Fat women have been through the wringer when it comes to literary representation. From decade to decade, fat characters are often the punch line, the comedic relief, or the background character. Fatness is reduced to a joke, both in fiction and in almost every piece of media we consume. And while fatphobia continues to infect our everyday lives, there are authors out there whose goal is to show the truth and beauty behind fatness.
Fat people shouldn’t be hated for their size. Fat people deserve respect in reality and throughout the literary world. If you’re looking for some fat women who break down these barriers, stick with us! We’ve got seven fabulously fat characters who don’t mind taking up space.
1. Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton
Penelope Featherington has been destroying stereotypes since 1813. Described as “chubby” and “pudgy” in the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, Penelope stands her ground against those who seek to tear her down. But there’s more to Penelope than just her size. Rather than have Penelope move amongst the sidelines in silence, she is secretly spilling all the ton’s gossip on the front page of her Lady Whistledown column. Hiding a secret identity isn’t easy, but Penelope uses people’s inner fatphobia to her advantage. Who would expect a fat woman to be the cause of all the strife?
In Penelope’s love story, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, she is said to lose weight, which triggers an influx of interested suitors. Luckily, that specific detail won’t be included in the highly anticipated third season of Bridgerton. Penelope gets to keep all her weight, while also winning the guy in the end. That’s the type of love we like to see!
2. Charlie Vega, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
Learning to love yourself is a battle, especially when the world constantly reminds you that your size isn’t worthy. For Black and Brown women, the fight to find peace with your body is even more challenging. But Charlie Vega is ready to toss all that negativity away. In her book Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, author Crystal Maldonado pulls out all the stops to show that fat Brown girls should be loved too, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. Charlie deals with criticism everywhere she goes, especially at home. When her mother constantly berates her daughter’s size and puts weight loss shakes in front of her, Charlie decides she’s had enough.
This year of high school is going to be different. With her funny, ambitious, and artistic personality, it’s only a matter of time before Charlie gets the attention of the new student, Brian. But when she finds out that he asked out her best friend Amelia first, Charlie has to navigate the feelings of doubt and worthiness, all while trying to find her place in the world. Charlie’s story is one of determination and self-love against all odds, a tale that every fat girl can relate to.
3. Millie Michalchuk, Puddin’
Millie is the biggest girl in her school, but she couldn’t care less. In the sequel to the acclaimed novel, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, it’s Millie’s turn to take center stage and impress those who doubted her in the first place. After strutting her stuff in last year’s school beauty pageant, Millie is ready to face her next challenge, standing up to everyone who tells her, “no.” In Puddin’, Millie’s passionate personality transfers to everything she does, her job, her schoolwork, and her dream to become a newscaster. But try as she might, all people can notice is her weight.
But Millie never goes down without a fight. Throughout her journey of self-discovery, Millie finds surprises wherever she goes. From a turbulent friendship with popular dance team member, Callie Reyes, to finding the courage to kiss her high school crush, to standing up to her mother who’s been sending her to fat camp since she was a kid, Millie’s growth isn’t found in her weight, it’s strengthened by her heart.
4. Chloe Brown, Get a Life, Chloe Brown
All love for the big girls! Chloe Brown is unapologetically fat, Black, and chronically ill. If you’re looking for fat characters who know they’re beautiful every day of the week, dig into Talia Hibbert’s romance novels. Trust me, they won’t disappoint. In her novel, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, our protagonist is determined to make her life less boring. Chloe Brown craves excitement, and she intends to live her life to the fullest, especially after having a brush with death.
Disability be damned! Chloe gets to work on the list that will change her life completely, but she might need a little help. After recruiting her building’s handyman, Redford “Red” Morgan, the two get to work checking off boxes. But what happens when the two get to know the inner feelings of the other? As Chloe and Red open up about their pasts, it seems that Chloe’s life might change in more ways than just the seven plans on her list.
5. Leah Burke, Leah on the Offbeat
You haven’t seen the last of Leah Burke. In the critically acclaimed novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Leah is described as “tall” and “fat.” But in the movie adaptation, Love Simon, these details were seemingly left out. Katherine Langford did an amazing job portraying her character, but the movie industry has to start doing a better job casting actual fat actors. No more wearing fat suits or CGI fat, just hire a fat actor. So, like in many cases of movie adaptations, the book ended up being better.
But things are changing in her own story, Leah on the Offbeat. While Leah Burke has faced her fair share of heartbreaks in high school, she’s hoping this year will be different. However, it takes time to tackle the insecurities that hold her back from being her authentic self. As her friend group slowly starts to implode on each other, Leah tries with all her might to keep everyone together, all while coming to terms with her own identity. The question is, can Leah juggle it all, or will her senior year end on a low note?
6. Nina Zenik, Six of Crows
Where would we be without the beauty of fan art? While Nina Zenik from the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo is described as plus-sized in the book, the adaptation once again casts a thin actress for the television series. Luckily, the fans were there to depict an accurate representation of what the Corporalnik Grisha soldier would’ve looked like. The submissions of fan art online captured her loyalty, boldness, and flirtatious disposition to a tee.
Nina is a character that truly stands out in the Six of Crows series and beyond. She wields magic, has a sharp tongue, and has a strong sense of justice, all while being confidently fat. What more could you want in a badass character? Fan’s renditions of Nina Zenik certainly got the attention of one special viewer, Leigh Bardugo herself. All of this goes to show that fat characters are just as interesting as straight-sized ones.
7. Nala Robertson, Love Is a Revolution
Nala Robertson is looking for love in the novel, Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson. However, finding the right person is easier said than done. When Nala meets Tye Brown while at an open mic night, she knows that he might be the one. So, telling a few white lies won’t hurt anyone, right? While Tye talks about the importance of social activism, Nala tries to keep up the front, but it won’t last forever.
Love comes in many forms, and the more time she spends with Tye, she realizes that all types of love–whether it be romantic, platonic, or self-love–are revolutionary. Especially living as a fat Black girl, Nala learns how to accept herself, but that’s not even the best part. This novel is more than your simple romance. Love is everywhere we turn. In family, in community, and ourselves. We just have to look a little deeper to find it.
Contemporary literature has created some fantastic depictions of fat women in all genres. Even though there’s still some work to be done, I can see a hopeful future for fat women in fiction everywhere. Representation of all shapes and sizes matters. And while I would’ve given anything for 15-year-old Jenna to have books like these while growing up, I’m just happy they exist now.
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