Sunday, January 21, 2018

Plus-size women weigh in


SPEAKING OUT: Models from DPE Model Management.

Mark Fraser

In his interview with the Sunday Express last weekend, Grenada-born singer Mr Kill@ said, unlike what it may look like on the surface, his Carnival 2014 smash hit “Rolly Polly” was created to empower plus-size women, not degrade them.

Since the song’s release, “Rolly Polly” has enjoyed on-rotation radio airplay and the artiste’s Carnival schedule is crazy busy.

What do the big girls, the women that  Mr Kill@ claims to be empowering, really think of the song? 

We indulged the models of the San Fernando-based Divas Plus Evolution (DPE) Model Management, and found out that while some get the direction Mr Kill@ is going with the song, there are those who don’t agree that the song is complimentary to their size as the singer may think.

DPE, formerly called The Sophisticated Divas Plus Inc, is a Caribbean organisation that is dedicated to the empowerment and advancement of plus-size/full-figure women. 

“I think our society has yet again taken a term that originally had a positive meaning and turned it into a somewhat negative term,” model Mekelia Monroe said. 

“Although the majority of the public gave a positive response to the song and the catchy (chorus), there are others who have dragged the term through the mud and associated the term with that of a negative and degrading nature.”

Nerissa Blackman said that while she appreciates that Mr Kill@ is trying to express that thick women are sexy, the term “Rolly Polly” offsets the genuine nature of his statement. 

Model Brittini Frank has been on the receiving end of those “Rolly Polly” jokes.

“To me I hate the song,” she declared. I don’t want anyone calling me ‘Rolly Polly’. I have been called it a lot since the song came out and I feel to slap each and everyone who calls me that. I can’t walk by anyone playing music on the streets without them instantly changing the song to ‘Rolly Polly’ when I pass—as if it is a theme song. My theme song is more fascinating, trust me,” she said.

While she has yet to be called a “Rolly Polly”—at least to her face, Robertha St Hillaire said she has friends who have been teased with the word and who have also been “swarmed” by men in parties once the song starts to play.  

The models of DPE who liked “Rolly Polly” when it was first released changed their minds once they saw the accompanying music video in which Mr Kill@, born Hollice Mapp, is seen cavorting with big girls. At one point he even straddles one of his big girl dancers.

“The video represents something totally different from when he performs live,” Jumille Moore-Yarde.  Mr Kill@’s live performances also feature the slender entertainer lifting his big girls to dance. 

“The song is catchy and the girls (in the video) do have skills and are well-dressed; but he just want a bumper to wine up on in a party because all the video showing is wining up.”

Owner of the DPE, Kimberly Marshall, is not a fan of the term “Rolly Polly”, but after reading an interview on Mr Kill@ about his objective to praise and uplift the bigger woman, she remains positive about the song.

“I applaud him in his efforts to empower big women and make them feel sexy and wanted.”

She is well aware that there are some who abuse the term and turn it into a negative to targe plus-size women.

“My advice to these women is to not take it on. It’s just a song.”

Marshall said the objective of her organisation is to serve as an advocate for positivity, upliftment, support and encouragement to extra-curvaeous women. DEP also promotes positive self-image, health awareness and the sharing of strength and sisterhood throughout the country and other Caribbean islands.   

Reigning Miss Trinidad Plus and model manager of DPE, Stacy Castle, agrees with Marshall on the song.

She believes that Mr Kill@ has a genuine appreciation for bigger women and that his song exemplifies it.

“My belief is that the use of the words ‘Rolly Polly’ was more to make the song flow and rhyme than to be in any way offensive.”

“People are using the words to create more negative than what is (implied) in the song.”

Shari Samantha Reynald was of the view that Rolly Polly is just another term of endearment for the big girls—just  like “thick gyal”, “thick sauce” and “chooks”.

“As plus-sized women we take pride and owernship for our size and we may not agree with Mr Kill@’s choice of words; but would it have been better if he sang ‘ah want ah thick gyal, ah want ah chooksy lady?’ It’s saying  the same thing. We have to find that space within ourselves where we are comfortable with our plus size no matter what Mr Kill@ calls us in his song.”

Castle called on plus-size women to ignore the negatives people put on “Rolly Polly” and instead embrace their curves and love themselves. 

Mr Kill@ too had some advice too for his plus-size female fans—“Look beyond the negatives that your mind tell you about yourself.”

“Most of us are unhappy with ourselves and so to hear that you’re fat you instantly become touchy. That’s a sign of weakness,” she said.  

“I respect people who have a negative view of the song because we are not all on the same level. What I do is entertainment and with this song I want to reach people who have an appreciation for the big girls.”