Jae’lynn Chaney is going places. From Hawaii to the Dominican Republic to trendy Portland hotels, this Vancouver-based travel blogger evaluates her experiences and enthusiastically reports back to followers on social media. While she’s at it, she models new clothing and touts a useful product or two.
Chaney has such an extensive and loyal following that she’s considered an “influencer,” or a person with the ability to persuade her fans to buy a product or service simply by mentioning it on her social media channels. High-profile companies pay her to review their products and services, not unusual for social media celebrities. What’s extraordinary about Chaney is that she’s at the forefront of a new phenomenon: plus-size influencers.
“For so many years, the narrative we’ve seen is that, ‘You don’t fit into society’s standards of beauty, so you have to be miserable and don’t travel and don’t go places and wear clothes that you don’t like,’ ” said Chaney, 25. “A larger individual who’s found love and travels the world and who’s happy and confident and who helps others find those things is why people connect with me. I give them hope and inspiration that they can live their best life, no matter what their size.”
The idea that larger-bodied people should be afforded the same respect and opportunities as anyone else isn’t new. The current thinking about body positivity (celebrating all body sizes) and body neutrality (body size is neither good nor bad) has its origins in Llewellyn Louderback’s 1967 essay in the Saturday Evening Post, “More People Should Be Fat.” In 1969, Bill Fabrey, inspired by Louderback’s ideas, founded what became the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. In 1979, Louderback published the book “Fat Power: Whatever You Weigh Is Right.”
What’s new is that national brands are finally appreciating that power — namely, consumer power. Airlines, hotels, theaters, clothing lines and big box stores like Walmart and Target are getting the message that Chaney and hundreds of other influencers are shouting every day: Larger-bodied people will not be told that they can’t be fashionable, comfortable or just plain happy.