Author and Activist Virgie Tovar's “Fat Positive Summer Festival

June 10, 2016

Contact: Jack Baur
Supervising Librarian, North Branch
Berkeley Public Library

Virgie Tovar available for interviews


Author and Activist Virgie Tovar and the Berkeley Public Library
Present the “Fat Positive Summer Festival”

Berkeley, CA. June 10, 2016 – Are you ready for summer? Don’t think you have the right shape for a bikini? Worry no more! The Berkeley Public Library presents the Fat Positive Summer Festival, a series of events developed with author and activist Virgie Tovar. Tovar is one of the nation’s leading experts on fat discrimination and body image, the editor of the anthology, Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, and Fashion, the founder of Babecamp – an online course designed to help women “break-up with diet culture” and love their own bodies, and writes the columns Take the Cake for and Ask Virgie for

The Fat Positive Summer Festival consists of three events at three different Berkeley Public Library locations. Running from June 22 to July 2, the Festival includes a lecture by Tovar, a screening of short films, and readings and conversation with several writers and body positive activists. Tovar worked closely with the Berkeley Public Library staff to present the Berkeley community with a wide range of media examining society’s pernicious biases about weight, and to include diverse international voices. For more information about this program series, please call 510-981-6250.

According to Tovar, “each of the events in the festival pushes against the current cultural paradigm that seeks to pathologize and marginalize fat people.” The series – like a lot of Tovar’s work – was motivated and inspired by her experiences accepting her own body.

“This festival is about reclaiming summer as a season for all bodies. Summer used to be the most terrifying time of year for me because it was bikini season - a yearly reminder that I had failed yet again to achieve a ‘beach body.’ I opted out of a lot of things I loved because I truly believed that those things were out of my reach, and that life had to wait until I was thin. One summer I met a group of fat activists who totally changed my life. They showed me that I didn't have to keep putting my life on hold, that I could live life on my terms at my current size. In all my years of dieting I'd never felt more free than being a 250 pound woman wearing bikinis, summer dresses, and hot pink lipstick. I want to pay it forward, and give people the gift those activists gave me - the fearless reclamation of our bodies. I encourage everyone to wear short shorts and crop tops to the festival!” she adds.

The language in the title Fat Positive Summer Festival is very intentional – an invitation and a mission statement. According to Tovar,

“Fat positive is a phrase that celebrates big bodies and sees fatness as part of the beauty of body diversity. Fat positivity is a bold political gesture that recognizes that the fear of weight gain and negative attitudes toward fat people are forms of bigotry that harm all people, regardless of size. Finally, to be fat positive is to activate the right that every person has to a life free from bigotry, shame and discrimination no matter their weight.”

The Fat Positive Summer Festival features:

Lose Hate Not Weight: A Critical Examination of Diet Culture @Claremont
Wednesday June 22 6:30pm-7:30pm. Claremont Branch, 2940 Benvenue Ave.
In this 60 minute lecture Virgie Tovar – author, expert and lecturer – offers a primer on the history and sociopolitical realities of our cultural obsession with weight loss. The story of modern day “Diet Culture” didn’t begin with juicing or cleanses, but rather almost 200 years ago with the inventor of the graham cracker.

Fat Positive Shorts@ Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch
Thursday June 30th. 7:00pm-8:30pm. Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch, 1901 Russell St.
A selection of short films designed to challenge our understanding of fatness:

  • Aquaporko! - Aquaporko! is the story of Melbourne’s fat synchronized swim team. We follow fat activist and filmmaker Kelli Jean Drinkwater as she meets the team and uncovers a world of sisterhood, queer community and radical body politics. (22 minutes.)
  • Fatty Cakes & the Puff Pastries music video – This Fresno-based all-girl band follows the tradition of riot grrrl, performing unapologetic songs about pizza, patriarchy and hating their jobs at the mall. (2 minutes.)
  • Heft - In this short comedy filmed in Oakland, a fat, queer, Black woman draws a bevy of suitors and scoundrels. Screened at the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project Festival in 2014. (10 minutes.)
  • Life Long Weight Gaining - A video of an installation by Vienna-based fat performance artist Veronika Merklein. (8 minutes.)
  • The Fat Body (In)visible - Body acceptance activists Keena and Jessica’s stories detail the intricacies of identity and the intersections of race and gender with fatness; the women themselves find new and inventive ways to be proudly visible subjects through the strategic use of fashion and social media. (24 minutes.)

Freedom from Fat Shame! A Reading + Discussion @North
Saturday July 2nd. 7:00pm-9:00pm North Branch, 1170 The Alameda.
Virgie Tovar assembled a group of incisive writers and activists for an evening of body liberation with readings and personal stories. Let their words smash your feelings of fat-shame and help you foster acceptance in yourself and celebrate diversity your community! Speakers are: Casey Gilly, Jezebel Delilah X, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, Irene McCalphin, and Dr. Kjerstin Gruys, author of Mirror, Mirror off the Wall.

This free event series is made possible by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, and by a generous gift from the Pace Trust in support of the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.,, and Halmoni Vintage Clothing are media partners for this event series.

The Claremont Branch is located at 2940 Benvenue Ave, Berkeley CA 94705. The Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch is located at 1901 Russell St, Berkeley CA 94703. The North Branch Library is located at 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley CA 94707. Library branches are all open: Monday, 10:00am-6:00pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00am-8:00pm, Thursday 12noon -8:00pm, and Friday and Saturday, 10:00am-6:00pm. For more information about this program series, please call 510-981-6250.

Wheelchair accessible. For questions, to request a sign language interpreter or other accommodations for this event, please call (510) 981-6195 (voice) or (510) 548-1240 (TTY); at least five working days will help ensure availability. Please refrain from wearing scented products to public programs. Visit the library’s website: