Canadian TikTok star brings message of 'self love' to Hamilton

Alicia McCarvell has 4.3 million followers on TikTok.
Alicia McCarvell has 4.3 million followers on TikTok.

February may be "Body Awareness Month" but Canadian TikTok star Alicia McCarvell is out to remind young people it's OK to not have their bodies be their main focus.

"We're too aware of our bodies and we place too much awareness on the body that we live in, and we're not aware [of] other parts of us that exist outside of [that]," she told CBC before speaking to Hamilton students at a virtual event hosted by the Mohawk Students' Association Thursday evening.

McCarvell is from Halifax and has garnered 4.3 million followers on TikTok through "humour and self-love."

Her own journey started by acknowledging her characteristics outside of her physical appearance, she said.

"I placed so much onus on who I was in my body," she said. "So I was a fat woman. If I was fat, I couldn't apply for jobs. If I was fat, I couldn't go to the beach. If I was fat, I didn't want to be in photos, I had just allowed my body to take up so much space in my life that I forgot I'm funny, people like me around, I am a great friend, I am a really great partner."

However, she also emphasized how it was thanks to her body that she was able to be who she is.

"I was all of these wonderful things that I had that don't change no matter what my body looks like… but I literally can't be any of these things without my body."

Moving away from the term 'body positivity'

Even though a lot of McCarvell's content focuses on self love, she said she doesn't feel comfortable being seen as part of the body-positivity movement.

"Body positivity itself was created for and by fat Black women, and it was a movement that fought for [their] rights and I, on my platform, although I would consider myself an ally … I think that over the last two years it has become very whitewashed and straight-size washed, and there's a lot of people inserting themselves into a conversation that they shouldn't be a part of."

Thursday's event with the MSA was originally called 'Body Positivity with Alicia McCarvell,' but she asked them to change it to "Self Love with…" so as to not "take up space where I shouldn't be."

"I think that's super important to address [the term], especially me. It doesn't really matter what community I'm in, even in the body-positivity community, I'm still a fat white woman, which holds its privilege."

McCarvell also emphasized the use of the word "fat," saying that it's not a word society should see as bad.

"I think that history has proven that using other words in place of words we don't like or have a negative connotation doesn't ever make them go away. It just makes them become these worse words that can be used against us."

"I am fat, and the problem with that and saying that so openly is that so many people attribute fat to bad… so I understand why when I say 'I'm fat,' people are like, 'no, you're beautiful.' Those are not the same thing. You can be both."

'Body liberation' counselling

Hamilton resident Katie McCrindle, who identifies as fat and uses the pronouns they/them, shares that sentiment.

"It's something that I have reclaimed and used to try to destigmatize the word and take away what people think of as the inherent negativity of it. That's not actually inherently negative, it's just a descriptor word," they said.

Like McCarvell, McCrindle said they moved away from the term "body positivity," also acknowledging that the movement was started by fat Black women.

"It's been co-opted by companies to sell things, different companies started to sell diets or things that are disguised [as a] diet under the guise of body positivity."

Submitted by Katie McCrindle
Submitted by Katie McCrindle

As a young person, McCrindle struggled with their relationship with their body for many years.

"I [dieted] for a long time, and it just never really seemed to work… I didn't lose a ton of weight and I always thought it was my fault and I was really miserable."

McCrindle, who is a social worker who specializes in body liberation, said it was the internet that showed them they could change the perspective they had of themselves.

"[I realized] I didn't have to hate myself because I was fat. I thought that was just kind of a default, that I had to, and also that being fat or in a bigger body wasn't necessarily my fault, and that diets fail a large percent of the time."

Now, they work one-on-one and in groups with people who want to improve their body image, in a way that recognizes the harms of diet culture.

McCrindle said they hope the event featuring McCarvell helped to bring awareness to the Hamilton community.

"Anything that gets sort of a message out about normalizing fat bodies… or helping people improve their relationship with their bodies and their body image is great."