By Daniela Doncel

STORRS – The University of Connecticut’s S.H.A.P.E. hosted the annual Catwalk to End Fat Talk this past Sunday in the Student Union Ballroom where students walked the runway to promote Fat Talk Free Week.

Catwalk to End Fat Talk is a fashion show dedicated to celebrating all bodies, ethnicities and identities.

The show’s aim is to encourage body positivity and positive self-esteem and diversity among students.

UConn students made up the 21 models that walked the runway. They all chose their own outfits that made them feel the most confident.

One of the two male models of the Catwalk to End Fat Talk walks the runway.
Photo: Daniela Doncel

“Their outfits range from formal wear to athletic wear to casual wear, but no matter what they’re wearing, each of them are beautiful individuals who are hoping to spread a positive message tonight about self love,” the show host says.

UConn S.H.A.P.E., otherwise known as “Students Helping  to Achieve Positive Esteem” is a peer education group that promotes body shape and size positivity and positive self-esteem.

S.H.A.P.E. raises awareness about disordered eating, its associated warning signs and the resources for support on-campus through peer educators, presentations, events and discussions.

After the first group of models, SHAPE shared a Buzzfeed video called “Things Women are Tired of Hearing About Their Bodies”  to illustrate how difficult it can be to be body-positive when our society tells us otherwise.

A board describing S.H.A.P.E. and its events sat in the back along with a poster with body-love-related messages and raffles for audience members.
Photo: Daniela Doncel

Afterward, they shared a similar video, “Things Men are Tired of Hearing About Their Bodies” to reveal how universal low self-confidence about body image is.

S.H.A.P.E. encouraged audience members to self reflect on how they view their bodies as they watched the fashion show.

“Your body can do pretty much anything you ask it to, so do me a favor, as the show continues and we bring out more of our fabulous models, think of some reasons why you love your body,” the show host says.

The show host acknowledged that body positivity is not something that can be done overnight.

“It’s not always easy to love your body. Sometimes, we find ourselves hating our bodies more than we love them,” the show host says.

A model strikes a pose to an applauding audience. Photo: Daniela Doncel

However, the path to body positivity does not have to be done alone.

“Sometimes it takes others celebrating our strengths and differences to realize how much we actually love [those strengths and differences] ourselves and how they make us who we are,” the show host says.

S.H.A.P.E. encourages people to remember that every week should be fat talk free week, and although it may be easier said than done, it is an effort that should be made by everyone.

Hannah Smaglis, one of the models and a studio arts major, says she’s happy she walked on the runway with her best friend, Alexis, because she would not have been able to do it without her.

Hannah Smaglis and her friend Alexis pose on the runway.
Photo: Daniela Doncel

Brianna Perry, a member of S.H.A.P.E., says she wants people to strut their stuff on the runway and to feel happy in their own skin.

“We all deserve to be celebrated, every part of us. Our body is our own concern and no one else’s,” the show host says.

The fashion show neared its finale with the poem “Beautiful Body” by Natalie Patterson.

I could not comprehend the words. It was the first time in my entire life; I had ever heard these words placed together and directed at me. When I’m confused I take big ideas and break them into smaller pieces, make them tiny enough to fit my world into, you have a beautiful body,” Patterson recited her poem.

The poem brought tears to the event.

“Everyone has their own path to take to loving their body. So when all we can hear is the noise about how you should feel about your body, when all you can feel is unhappiness in your home, when all you want to do is change the reflection. Stop… and repeat… I have a beautiful body, I have a beautiful body, I have a beautiful body. Excuse me, I’m sorry…” the show host says.

Models walk off the stage for the finale as the show host and the audience applauds.
Photo: Daniela Doncel

The show ended with all the models walking the runway one last time to a standing ovation.

“Let’s give it up one more time for these amazing models,” the show host says.