Natalie Drue Hage has been a very visible, vocal member of the plus-size fashion community for quite a few years now. She has modeled in the Wear Your Voice #DropTheTowel campaign, as well as other plus-size body-positive movements. Frustrated with seeing models only size 18 and under and a a proponent of visibility for larger bodies, Hage and fellow activist Ashleigh Nicole Tribble have created the #ActuallyPlus campaign. #ActuallyPlus encourages women with larger bodies to show the plus-size industry what an “actually plus” body looks like.
Hage was raised in Texas and channels a rebellious rocker aesthetic. But what you may not know is that she is also half-Arab and grew up in a rather traditional home. Hage has largely spent her life living between cultures. Recently, she has become much more political in her fat activism, recognizing the need to speak up for marginalized communities, particularly #BlackLivesMatter.
Wear Your Voice: How do you describe your style?
Natalie Drue Hage: I describe my style as “soft grunge goth meets urban outFATters.” I love a mostly black wardrobe, with emphasis on solid color pieces with pops of color or metals in accessories. Mainly, my style goal is to provoke the thought “…I didn’t know that a fat girl could wear that.”
WYV: What inspired your blog, Natalie Means Nice?
NH: Originally, years ago, I couldn’t find people that looked like me on the internet. I didn’t see fat women who wore tight jeans and crop tops and short skirts and bold makeup. I wanted to be a beacon for other people who, like me, had always been the odd duck out. Then, I started stumbling upon other people on the internet who were just like me and my focus became to show solidarity and band together with them. I wanted to find and be a part of a community that supported each other, built each other up and became resources for all things “fat.”
WYV: Who are your three top StyleCrushes?
NH: Beth Ditto, Gabi Gregg (of GabiFresh) and my real-life friend Jordan Hughes. All are so unique and unapologetic!
WYV: Where do you shop? Who are your favorite designers or brands?
NH: I mostly shop online, to be honest. I love big-box retailers like ASOScurve, boohoo, Forever21+ and Rebdolls. One of my favorite indie online retailers/designers is Chubby Cartwheels! She makes beautiful clothing that celebrates the plus size body. Also, I try to thrift as much as possible. I love taking pieces from the thrift store and making them into the pieces that I have been trying to find, like high-waisted jean shorts or cut-off button-up crop-tops.
WYV: Who would you like to work with in the future? What would your dream campaign be (can be a combo of models/celebs/designers/brands/etc.)?
NH: I would absolutely KILL to work with ASOScurve, kind of like GabiFresh got to. She got to help curate a collection and modeled for them. That would be such a rad opportunity! ASOScurve was the first retailer/line I personally came across that made plus-size clothing that was on trend and fit my body and aesthetic.
WYV: As a white-passing Middle Eastern woman, do you ever experience levels of erasure?
NH: This is very, very hard to answer, but I would like to try. I would like to start by saying that I completely understand that anyone, including me, who is white-passing is afforded social privileges that those with darker skin are not.
That being said, I find so much sadness in not being recognized as Arab or someone who is a person of color. There is such pride and rich history and heritage in being Arab, and I, in my personal life, celebrate it daily. Online, I have a hard time navigating it because I never know “how” to. I, on one hand, want to shout it from the rooftops, but if I bring it up, I get told I’m not Arab-looking enough. If I don’t bring it up, I get told that I never bring it up. I get told I don’t “look Arab,” but in fact, I look so much like all of my aunts and cousins. I have all of my father’s features and I feel so glad to have them. I am trying to find my “place” online within the community of people of color, but I’m not sure how to. But, I’ll keep trying and listening to those who do not have my privileges and standing up for people who often get silenced. I will figure it out, and until then, I’ll keep trying.
WYV: How do you think the plus-size fashion industry is changing? How can it be better?
NH: Sitting here as someone who has grown up fat from the age of 9, so much has changed … kinda. Up until I was in college, there were ZERO young and hip stores for me to shop in. I wore clothes from the “women’s” section, all of which were far too mature for someone my age. I didn’t know that expressing myself through clothing was even an option until I discovered Torrid when I was about 20 years old.
Fast-forward 10 years to present day and there are still only about (from off the top of my head) THREE brick and mortar stores that I can walk into and MAYBE find something that fits my body and aesthetic. Though, online, the market has boomed. There are so many options and y’all — my wallet can’t take it! Haha.
Though the absolute biggest way it can improve is to put more diverse bodies as mainstream models. These companies want our size 18+ dollars but don’t want our size 18+ asses advertising their clothes and I think it’s absolute horseshit. Secondly, giving us more brick-and-mortar store options that gladly stack racks and racks of clothing for us to choose from would be amazing. Stop sticking us in the back of the store. Stop putting us in the corner. Stop giving us one or two racks. Stop only carrying sizes up to 28. Stop forgetting about us all together. We are here and we want to dress like badasses.
WYV: Are there any causes that are especially close to your heart?
NH: There are two really important things that come to mind, Black Lives Matter and #ActuallyPlus. Black Lives Matter is integral because we do not live in a society that takes care of Black people. We live in a society that easily dismisses and harms people of color. We live in a society that gives disgustingly disproportionate sentences and punishments to those with deep skin. We live in a society that does not protect them. I listen to people of color who have had these experiences and I try to share knowledge and ways to help them with those who have privilege to not experience these atrocities at the rates that Black people do. “All lives matter” cannot be a thing until #blacklivesmatter.
#ActuallyPlus came about when I made an off-hand comment on a friend’s (the beautiful Ashleigh Tribble) Facebook post about how the mainstream “plus-size models” do not represent even a fraction of plus-size customers. So, I labeled myself as #actuallyplus and Ashleigh had the badass idea to run with it. I hope that the more and more ways we put our fat bodies out there, the more visibility we will gain — and thus, representation.
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whoever may tell you that you can't wear a bathing suit or go to the beach or be loved or live a worthwhile life or have adventures or kiss cute people or be badass because you're fat lied to you. you can do and wear and go wherever you want. 🌞🌊🐚🌸🐟 suit by @forever21plus ❤️
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
NH: I wear my voice when I wear a tight dress. I wear my voice when I wear short shorts. I wear my voice when I wear a crop top. I wear my voice when I wear a bikini. I wear my voice when I say “FUCK FLATTERING” not with my voice, but with the way I move my body through this world that hasn’t quite made space for me yet. I don’t have to open my mouth for the world to know that I do not apologize for being fat and I do not apologize for not being sorry. I wear my voice when I say nothing at all.