our society often manifest within ourselves as mental health issues.
What does body positivity mean to you and why do you think it's so important for everyone to understand its principles?
To me, body positivity is an umbrella term that basically means that all bodies should be equally respected and loved. Our bodies do so much for us, and yet society has indoctrinated us to believe that if our bodies don't fit a certain image, that they are not worthwhile or beautiful. I think it’s an important concept for all people to understand because diet culture has so infiltrated all aspects of our society that it seems like no one can ever be happy with their body. Loving ourselves will lead to loving each other, and tolerance for diversity will bring about a more respectful and loving community.
Okay, so real talk: we know you probably featured many of them in the book, but who are some of your favorite bloggers and fat activists currently?
There are so many! Jes Baker, of The Militant Baker, was the very first blogger I found in the body positive movement. I still follow and read her work, along with many others - such as Ragen Chastain, Stacey Louidor of Hantise de L'oubli, Aarti Olivia Dubey of Curves Become Her, Cynthia Ramsay Noel of Flight of the Fat Girl, and the site The Fat Nutritionist.
So you work in art therapy. Can you talk to us about the ways art can have a positive effect on your mental health?
Art as a method of meditation and therapy can be very beneficial to people facing weight based stigmas. Using art in a therapeutic or meditative form can allow the opportunity for people to reflect on their self-worth, their positive attributes, and find beauty in their own creation and body. With my book specifically, repeatedly seeing and taking the time to color in and decorate beautiful images of plus-size bodies will give readers the opportunity to reflect on the bodies they see and ultimately, finding more beauty in themselves. Good mental health is a difficult target to reach, but it matters in the fight against weight based stigmas and fat-phobia.
What are some of the hurdles you have faced since releasing the book?
Since releasing the book, reviews have been so positive with many media outlets wanting to do interviews. But some people have left poor reviews and those have been challenging for me, as some of them attack me personally. I keep having to remind myself that, if the haters come out of the woodwork, it’s because you’re challenging the norm and making a difference. I wasn’t really prepared for the outright hate that comes with being a fat activist, so at times it's been difficult. But I always keep in perspective that the positive (feedback) always outweighs the negative feedback.
Okay last question: what do you think it takes to be a #BossBabe nowadays?
An open mind and the willingness to explore the positive and beauty, not just in the world but in ourselves. Anyone can be a #BossBabe if you're willing to begin to see your own fabulousness!