Artist Crystal Walter, who goes by the name Neoqlassical Art online, has attracted the internet's attention and caused a bit of controversy in recent days with her reimagined drawings of Disney characters as plus-size princesses.
The artist spoke openly about her project and the various reactions to it with Bored Panda. She pointed out that while most people have reacted positively, others have accused her of ‘glorifying obesity' and promoting unhealthy lifestyles. Crystal explained that this was never her intention. Rather, she wanted to raise the issues of representation of ‘large bodies' and how we should all love ourselves.
“I've never told anyone to get more fat, or that being fat is more desirable than being thin. Simply that fat lives are equal, and just as worth living as any other. The way our culture is designed is to constantly provide the means of gaining fat, while simultaneously living in crippling fear of the result, and shaming people who do get heavier.” Scroll down for the rest of our interview with Crystal, have a look at her drawings, and leave a comment with your thoughts below.
The illustrator said that her Disney project is all about positive representation. The lack of it inspired her to reimagine princesses and provide role models for people with different-sized bodies.
“Growing up, I couldn't find any positive fat role models in the media. Historically, fat people have been demonized, or used for comedic effect, or to visibly show that a character is less intelligent than their slimmer, more cunning counterparts. This is hideously damaging to a developing child, and like many others, it led to me despising my own body. I could not physically relate to the characters I loved, like the Disney princesses I've re-drawn,” Crystal detailed her personal experience with the lack of role models growing up.
She shared how, as a teenager, she developed disordered eating habits, skipped meals, and overexercised to lose just a few pounds. However, in her particular case, the weight always came back, plus extra. Eventually, this led Crystal on the path of severe depression as a young adult. At that point, she was exercising and doing intermittent fasting, but felt horrible and was at one of the lowest points in her life.
“This was the biggest wakeup call on my journey to loving my body, realizing that weight and joy absolutely do not correlate. Weight and quality of life do not correlate,” Crystal shared her opinion. “Through my experience, I've found that whatever size you are when you're living your most joyful, fulfilling life, is the size you're meant to be at that time.”
The artist once again stressed that this doesn't mean that being thin is ‘bad' or ‘unrealistic.' Instead, she wanted to focus on the idea that all bodies are worth being respected and accepted, no matter how much space they take up or what they can or cannot do.
“It's true that the Disney characters I draw were unrealistic, to begin with, in that their waists were all smaller than their heads, but the reason I draw them fat is not to make them ‘realistic,' it's to see myself in them. To help other fat folks see themselves in them.”
The artist shared that she receives love from people who ‘finally' feel represented all the time. “They show these drawings to their kids who may be on the big side, and they love them as well.”
Crystal also shared her ideas on how to solve the ‘obesity epidemic' which doesn't involve shaming people. She says that the world needs a cultural shift.
“One that provides more nutritious options in places where there are none. One that encourages fun activity, and safe places to do those activities. One that's closer to nature and is based on kindness. One that encourages bigger people to get out and live life, not to lose weight, but just to thrive as they are.”
In Crystal's eyes, overweight people are “just people—not people in-waiting” and deserve not to be laughed at, or looked at “with fear, disgust, or pity.”
“Glorifying anything that is constantly shamed by the rest of the world is not the same as encouragement to be more of that thing. It's just recognition that the thing does not make you a bad person, or any less of a human being. I don't think that's too much to ask.”
The artist told Bored Panda all about her love of art. She said that she's wanted to be an artist ever since she was a kid.
“When I was a kid, I would usually answer, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?' with, ‘An artist.' And if not that, then a rock star. I went through a brief phase in 8th grade where I dressed in boys clothes and thought I could be a rapper, but didn't we all? But, through it all, being an artist of some sort was the goal, and what do you know, I made it!”
Crystal's advice for any and all artists out there, as well as for anyone who's trying to be successful in their own field, is to start with passion.
“Find a cause that hits home for you, and something that people need, and work for that. If your subject inspires you, that will give you the fuel to keep going when you're not yet receiving great feedback or monetary compensation. And never be afraid to ask for what you want, that's a powerful tool that gets shamed out of us early in life,” she said.