Roll Reversal

Big girls bask in the summertime sex appeal.

By Joel Mathis
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 24 | Posted May. 12, 2009

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Constance D’Ulisse is a big, beautiful woman. And she’s not afraid to say so.

“I have curves. I don’t know how else to describe it: I have a bustline, a waistline and hips,” the South Philly woman says. “I have a great smile, I have twinkling eyes. What’s not to like about me?”

Such confidence is rare enough to find in any woman, even one with a supermodel’s looks. But D’Ulisse’s vital statistics tell, well, a bigger story: She’s 55, 5-foot-5 and is—by her own account—verging on 300 pounds.

Those numbers turn you off? Too bad. D’Ulisse also has a mischievous sense of humor and an easy laugh that make her a delightful conversationalist. But inner beauty only goes so far: She likes the way she looks, and she knows that there’s a few men out there who do too.

“If I look at my face in the mirror, I say, ‘Yeah, Con, you’re beautiful,’” she says. “Cocky, ain’t I?”

D’Ulisse is part of a growing online movement—often called “fat acceptance”—dedicated to the idea that women can be beautiful and healthy at every size. The idea isn’t to attract “chubby chasers” or other fetishists, but to battle against a culture that has a hard time seeing beyond the big-tits-skinny-body template of female attractiveness.

That can be a challenge at the dawn of summer, when the temperatures rise and the bulky sweaters and coats of winter give way to outfits more revealing of eye-popping physiques.

“I’m certainly not trying to encourage people to be attracted to people they’re not attracted to,” says Kate Harding, a Chicago writer whose Shapely Prose blog stands at the center of the movement. “I do think there’s a problem in thinking that your preferences are universal and thinking that nobody would be attracted to a fat woman just because you aren’t.”

If all this sounds like a dry and humorless crusade, it’s not. Harding came to Philadelphia’s Rotunda in early May with her co-author Marianne Kirby to read from their new book, Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere. Their reading was sandwiched between performances of Big Moves, a Boston-based dance troupe made up of plus-sized women.

“I do feel beautiful on my own terms,” says Harding, a blue-eyed blonde who weighs in around 200 pounds. “I’m married, my husband thinks I’m beautiful and plenty of guys have thought I was beautiful.”

But it’s not always easy to maintain that mindset. Sherri Wilcauskas, 39, is a fundraiser at Philadelphia University who, like D’Ulisse, is a participant in the Philadelphia message boards at Harding’s website. She’s 5-foot-5 and 200 pounds and recently got engaged. She really believes in fat acceptance, and she’s tried to spread the online message to her real-world friends. She can’t, however, quite describe herself as “beautiful.”

“My fiancé, bless his heart, is wonderfully patient,” Wilcauskas says. “When I get down or I’m having a bad day, he’s always there: ‘But you’re still beautiful. But you’re still cute.’

“Where I mostly am now is that I look in the mirror and say, ‘I look good.’” she says. “I wouldn’t say I’m at a point where I can look and say, ‘Yeah, I’m beautiful.’”

D’Ulisse finds it easier to maintain confidence. She’s always been on the large side, so she’s never dealt with the ego deflation that comes from body inflation. Other women of her generation have found it harder to cope with the natural advances of age.

“Honey, I was born with middle-aged spread,” she says. “It’s easier for me to accept myself, because they have a picture in their mind of being a person of average weight. When they put on the pounds, their whole body image gets skewed.”

Still, when D’Ulisse and her partner of 20 years separated a few years back, she wondered if her weight would keep her out of the dating game. It didn’t take her long to garner flattering attention, though.

“I realized that, ‘Hey, there are men who like my figure,’” she says. “And I started to become very confident.”

“There’s all sorts of shapes and sizes,” she adds. “That’s what makes the human race so much fun.”

Harding, the movement’s godmother, agrees. “Don’t let anyone tell you what is and isn’t beautiful,” she says. “There’s no one standard.”

