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Photography Megan Winstone, via @thefatzine

Gina Tonic is the writer and editor empowering a generation of fat babes


TextDominic Cadogan

The self-described ‘big fat slag’ has established a community via The Fat Zine, a project for fat people by fat people, created in partnership with photographer Chloe Sheppard

The Dazed Beauty Community is our ever-expanding encyclopaedia of creatives and emerging talent from across the world who are redefining the way we think about beauty. From supermodels to digital artists to makeup prodigies transforming themselves in their bedrooms, these are the beauty influencers of tomorrow who embody everything Dazed Beauty is about. Discover them here.

The power of a good piece of writing is unmatched, after all the pen is mightier than the sword, right? Wielding her pen – or more likely her fingers on the keys of her laptop – is writer, editor, and legend Gina Tonic, who has penned pieces around mental health, sex, and being fat for a variety of titles including Dazed Beauty (which you can read here). 

Personal, funny, and honest, her style has unsurprisingly earned her a legion of fans who can’t get enough of her work. While Tonic is a voice for them, it’s one that she wishes she had to look up to when she was growing up. “I was deeply and upsettingly isolated for large swathes of my adolescence – all my diaries from the ages 11-16 are just me wishing to be dead, thinking of ways to off myself, listing the reasons I hated myself – and it all stems from feeling like an outcast and a loner and lonely,” she explains. “The more shit we can put into the world that someone can relate to, the less that people have to feel like lonely little misunderstood freaks. I want people to know no matter what you’re up to or thinking, I understand, I’ve got you, let’s be freaks together.” 

Last year, Tonic continued supporting her community and making people feel included with the launch of The Fat Zine – co-founded with photographer Chloe Sheppard – as a project for fat people by fat people, featuring beautiful images and feature submissions from its followers. “The Fat Zine was a happy accident, it was something Chloe and I had just mentioned for years about doing. A proper pipe dream,” she explains. “Then the pandemic happened and we were both out of jobs with what seemed like endless spare time so why not? The way it’s popped off is just such a treat though, every day someone new finds it and messages us about how and why they love it, which is so so sweet. I appreciate every single message.” 

After a successful first issue, the pair followed up with a 2021 calendar, which unsurprisingly was equally as successful. Now, Tonic and Sheppard have turned their focus to issue two which is out in March. “The more open and blatant people are about our issues, the more others can feel calm about what’s happening to them. I just want everyone to relax, I want fewer taboos and more just enjoyment of life. If more people could let go of their inhibitions surrounding sex, surrounding body image, surrounding mental health, we’d all have a ball,” she says. 

Here, we speak to Gina about battling trolls, the future of The Fat Zine, and why everyone needs to invest in a good red lipstick.

Where do you live and where are you from? 

Gina Tonic: I currently live in Manchester (and have for the past 8 years) but I’m from the Valleys originally! Definitely feel more Welsh than British. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up? 

Gina Tonic: I grew up in a very close community kind of town in south Wales. An ex-mining town totally fucked up by Thatcher and continually fucked by lack of funding and opportunities. Regardless of this, the people are some of the friendliest you’ll find anywhere! I relish any chance I get to visit home, I really do. It’s a right laugh and one of the prettiest places on the planet. 

What is it you do and how did you get into it? 

Gina Tonic: I’m a writer and editor and I got into it by accident really! I did a creative writing degree and summer after 2nd year applied for a million internships in literally anything associated with writing. I got a crap journalism one for a women’s lifestyle mag in Manchester but had such a ball doing it that I realised my dreams of being a writer didn’t have to be limited to only fiction. 

Then I feel fate stepped in a bit because I was on the train from Leeds to Manchester after seeing The Cribs and there was a glamorous plus size gorgeous goddess angel sat on the train with me. When we pulled into Victoria I refused to not speak to her so I ran over and we got to chatting. That was Marie Southard Ospina! Who got me my first writing gig at Bustle as well as introduced me to the fat liberation movement.

What are you trying to communicate through your work and why? 

Gina Tonic: Inclusivity, first and foremost in anything. I want to include as many people as possible. I want to not just include them, but celebrate them. 

I always harken back to two quotes in my life/work, which is: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” by Dolly Parton and: “If you have a hunchback just throw a little glitter on it honey, go dancing!” by James St James. So much inclusivity work, especially in my specific field of fat lib, focuses on just acceptance but I want more than that. I want celebration, adoration, limitless joy. 

Who or what inspires you? 

Gina Tonic: John Waters movies. John Waters characters. Glam rock. Emo. Which are the same thing in my eyes. Zine makers like Ione Gamble and Angel Rose. Shirley Bassey. Most recently I’ve been in awe of Aja Barber, her activism is really poignant in how to intertwine your personal point of view with actually making a difference. She’s a legend. 

Can you talk us through some of your favourite features/projects? What response did they get? 

