By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / director: Joe Nation
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Dan Cousins
And with the launch of her #wewearwhatwewant hashtag, Simone Mariposa from South Los Angeles has become an inspiration for plus-size women across the world.
The 23-year-old, who wears a US dress size 22, said: "I like being really daring with my fashion choices. I like to incorporate a lot of short shorts, ripped jeans and crop tops because I like to show a lot of skin and I love feeling sexy and free with my body."
"I’ve been told a lot of times that fat girls can’t wear crop tops, fat girls can’t wear shorts. They need to cover up their arms, they can’t show their rolls."
"But I honestly say, who cares! It’s about feeling comfortable in my body and feeling free."
Simone makes no secret of the fact she is ‘fat', spelling it out in capital letters on her social media bios, and prefers to refer to herself with that adjective over other more politically correct terms.
She said: "I put the word fat in caps on all of my social media because I want people to know that it is something that I am aware of. I cannot count the times that people have come on my page and say, ‘Wow, you are fat!’ or like, ‘Wow. You are big.’ And honestly to save the trouble I just get it out of the way, like I know already!"
"It takes the power out of the word because I am aware of what it means to me."
She added: "The word fat is something that shaped my life and the journey that I have gone through. And it is a part of me. So to have that word on my social media is just to give a better representation of who I am."
Overweight since she was a child, Simone used food as a coping mechanism to deal with the teasing and bullying she suffered at school.
She said: "I experienced a lot of bullying growing up. If we played tag in the schoolyard the other kids would say things like, ‘She’s so big, don’t play with her.’
"When I was a kid I was called Fat Albert, big tub of lard - any of those names that really stung.
"Those words really hurt because people don’t really realise that words have power."
Eating became a security blanket for Simone and it’s only more recently that she’s been able to separate eating when hungry and eating as a form of emotional support.
Although the odd family member has challenged her to lose some weight, the only other time her parents or close family have said anything is if Simone herself expresses concerns.
"I’m definitely a lot more aware of what I eat, when I eat and why I’m eating. Now it’s simply about feeding my body because, just like everyone else, I get hungry as well.
"I believe people should know that by being a confident plus-size woman, I'm not telling people to gain weight and be big like me. I want people to love themselves the way they are."
As well as reassessing her relationship with food, the sociology and vocal music student has reclaimed the insulting words she used to hear as a child and teen.
Simone said: "I have no problems calling myself words like chunky, chubby, fluffy and voluptuous.
"It is not necessarily that I am reclaiming the word fat as positive, but I just want to take the negative connotation out of it. I want people to start realising that the word fat is just a descriptive word. It is not an insult."
In spite of her large size, Simone, who co-hosts a radio show with fellow plus-size model Tejera Magee, called A Fat Girl’s World, is strongly against the fetishisation of big women.
"So often plus-size women are seen as sexual objects and just our bodies. And I want to emphasise that there are people within those bodies who have feelings, who have emotions, who have thoughts and I want them to feel free to express those without being considered just a body that a man would have sex with.
"There’s a large community of BBW lovers and ‘chubby chasers’ and I am not a fan of that at all."
Instead Simone is using her large size to promote body positivity and call out the body shamers. She recently became an unofficial social media spokesperson after one of her Instagram posts went viral.
She explained: "I saw a story on my twitter feed about a plus-sized woman who was being publicly body shamed. And I realised that was such a common story for all plus-size women and I wanted to create a safe space for plus-size women to feel comfortable in their bodies.’
Posting a photo of herself in a nude bodycon dress, Simone wrote underneath her picture, ‘Your approval is not necessary’ alongside the #wewearwhatwewant hashtag. Thousands of women across the US, and Europe have now claimed the hashtag as their own.
Simone said: "I didn’t know it was going to go viral but that just shows this is an issue that needs to be highlighted."
An aspiring model, Simone has worked on a number of modeling campaigns but says being a plus-size, black woman means she faces more prejudice than most.
"I have worked with Reb Dolls; I’ve worked with Society Plus. I also did a campaign with one of my blogger friends, Brianna McDonnell, for a campaign called ‘Be in your skin’. And most recently I did a national campaign with Torrid for their fall denim campaign called, ‘In My Jeans’.
"I definitely face more challenges than the conventional curve or plus-size model because number one, I am a dark skinned black woman and I am also on the large side of plus size. So there isn’t much room for women who look like me."
After the positive feedback from her hashtag, Simone is looking at new ways to continue her quest of empowering women.
"I hope to be another representation of visibly plus women, black women, outspoken, spunky, headstrong women who intend to break barriers and challenge norms."