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Comments 1 - 24 of 24
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1. Andrew said... on May 12, 2009 at 11:10PM

“Acceptance of different, healthy body types is good and should be encouraged. Cheering on obesity and disgustingly unhealthy lifestyles should not be. I'd bet that this woman is 5'5" and 300 pounds because of her economic status, not here genes. The causes of this magnitude of fatness should be addressed rather than just hatching a Plan B that prides itself on framing a person's death sentence as an aphrodisiac (and yes, I would say the same thing about anorexia or unhealthy thinness). Congrats, PW. Yet another piece you probably didn't take much time to think through.

Also, how is this Summer Guide material? Summer Guides should tell us what's going on in the city. I see nothing of the sort in this issue.”

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2. Anonymous said... on May 13, 2009 at 12:01PM

“Get to a gym. Being fat is disgusting. Keep eating burgers and fries, and die of a heart attack tomorrow. Get some pride and get in shape you fatsos”

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3. Anonymous said... on May 13, 2009 at 01:30PM

“wow, previous commenters (especially #2). way to see to the heart of the matter, which is clearly that these women munch fries all days. you're awesome. dipshits.”

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4. Anonymous said... on May 13, 2009 at 02:06PM

“Commenters #1 and 2: SHUT THE FUCK UP.”

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5. Heather said... on May 13, 2009 at 05:02PM

“How do you know that these women don't have bodies that are healthy for them? Did you take their blood pressure? Measure their blood glucose levels? Get a blood test for cholesterol and triglycerides? Didn't think so. This may be news for you, but you can't tell how healthy a person is by how much they weigh. Not all people who weigh 300 pounds have a myriad of health problems, or even one of the health problems that is supposedly caused by obesity, and certainly not all people who weigh 200 pounds do. You have no reason to treat these people like they're unhealthy without any evidence.

And you say "disgustingly unhealthy lifestyles"? Have you personally inspected the kitchens of these women and asked them what they eat every day? Perhaps you've never met an actual fat person, because they don't all eat like the people on TV who are recruited for weight-loss shows and daytime talk shows. It's not pizza and burgers and french fries and milkshakes and candy bars all day every day. Fat people eat a wide variety of food and get exercise the same as thin people do - some eat a lot, some eat very little, some eat only homemade organic health food, some eat fast food a lot, some exercise every day, some never exercise. You can't treat a fat person like they live an "unhealthy lifestyle" just because they're fat, because *surprise!* fat people are not all the same and *you* personally have no idea what their lives are like.”

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6. tara said... on May 13, 2009 at 05:16PM

“Somehow I doubt that the morbidly obese have healthy lifestyles. If you eat well and aren't sedentary there is no way to carry around that much excess blubber naturally. One needs only look to the rest of nature for proof. If obesity was simply a natural variation of body type it would stand to reason that obesity would be found at least in other mammals, but it isn't. Furthermore it is clear that Americans have grown fatter over time and at the same time out caloric intake has grown mightily as well. If the big mac was invented today there is no way it would have the word "big" in its name, it is now actually a relatively small burger. I have no respect for the morbidly obese who want to deny the cause of their obesity, it isn't glandular, it isn't genetic, it is because you eat too much and exercise too little. Whine all you want but we all know why you are fat and it isn't because of your thyroid.

Oh and Kate harding is really really unattractive, look her up on google if you don't believe me; she looks like something that lives under a bridge.”

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7. MyMy said... on May 13, 2009 at 05:30PM

“@Tara, I am really disturbed as to why you are being so angry and nasty. I don't know where it comes from, but it ain't a pretty place.

Health at any size, yo! Peace.”

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8. Jennifer said... on May 13, 2009 at 06:56PM

“I'll go ahead and post under my name, unlike the first two morons who are scared to stand up and say how they feel with their names attached. At least Tara is not afraid of looking dumb in public (way to make yourself sound smart . . . 'if I can't make a valid point, I'll just insult her looks'). From the intelligence that is posted in comments 1,2, and 7, I assume you all have some sort of medical or science degrees, seeing as how you are obesity experts.

