Serena Nangia: A Body Positivity Activist

In light of HCDU celebrating body positivity this week, I decided to interview a close friend of mine, Serena Nangia, who I met while studying abroad in Costa Rica. After meeting, we instantly connected. From talking about personal troubles to professional aspirations to insecurities, it became so easy to talk with Serena about anything, including my new addition of weight I was gaining while abroad. Being fed well rounded meals everyday really allowed my body to develop and grow into a shape I just haven't experienced before. It was great to have such a wonderful friend to have to talk with about something so personal and new to me. She understood what I was going through and could support me emotionally. 

So, please give it up for Serena– and all the lovely ladies out there helping all of us love our bodies the way they are!

1. Where do you attend school? What are your majors? 

American University -- International Studies with a minor in Spanish

2. What lead you to being a body positivity activist?

My own insecurities and seeing the impact they make. It's so easy to get caught up in the everyday business of our lives and forget to take care of ourselves and to love ourselves. How we feel about ourselves and our bodies affects everything we do -- how much we speak up in meetings or class, what we wear, how we walk, how comfortable we are with taking up space. Those are all really important things that we need to pay attention to.

3. What does body positivity mean to you? What doesn’t it mean?

Body positivity has two meanings.

  1. The body positivity movement was created to bring under represented bodies and voices to the forefront of society. This means that bigger bodies (fatter bodies), bodies with visible disabilities, bodies with scars and growths should be represented in the media, whether that is social media, TV, magazines, or music.
  2. Body positivity is being positive about your body, and allowing yourself to be kind to yourself. This means eating when you're hungry, not shaming yourself when you look in the mirror, being proud of who you are, and fighting society's norms by simply existing as a human being that loves themselves.

Body positivity is NOT what people think it is. It is not advertisers using the popularity of body positivity to a) shame people into buying their product and b) use only skinny (straight size) models in their campaigns.

Body positivity is not using the words "perfect" or "flawless" to describe yourself or others. Nobody is perfect and nobody is flawless– I like to use flaw-full.

Body positivity is not the same as Fat Positivity, but they are interrelated. Body positivity can involve anything with your body that does not fit the "standard" of society. Fat Positivity is counteracting our society's ingrained fat-phobia which we use to discriminate against and exclude fat people from society.

4. How has being a body positivity activist intertwined with your own self-love process?

I think anyone who has ever advocated for anything knows how easily and deep rooted the issue you're advocating for becomes in your life. As far as my work with body positivity activism, it has brought to light more issues that are now an integral part of my mission as an activist. For example, I knew what an eating disorder was (and that a lot of people had them -- 30 million in the U.S. btw), but I did not fully understand the impact they make. When I came to college and began working as an advocate in my body positive clubs REbeL, I met so many people with stories of hardship, trauma, and recovery from eating disorders. Those people impacted my life forever - and still do.

After seeing that I really am not alone in the process of figuring myself out and learning to love myself, I realized how important it is making time for myself, to intentionally practice self love. This means looking in the mirror and, instead of telling myself how big the bags under my eyes are or how red my zits look, tell myself how I know I look tired– that's because I am tired! And, there's nothing wrong with that! Intentionally practicing self love came from my activism. When you're an activist, you often put others above yourself (I mean, it's kind of in the job title). But what I realized was that cannot advocate for others effectively or wholeheartedly if I was not advocating for myself first. I recently was thinking about a quote my middle school principal told us often: "treat others as you want to be treated." While I still think that holds true, I offer a new way of thinking: "treat yourself as you treat others."

5. What advice do you have for all the ladies out there struggling with their body image? 

So first of all, I will say that struggling with body image is DEFINITELY a non-gendered topic. Men, women, non-binary people, and everybody else is affected by body image issues. I would suggest to anybody struggling with your body image to talk to yourself kindly. Tell yourself that you are beautiful, strong, and capable, even if you don't believe it. It's a mind game– tell yourself that enough, and you will begin to believe it (I don't know how it works, but it does). Also, practicing self care is 100% a good idea. Take time for a face mask at night, spend time with friends, eat something you enjoy, engage in clubs and movement which you ENJOY. Don't spend time doing things you don't like in your free time (because we all have homework and unenjoyable responsibilities). Surround yourself with people who care about you and treat you nicely -- this is 2019, and we're throwing out the bad friends ASAP!  Lastly, forgive yourself. We're all at different stages in our journey. We learn, grow, fall down a few times, and get back up. It's just all a part of our journey.

If you need professional help, please reach out. It may be scary and intimidating to call someone and book a meeting, but it is worth it!

6. Are there other ladies out there we should be following in this movement? 

Umm, yes! I scrolled through my Instagram feed and found a bunch for ya!

  • @shooglet
  • @bodybravecanada
  • @livelife_unfiltered
  • @harnaamkaur
  • @bodyposi.b
  • @luhshawnay
  • @pink_bits
  • @lizzobeeating
  • @nickhollidayco
  • @tessholliday
  • @felicityhayward
  • @iamivyfelicia
  • @selfloveliv
  • @with_this_body
  • @rozthediva
  • @kaitlinfcknhutchison
  • @charlottekuhrt
  • @weloversize
  • @projectheal
  • @neda
  • @halima
  • @zachmiko
  • @alokumenon
  • @ms_wunderbar
  • @nyataofficial
  • @nohairbrushedme
  • @ashleygraham
  • @self.love.brings.beauty
  • @scarrednotscared
  • @daniebb3
  • @themightysite
  • @amberdawnmodel​