Imagine walking along the streets of the Capital City Public Market and seeing a woman standing in a black bikini, blindfold on and arms held out with pens in hand. She has a sign at her feet that reads, “I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with a self-esteem issue like me, because all bodies are valuable. To support self-acceptance, draw a heart on my body.”
After shedding her clothes at the Capital City Public Market to help spread body positivity, Amy Pence-Brown, performing artist and fat activist, was invited to speak as part of Tri Delta’s first annual Tri Love Week.
“I feel super proud of this project and I could never have anticipated that it would have such an impact,” Pence-Brown said.
On Oct. 21, music played in the background as the Simplot Ballroom filled with sorority sisters, students, community members and a few fraternity brothers waiting to hear Pence-Brown speak. A banner hung on stage, covered in painted hand-prints that had been made by people who pledged to love themselves.
The audience quieted as Olivia DeGiulio, body image coordinator for Tri Delta and junior nursing major, began to explain the concept of Tri Love Week and showed a video Tri Delta had made about self-love.
“Tri Love Week is basically a week of self-acceptance. The whole week represents just us doing a movement,” DeGiulio said. “It’s all about awareness. We aren’t funding for anything. It’s just getting the word out there that it’s important to love yourself.”
DeGiulio then introduced Pence-Brown, who took the stage and started her speech by showing the video of her original street performance, from Aug. 29.
“In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act,” said the video as it closed, bringing tears from the audience.
This type of ideology is what Idaho native Pence-Brown is out to change. Having struggled with weight fluctuations from a young age, Pence-Brown is determined to improve the way people see themselves and others.
“You cannot fully love others until you love yourself,” Pence-Brown said.
Pence-Brown has been part of the body positive movement for six years, and started the Boise Rad Fat Collective in 2013. The BRFC began as a Facebook group for people whose goal was to promote body positivity, and to share thoughts on how people can be happy and healthy at any size. This group now makes an effort to meet in person and host body positive events.
As a mother of two daughters who are seven and eleven years-old, and a one and a half year-old son, it is important to Pence-Brown to raise them in an accepting environment.
“(My kids) are super proud and super excited for the message because it’s nothing but positivity and they’ve gotten nothing but great feedback. They’re like little mini-celebrities at their school,” Pence-Brown said.
Megan Felter, Tri Delta sister and sophomore sociology major, agrees that children should be introduced to the idea of self-love.
“I have a lot of younger cousins that are girls and they look at the magazines, and I know one of them just started dieting,” Felter said. “That’s kind of when it hit me and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! You don’t need to change!’ because she’s like eight (years old).”
Felter said that she herself started dieting at 12 years old, but has since gained more self-confidence.
“I just decided that I should love myself instead of trying to change myself, because I’m always going to have just one body,” Felter said.
Pence-Brown’s project was developed with people like Felter in mind. It was not a last-minute decision for Pence-Brown to perform, but rather years as an activist and being inspired by others, such as The Liberators International in Australia.
The woman who performed in a similar manner in Australia, Jae West, has a body type that is “socially acceptable,” which made Pence-Brown wonder how the performance would be received if done by a mom, someone who was fat and in a much less progressive city.
The morning Pence-Brown scheduled to make her appearance, she was very nervous, but knew that she would go through with the performance.
Pence-Brown often thinks back to that morning and the goal she had set.
“If five people draw a heart (on me), then this has been a success. I’ve touched five people’s lives and made them think about self-love,” Pence-Brown said.
Within the first 10 seconds of Pence-Brown’s project, a woman came up and told her how brave and powerful she was, then proceeded to draw a heart and write positive words on Pence-Brown’s body.
Many other people came up to Pence-Brown within the 50-minute period, to tell her how amazing her performance was and how they could relate to her message of struggling with accepting their bodies.
“This is what a beautiful woman looks like,” said a father, who came up to Pence-Brown with his two sons and explained the message to them
Another came up to her and said, “The power of this moment will go on in ways you never thought possible.”
After the washable markers started to run out of ink, and Pence-Brown was completely covered in writing, she took off her blindfold and took in the crowd surrounding her. She then went home, where she had her husband read off all of the lovely messages on her body, leaving them both in tears.
Since the event, which took place at the end of August, Pence-Brown has received millions of views on the video of her performance, as well as countless interviews and appearance invitiations.
“(Her stardom) happened so quickly. But, again, it couldn’t be for a better cause. Like if I had to be famous for anything, I could never have picked a more perfect, beautiful thing to be famous for,” Pence-Brown said.
As for future projects, Pence-Brown is scheduled to present at TedxBoise on Jan. 23. She was also appointed the celebrity bell ringer at the Capital City Public Market on Sat, Oct. 24. This woman isn’t stopping her self-love movement any time soon.
“There’s no wrong way to have a body,” Pence-Brown said.