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Fat Zine 2
Corinne OlivierCourtesy of The Fat Zine

The Fat Zine shines a light on love and desire for fat people

The fat liberation zine’s second issue rails against the loveless representation of fat people in media and pop culture to bring us joy and heart, from old school activist interviews to personal postcards

“I met God and they’re fat too,” reads the back cover of the second issue of The Fat Zine, Gina Tonic and Chloe Sheppard’s radical, fat-positive publication. Launched last year, The Fat Zine celebrates the lives, bodies, and experiences of fat people, putting them front and centre in a way that is still remiss in mainstream media. Following the inaugural issue last September, issue two has now dropped – this time, with an exploration of all the nuances and facets of love. 

A very deliberate choice, the theme of love is an antidote to the ‘self-isolation’ motif that ran through the first issue and explored not only the loneliness we’ve all experienced over lockdown but also, Tonic says, the feelings of isolation that fat people feel, particularly growing up. “The love theme is a great counter to our first issue,” says Tonic. “Fat people need a bit more love and adoration in the media that involves our bodies and lives.” Sheppard agrees saying that love involving fat people is seldom explored, especially with any sense of brightness or desire. “This felt like a chance for us to try to show some of that representation we deserve,” she says. 

Packed full with essays, poetry, short stories, photography, and art, issue two features interviews with the likes of TikTok's dancing Steven McKell, postcards by Laura Du Ve, and the exciting addition of Dazed 100 winner La’Shaunae as the new music editor. As with the first issue, the pair relied primarily on open submissions for the content, giving their community a platform to express themselves and see themselves represented. One of these submissions was the back cover image by Ray Madrigal, a standout piece for Tonic which gives a nod to the fat acceptance movements of the past, building on what has come before, and moving the conversation into the future. “It echoes the sentiment of signs from the 1969 ‘Fat In’ protest in New York, that read ‘Buddha Is Fat Too,’” she explains. “It’s simultaneously nice and sad that these sentiments (and defences) have been going on for so long.” 

Another nod to cultural icons comes in an interview with Marilyn Wann, the author and speaker who founded the Riot Grrrl zine Fat!So? in the early 90s. As a longtime supporter of zine culture following her work with Polyester and Ione Gamble, Tonic was honoured to talk to Wann and find out she was a fan of The Fat Zine. “Marilyn is someone who I look up to immensely and the interview I did with her made me cry!” she says. “We didn't include it in the zine because it felt a bit self congratulatory but when we asked her what other fat publications she admires, she replied ours.” It was a full-circle moment for Sheppard, who has long-admired Wann and was ecstatic when she bought a copy of the first issue. “Had I been fifteen reading those issues (of Fat!So?) for the first time, instead of almost 25, I think it would’ve drastically altered my self perception for the better,” she says.

The Fat Zine will without a doubt offer the same perspective-shifting impact to so many others around the world. With a distinct, unapologetic sense of identity, the images that fill the zine delight in fat bodies, celebrating their beauty, while the essays and poems offer shelter to a whole spectrum of experiences and emotions. Something Sheppard discovered first-hand: “When planning this issue I was on the joyous side of love, and having never been in love before I was elated to finally be relishing in it,” she shares. “Now in March, that’s no longer the case and I’m permanently hovering between heartbreak and a nervous breakdown, but through all of this there’s been work I’ve looked to in the zine that’s resonated. There’s work that I felt worded just how full and inspired love makes us feel, as well as the sour side. It’s always healing to know you aren’t the only one going through it, especially from a fat perspective.” 

And she certainly isn’t the only one. After the first issue of The Fat Zine launched it was met with enthusiasm that Tonic describes as “mind blowing and absolutely incredible.” Since then, they’ve established a flourishing online community full of people passionate about what they are doing. “Issue two was a natural progression because of the love that was shown to us, we wanted to reflect back onto our fellow fatties,” Tonic says. 

Order issue 2 of The Fat Zine here.