The backbone of this documentary is Reenaye Starr, a veteran BBW model who runs her own business; hosting and shooting a range of BBW ladies for her network of websites. Reenaye is a belly model, which she demonstrates by standing and letting her enormous belly hang over her legs, though BBWs come in ‘boob’ and ‘butt’ varieties, also. Her fans love to see her stuffing herself with food, squishing and playing with her fat or squashing someone under her immense, yet soft, weight. The fat fetishists, it seems, can love everything that comes with obesity, including (somewhat surprisingly) bedsores. Some just love to see a big, sexy woman showing off her curves-upon-curves and shun the wafer-thin, plastic-smooth models of the glossy centrefolds.
The BBW modelling industry is not a particularly complex one and Reenaye herself admits it’s ‘easy money’. She takes British newb, Lizzie under her wing and gives her her very first photo shoot, which mainly involves standing and sitting in some fancy underwear while being fat. The whole things looks so simple that it makes me wish I was an obese woman: let your pounds roll out to get the pounds rolling in, right ladies? OK there’s a bit more to it than that. Reenaye insists to Lizzie that she has to be accessible if she wants to make it in the business. This means phone chats, Skype calls and email banter. Is it me or do all Channel 4 documentaries include a phone sex portion these days? If so, next week’s Jimmy and the Supermarket will make for interesting viewing.
Another American BBW model is Kit Lewis, who really loves being fat. Adores it. Interestingly, she used to be in fit enough shape to play sports for her school but really hated herself in a slender body. She compares it to the strife of a transgender person, completely miserable in the wrong body, yearning for her insides to match her outsides. Since putting on weight she’s never been happier. Of all the women in the show, Kit is by far the most enthusiastic about obesity. For her, it’s more than happiness: it’s sexual.
Being full is as gratifying to her as a sexual pleasure: ‘stuff me to excess and fuck my brains out,’ she says. This satisfaction theme runs right through the show: both Kit and Renee have ‘feeder’ partners. Their boyfriend/husband gets gratification from fattening up their BBW loved ones and to the women, the pleasure is reciprocal. Like most niche fetishes, the idea is unthinkable (even repulsive) to most, but like most fetishes, it’s nobody else’s business. Lizzie is a little different. She has no interest in ‘gaining’ but finds herself perfectly happy in her 20 stone frame; her pain comes from the cruel comments of others, not from her own reflection.
The girls aren’t ignorant of the potential health risks of their obesity. Reenaye knows that in the long term she may have to start losing weight to protect her health but she calls this ‘a sacrifice’. Her weight is a part of her as much as, perhaps, a full, bouncy head of hair might be to another woman. To cut away those locks to save yourself would be a heartbreaking day indeed.
An example of the unhealthy end of the BBW spectrum is Goddess Patty, a twelve year veteran of extreme plus size modelling. She is one of the biggest women in the business and as such is now mostly bed bound. She struggles to walk, cannot get up by herself and requires constant care and attention from her son, who cleans her and does everything you would expect from a healthcare nurse. The son, Richard is not particularly pleased about the situation, it must be said. But he’s all she’s got. In a moment of vulnerability, she weeps and confesses her loneliness and helplessness. Kit tells us that a big part of her career is knowing how fat she can get without it affecting her health and mobility and, seeing Patty, we plainly see the risks of going too far.