Ask a Fat Creator: Danielle Gregori

Image description: A fat white woman stands in a mowed field in front of green trees. She has long dark brown and gray hair in a ponytail and is wearing glasses, cropped green pants, and a t-shirt that says “Body Diversity” with a variety of cartoon dogs. She is looking to one side and smiling. End image description.

This is the Body Liberation Photos Ask a Fat Creator (and Allies) series, in which we find out more about the lives, work, and breakfasts of all kinds of large-bodied and marginalized creators and their allies.

Danielle is a fat librarian that does art in her free time. She loves to write, paint, crochet, and create in any way possible.  She is married to a librarian (honestly, no one is ever surprised), and is expecting her first child in June (who she assumes will also be born a librarian).  Danielle shares her space with a cat who used to live in a neighbor’s backyard, and who loves nothing more than to ask politely for cuddles.  In recent years, her focus has been on pushing back on fatphobia, especially in the medical community.  She is learning that her existence in itself is a rebellion of expectations for many professionals she encounters.  Danielle hopes to continue this and to incorporate that experience into her art for as long as humanly possible.  

Tell me about you! What’s your name? What pronouns do you use? Where do you live? What do you like to eat for breakfast?

My name is Danielle Gregori, I use pronouns she/her/hers.  I’m based most of the time in NYC, but I spend some time in Vermont too.  Breakfast is a tough one–I never was a fan of it when I was a kid (I thought eggs were gross), but I’d happily nom a BLT if that’s an option.

What kind of artwork do you create? What are the themes? What’s your favorite medium?

I always considered writing to be my main art–I spent a lot of my 20’s being paid to write a huge variety of articles and poetry for companies.  Honestly, the most thrilling time was the month I was asked to write lots of articles about garage doors for a small company in Massachusetts while also writing the item descriptions for a sex toy store in Chicago.  No regrets!  Currently, I run a modest Medium page about things I’m passionate about, mainly my experience being fat, being in ED recovery, and battling it out with diet culture.  I’ve written several novels that are stored on my hard drive (I know, I know!).  As I get older I find working with my hands brings me a great deal of calm and satisfaction.  I love to crochet, make jewelry, paint, and now I’m learning how to sew.  A great deal of my writing and my art centers around women, especially women who are in larger bodies.  Since quarantine started, I’ve been painting my chunky cat a lot, which has been loads of fun.

How did you get started as an artist and author? What has your path looked like so far?

When I was in 11th grade, I took an AP English class that I completely adored, except my teacher continued to fail every essay I wrote, regardless of how much effort I put into it.  She told me writing just wasn’t my path, which made me so angry because I loved writing!  When I got the top score on that AP test, I wrote her a kind, but sassy email about how little I appreciated her teaching style, and how glad I was that I continued to believe in myself regardless of her grades.  From then on, I think I have been having a love affair with words as a way to heal trauma, and as a way to continue to give this teacher the middle finger.

Do you incorporate any elements of body positivity or fat acceptance into your work?

I’m a large fat who was consumed by diet culture at a young age, then thankfully was rescued by a lot of people, who helped me to reconstruct my understanding of my body and my worth and the relationship between the two.  Ever since, it’s been impossible to separate myself from fat acceptance.  To exist and to thrive, there needs to be space for me in this world–I’m determined to claim that space, and to make space for everyone else behind me.

What has your experience been like as a large-bodied or plus-size artist? What have been the high points and low points?

I’d say my experience has been neutral.  One recent high point was when I wrote an article about the struggle of being fat and pregnant, and it was very well received, especially by local doulas.  I was surprised by this, and even more, surprised when they contacted me to talk about the fatphobia that’s everywhere in the birthing scene.  A low point was having an article edited for publication in a way that erased a great deal of the vocabulary linking fad diets with disordered eating.  The final result was a much toned down article about me quitting diets because they didn’t work for me–I was pretty upset and ended up contacting the editors to complain and have some parts returned.  

Have you felt like your opportunities have been limited or affected by your body size? Have any opportunities opened up for you because of your body size?

I find I have a harder time creating a social media presence and breaking through to the audience that I think would enjoy the things I create.  However, I’ve found the most gorgeous, generous, and wildly amazing community in fat acceptance–I wouldn’t trade those voices for the world.

How did you discover body acceptance or body positivity personally? What kind of difference has it made for you?

I discovered body acceptance when I entered recovery for an eating disorder.  At first, I fought really hard against it–there was a lot of “it’s not fair” and “what am I supposed to do now” that got flung around while I healed my eating, past traumas, and my relationship with food.  I was pretty angry at what I perceived to be a huge injustice–I had suffered a great deal and didn’t have much to show for it.  At some point, I think I opened my eyes and really took a look at the quality of my happiness and the fences I was throwing between me and my goals in order to maintain a structure that I didn’t even enjoy or benefit from. 

I jumped into fat acceptance on Instagram completely and haven’t looked back since.  It’s given me freedoms I never thought imaginable:  I can eat again, I can wear clothes again, I can dance and hug and create and be joyous and sexy and confident and I don’t have to pay for any of those things with shame or guilt.  I get to see other people in a huge variety of body shapes and sizes doing amazing things and share the joy of their existence.  It’s like my world has been splashed with color and there’s no going back to the cave!

What advice do you have for other people who are learning to love and accept their bodies?

Let go completely and trust that the rest of us will catch you!  There is so much beauty and joy to be experienced in this life–all you have to do is scoop it up and pile it around you.  The universe created you as a gift to the rest of us, it’s time to share it.

What advice do you have for other artists, especially ones who do work similar to yours, who’d like to incorporate body acceptance into their work?

Do it unapologetically.  People will tell you that you’re promoting unhealthy behaviors no matter how shallow or deep you dive in.  Talk about hairy armpits?  For shame!  This will cause teenage rebellion and the collapse of our economy as we know it!  Want to wear a crop top?  Good Heavens!  Think of the people who might get similar ideas!!  What will we do with a society of crop-top-loving individuals?!  Bleh. 

All that is just noise distracting from your stories and your truths.  Get on that stage and shout your art as loudly as you can and remember to make space for you to absorb the praise and love you’re going to get in return.  You earned that.  Take it, thrive on it, and then turn around and lift someone else up on that stage with you.  

Where can we find more of your amazing work?

I’m working on creating an online store for those who want to share in my art.  For now, I have two books on Amazon (Lines Between the Stacks and User Search Terms Needed), and articles listed on Medium.

Let’s dig deep.

Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources for changing the way you see your own body and the bodies you see around you. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.