When you’re a woman-identified or femme-presenting person who’s “on the heavier side”, the world can be a very stressful place. We see around us ads where women with some 7% body fat are made to feel self-conscious about how they look (Lipton Green Tea, I’m looking at you!). Imagine what it’s like for us fat femmes! Wouldn’t it be nice to be told for once that you’re okay just as you are? Wouldn’t it be even better to hear that dozens of times? Well, Sydney-based artist Joanna Thangaiah has you covered! And if you haven’t already been lovin’ her on Instagram, here’s what you’re missing!
Her art style is arresting. Each figure is a lovely cocktail of rockabilly, acid-punk and riot grrrl, with Thangaiah’s trademark button-nosed baby-faced femme, sporting out-of-this-world mascara. And each illustration carries with it a powerful, brazen, no-bullshit messages of self-acceptance.
Thangaiah’s work speaks for itself, and without further ado, we’re just going to let you enjoy the energy wafting off of each of these images!
Thangaiah’s work tells us all that ‘big girls are beautiful’, but that’s just barely scratching the surface of what she does. As the daughter of Sri Lankan parents living in very white Australia, her identity as a woman of colour finds expression in her art, as an identity that is simultaneously demeaned and exoticised. It’s an experience that any woman of colour in a largely white setting might relate with.
Something else that’s striking about her work is how fiercely confident her mascara-ed characters are. Fat femmes have had to recede, shrink, and apologise for who we are and how much space we occupy. We are told to wear shame like a second skin, to punish ourselves for how we look. But Thangaiah completely flips the script, by sticking it to The Man™ (read: patriarchy). And you have to admit, it’s super therapeutic!