Gina Tonic: The Fat Zine issue one really broke my heart, in the best way. How much people  – when they finally got it, shout out the Royal Mail for losing half of them – really responded to it and told us they needed it? Truly changed my life. It made every piece of fatphobic flack I’ve ever received feel worth it because without it I would never have made The Fat Zine

Other highlights include interviewing Cupcakke for Polyester, it was so surreal and I was so scared but Ione (the EIC for Polyester) always pushes me to just do things outside of my wheelhouse and it turned out to be a fab interview. Also loved my How to Fuck A Fat Girl piece I wrote for Vice, it went viral and I just feel really represents me and how I want to write. 

What’s been your career highlight so far and what do you hope to accomplish ultimately? 

Gina Tonic: Kind of covered this before! I don’t know what I want to accomplish really, I just want to enjoy what I’m up to and that’s definitely been what I’ve managed to do since taking another shot at journalism the past year. I only decided to go for it in April 2020 and it’s crazy what I’ve managed to get done in that time! I’m proud of my accomplishments in such a short span of time, and a highlight is definitely getting a 9-5 job at a fast fashion brand in July and just… quitting after one day because I knew it wasn’t right for me anymore. I’m glad I took that leap of faith on myself, it’s worked out alright hasn’t it?

One set end goal, I guess, would be to turn The Fat Zine into a properly paying project for our contributors. People are so keen and enthusiastic and helpful when submitting and working with us, I would love to be able to pay back to the fat community in a literal sense as well as paying our dues with the zine. 

What are you working on at the moment? 

Gina Tonic: The Fat Zine issue two is out in March! I’m also trying to write a book, a fiction one, which has been my first time focusing on a fiction project longer than a couple of pages since graduating a million years ago. I hope it goes well but even if it surmounts to nothing, I’m just enjoying being creative for myself with it. 

What does beauty mean to you? 

Gina Tonic: Beauty is an essence and aura of self-love and confidence. Someone who adores themselves is instantly more beautiful than the shyer among us, in my opinion. When One Direction said being insecure makes you beautiful? They were wrong. 

Describe your beauty aesthetic in three words. 

Gina Tonic: Big fat slag.

How do you assert your identity and experiences through your beauty? 

Gina Tonic: I got an anonymous hate message in summer that really took me out for six, and it said something like ‘your disgusting body bulging out of clothes too small for you’ and thinking about it, that’s so fabulous haha. I love that my body can have such an effect on someone, that the clothes I choose for her can offend them. That’s crazy to me. Why are you so bothered? I will be baring flesh and looking over the top and ridiculous for the rest of my life, it’s my favourite thing to be revealing and raunchy. There’s something so powerful in knowing that just by being myself I’m pissing someone off. Showing off metres of my cleavage and my rolls and my chins is me asserting myself, my beauty and taking up space that I’m so often told I don’t deserve as a fat, loud, queer working class woman. 

What’s your favourite smell and why? 

Gina Tonic: This one is so annoying because it’s Let The Good Times Roll body spray by Lush and since they were outed for donating to that TERF charity, I’ve not shopped there. But I’ve almost run out of this scent! It’s a butterscotch smell that just gets everywhere, people in my co-working space will know I’m in the house by smelling it from where I’ve walked past the front door. I love being that distinctive and tasty. You can follow the sweet smell and you’ll find me.

Which fictional character do you most relate to and why? 

Gina Tonic: Divine in Female Trouble. She’s a brat. She’s ridiculous. She hates the humdrum and always sees herself as the most beautiful creature in existence and the best bit is that it isn’t even a joke, she is the most beautiful creature in existence. And so am I. 

When do you feel most beautiful? 

Gina Tonic: In gay bars or gay club nights, or in lingerie, or most of all when I’m at a gay club night only wearing lingerie. 

How do you want to change the world? 

Gina Tonic: I’d like every person who thinks they can’t pull off red lippy to stop thinking that. Everyone looks better in red lipstick. Get some. 

You’re the editor of a time-travelling beauty journal 100 years from now, what beauty trends are you reporting on? 

Gina Tonic: I am promoting obesity. The girls love it. We’re all eating 800 doughnuts a day to get even bigger. Lucy Liu is president of the planet. Everything is now free and accessible. I’ve got one of those floating body car contraptions from Wall-E and I scoot about in it watching the Ugly Betty revival. 

If you had to choose one surgical enhancement, what would it be and why? 

Gina Tonic: I’ve already got lip fillers and I’d like more. Would quite like to hoik my tits up under my chin and out of my belt for the day too. My back would appreciate it I’m sure. 

It is the sixth day and you are creating humans. They can look however you want them to. What do they look like and why? 

Gina Tonic: I’ve always wanted a tail, I’d add a tail. In the least furry way possible too, please.

What is the future of beauty? 

Gina Tonic: Genderless definitely. Not white at all. Hopefully not thin either. Sick of those golden ratio TikToks where they morph people’s faces into this “ultimate” beauty face (I think they based it on Amber Heard?) that’s just a thin cis white women’s face. It’s so boring now. 

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