Guest Post: Shellie Johnson On Feeling Good About Yourself, No Matter the Size
I’ve always been a big believer that your style should make you feel good about yourself. That’s true no matter your size.
PEOPLE magazine had that same philosophy during our Half Their Size 2020 photo shoot: that women need to feel great in their clothes and also great about themselves.
In the offices of PEOPLE Magazine in Manhattan, I arrive in a long rectangular room with banks of windows letting in the late afternoon light. It comes in on an angle, landing on clothing racks lined up one after the next, filling the length of the room, the metal frames catching glints of light and holding them. Long tables mounded with accessories line the wall beneath the windows. Dozens of pairs of shoes, coiled belts, the buckles shining in the sun. Bracelets, rings, necklaces, and pairs of earrings arranged in neat rows.
At the far end of the room, two long pieces of drywall have been fitted and leaned together to make a temporary dressing area. At the close end, a semi-circle of three PEOPLE editorial staff sit in director’s chairs, another woman stands off to the side with a soft tape measure hung around her neck and a handful of straight pins cupped in her palm, and one lone man hurries around in the center of it all, the stylist.
Someone else is being fitted so I have a seat, listening to the hum of a sewing machine, the soft smack of someone’s lips as they chew gum, horns honking from the street below. The stylist never stops moving for long, pulling outfits—a shirt from this rack, a skirt from that rack, a jacket from still another. He uncoils a belt, grabs a pair of shoes, snatches a few pieces of jewelry, and heads toward the dressing area again. Later, when the woman comes out, he plucks another pair of earrings and holds them up to the side of her head, leaning back, cocking his head to the left, appraising.
The process of the other woman being fitted takes a while because the first outfit doesn’t quite work. Neither does the second. Or third. I stop counting and instead look out at the lights of New York City, the windows from nearby buildings glowing soft in the gathering dark. A radio plays, the notes quiet and tinny, a country song I know the words to and so, in my head, I sing along. I cross my legs at the knee, my top foot bouncing to the beat. Another round with the stylist, more outfits, more shaking heads from the semi-circle, a few maybes. Then some 45 minutes later, it’s my turn.
“We want you to love what you’re wearing,” the stylist says to me. “We want it to feel like you, your personal style.”
When we get to the jeans outfit, the stylist hands me Yummie jeans and a scoop-necked shirt. I forget the wall is not sturdy, not attached to anything, and nearly knock it over when I press a hand against it to steady myself. I slip on the jeans and the shirt then come out for the reveal. Every face in that semi-circle lights up. Someone sucks in a sharp breath. The layout designer does a small two-step, shuffle, arm-pumping kind of dance. Someone says, “Those jeans are amazing on you.” Someone else says, “They really show off your shape.” Even the seamstress chimes in: “Those fit you perfectly.” The stylist asks the group, “Are we done then?” Not quite as the shirt gets changed three times, the shoes twice, the accessories a few times too. But the jeans, well, they are the first and only choice.
“How do you feel in them?” the stylist asks. “That’s the most important thing.”
“Comfortable,” I answer, “like a second skin.”
The studio is bigger than I expected, full of scaffolding above, spotlights on stands, and cables snaking across the floor. The set where we’ll be shooting takes up half of it. A dozen people bustle around, setting up props, angling soft boxes, working video cameras, checking monitors. I stand in the center of it all—nervous, excited, anticipating. A fan blows cool on my face and sends my hair fluttering out behind me. A soft box taller than I am lights me in a soft glow. The photographer sits on an overturned crate on the floor, head tilted up but her face mostly hidden by the camera, calling directions.
Beyoncé pumps from the speaker. I look left, smile big. Then look straight, give a little laugh, and saunter forward with my hand in my pocket. The layout designer stands off to the side, the light from the computer monitor washing over her face. The photographs appear one after the next on her screen. A wide smile splits her face. She does that same two-step, shuffle, arm-pumping kind of dance. She giggles. She’s got the same kind of joy that you’d see on a kid on Christmas morning. She got the shot she wanted, the one that later would make the cover.
The stylist waits nearby, just on the edge of the set. As we wait for a prop to be brought in, he leans over and says, “Those jeans really flatter you. They look great from the back too. Your pictures are coming out beautiful.” I lean against a prop wall, arms crossed, smile wide on my face. A few photographs later, the layout designer is suddenly excited again, her tell that little happy dance, and they’ve got the picture they want for the inside spread.
I’m an introvert, always have been. Being in a big group of people makes me anxious. Being in a big group of people where I’m the front-and-center focus downright scares me. But doing the photoshoot was something I wanted for my life, so I said yes.
Yummie helped me feel comfortable and confident as I pursued what mattered to me. I know their products will do the same for you. Part of their mission is to make clothing that hugs you, not squeezes you. And that’s how I felt that day: simply supported and smoothed out. I believe that every woman deserves to be confident and comfortable in her body. I also believe that every woman deserves to feel great every day. Yummie believes those things too, and their products reflect their commitment to those same empowering ideals.