To sum it up. people come in different shapes and sizes. People have different abilities. People have different tastes in mates and find various types of people attractive. Just because you don't find someone fuckable because of their larger size does not mean they have an unhealthy lifestyle. It does not mean they're going to drop dead from an OBESITY BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA heart attack or that they eat so many chicken nuggets that they should own stock in McDonald's. It also does not mean someone else does not have the right to find that person as equally attractive or MORE attractive than you. It also does not mean that larger person cannot have self -confidence and find themselves attractive. It simply means that people come in different shapes and sizes. Just because you cannot see that does not make it untrue. In our population, there are underweight, "normal" weight, and "overweight" people who are healthy. There are also people in each of those categories that are unhealthy. Size does not equal health, nor does it equal being better than or automatically more attractive than someone else.”

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9. CeleryStalker said... on May 13, 2009 at 07:09PM

“@Anon#1: A lot of people cheer on disgustingly unhealthy lifestyles when these have the effect of making people lose lots of weight. To assume that fatness=unhealthy and thin=healthy is only kidding yourself.
@Anon#2: Who are you, Morgan Spurlock? You think being in shape is only for fat people, not thin ones?
@tara, what planet are you on? Of course, many animals can store fat, some doing it better than others, even within a species. You can even breed animals to be fatter. Anhd just because you want to believe that too much food and too little exercise is the overwhelming cause of fatness doesn't make it so. However, I can see why you'd believe it - anything to shore up a fragile ego and help you feel superior to somebody, right?
@MyMy: Two thumbs up.”

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10. JudgingPrejudice said... on May 13, 2009 at 08:26PM

“Someday, sometime, people like our Anons and Tara are actually going to look at the science behind body weight and realize that their prejudice and hate says more about the contents of their hearts and the sadness of their psyches than the lifestyles of those they judge so harshly.

They think they've got it sewn up in a neat little bow when obesity researchers - not diet shills, mind you, who say almost anything to sell a book - no, actual scientists know that the issue is nowhere near as easy as "exercise more and eat less".

On no evidence except their critically unthinking belief in years of the sales of diet products, these people judge and keep judging, hating so that they might feel good, superior, best.”

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11. Amazed and shocked said... on May 13, 2009 at 09:23PM

“Wow. The first few comments carry shades of the same kind of vitriol aimed at homosexuals during the big AIDs scare of yesteryear. I'll bet you two feel pretty tough, tearing at a faceless enemy that you've made faceless to suit your bigoted purposes. I'm sure you all speak this way to smokers, with the same intense hatred and disgust, right?

Right. Shame on you both.

We'll never be able to really take a look at how to approach the subject of weight and obesity until people like you remove your angry, biased voices from the discussion and stop tricking people into seeing your vitriol and thin-normative views as legitimate science.

Great article. Go to hell, Ana-nons 1 and 2, Tara.”

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12. Anonymous said... on May 14, 2009 at 04:56AM

“What an interesting article! A good self-confidence and image is enviable and increases quality of life, and should not only be the privilege of the traditionally 'beautiful' and 'healthy'. I applaud these women for not making excuses - it is not their 'job' to be beautiful for anyone else but themselves.
As a a young woman with many many friends with eating disorders, I know that women (and men) of all sizes could benefit of new ways of thinking of self worth in relation to what other people find attractive.
Viva diversity and the individual's pursuit of freedom and happiness!

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13. Constance said... on May 14, 2009 at 06:27AM

“@ Andrew. Don't presume you know my economic status, my genetic history or my state of health. You hide your fat phobia behind a veneer of concern.”

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14. Anonymous said... on May 14, 2009 at 07:03AM

“Since when does society get to mandate "health." If I choose to eat ice cream and cookies all day, that's my business. Not my problem, necessarily, just my business. People talk about "healthy" but they mean thin. Being tolerant and accepting includes some degree of letting people be, letting them do what they want.”

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15. L Porter said... on May 14, 2009 at 08:10AM

“I'm obese (5'2", 175lbs). I also go to the gym three times a week, if not more. Since I started going to the gym I've gained weight (7lbs in total), not lost it. The myth that all obese people are sedentary is just that - a MYTH.

Quite frankly, I'd challenge any thin person to call me lazy & unhealthy when I'm in the gym deadlifting 40kgs. How much can that thin person press? Are they NECESSARILY healthier than me, merely by virtue of being lighter?”

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16. Ajay said... on May 14, 2009 at 12:22PM

“Whoever chose the illustration for this article, whether author or editor, has some explaining to do.

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17. Laurel said... on May 14, 2009 at 12:53PM

“@tara's nastiness is not really work responding to, but the "obesity is not found in other mammals" dig is simply ridiculous. Ever heard of whales (where 'blubber' is from, incidentally)? Pandas? Cows? Bears? Any number of higher-body-fat-percentage mammals used to insult fat humans?”

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18. Anonymous said... on May 14, 2009 at 07:25PM

“WTH is with the porny illustration?? Is it really impossible to discuss female sexuality without objectifying women? The illustration isn't even contextually relevant, since the woman depicted is slender with a giant boo-tay.


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19. Andrew said... on May 15, 2009 at 12:54AM

“Seems like being the first commenter makes me comment fodder, and yes, I did post my name (as if posting a first name is a big deal). Never did I say that being "overweight" is a problem. I think that being 5'5" and 300 pounds is a problem, and I don't think there's any getting around it. Obesity is a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater, and Constance's ratio comes to a 49.9, which verges on morbidity. Constance, I presume to know your health because your very health statistics are cause for concern. I think we should be proud of who we all are, but we should also recognize those things which could lead to unnecessary, premature death. If people find your weight sexy, hats off. But people also find morbid thinness sexy, and I don't endorse that either.”

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20. Murrie said... on May 15, 2009 at 01:41AM

“@Andrew, do you realize that taking someone's BMI is utter BS? It's a simple mathematical calculation for something as complex as weight distribution. Before pulling out BMI, be sure to check out's BMI project, and you will learn just how much BMI cannot possibly predict health or fat ratios on the body.”

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21. JudgingPrejudice said... on May 15, 2009 at 03:51AM

“Andrew, you know, there's simply no way to get around the fact that being a man is unhealthier. If you have a penis and/or testosterone, I don't think there's any way getting around the facts. I think men should be proud of who they are, but should also recognize that (those things) could lead to unnecessary, premature death. If people find your man-body sexy - hats off! But I don't endorse finding sexy any person who is in a physical state that is less than FULLY OPTIMAL.

And before you protest that you've done your homework, and understand that even obesity researchers know that healthy diets plus exercise don't lead the obese to "normal" BMIs the vast majority of the time, and weight loss diets and exercise usually lead to weight regain plus, but maybe you find some glimmer of hope in surgery?

Well, there's sex reassignment surgery, as well! Yep. You go girl!”

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22. Samantha said... on May 15, 2009 at 05:42AM

“Being overweight may or may not cause the myriad of health problems that a rather dubious selection of scientific studies proposes, but can someone please tell me (out of those of you expressing your pseudo-concern for fatties, lest they inflict some terrible ailment on themselves), even if it WAS cut and dried that being fat meant that eventually you would drop dead as a result, why is anyone else's health your concern? Plenty of people are unhealthy for a variety of different reasons. Participating in contact sports, for example, poses quite a high risk of some sort of injury/adverse health consequences, but I've yet to hear anyone shouting "For the love of god, we can't encourage people to play football, it's statistically proven that playing football puts you at greater risk of breaking your legs!" Likewise, no-one is shouting at all those thin people with a glorious tan that they're unhealthy and scientifically proven to be much more likely to be ravaged my melanoma.

People are entitled to an opinion, but to hide your prejudice behind faux concern? Do us a favour and at least make an effort to be slightly less transparent. People's bodies are not public property, not even fat people's. A stranger's percieved health is not your concern.

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23. Norm said... on May 28, 2009 at 04:25PM

“People like Miss D’Ulisse stand for what they are with a great personality and a healthy sense of humor. She's not the kind of person who could be labeled as a couch potato. She might love a cookie or 2 but at least it's made by her own hands. I'm happy to know her a little bit and wish I was living closer. It takes guts these days to stand for what you are and who you are. She's in many ways "big and beautiful" for people who look further than Playboy magazine.”

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24. Norm said... on Jul 30, 2012 at 07:56AM

“Happy Birthday Big Beautiful Woman, enjoy this day and many more to come!!!

greetings from a potato”


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