Being 'Broadtail': My life, through the years
“Summer is coming!” *in my best ‘Game of Thrones’ voice*
But seriously, in a matter of weeks summer will be here and I am so excited because it is my absolute favourite time of the year. Growing up in Discovery Bay, St Ann, approximately seven minutes’ walk from the famous Puerto Seco Beach (I know you know it), summer meant endless beach days eating nothing but sea grapes, guineps and almonds. Mmmmm.
Summer also meant wearing a swimsuit. That’s where we sound the panic alarm because I have had breasts and a big enough derriere since I was 10 years old. I just waited for all my friends to catch up. Because I’ve been a “fatty bum bum” all my life, it has always been quite a struggle to find nice fashion-forward clothes that fit me.
That’s why I’m grateful for my grandmother (Aunt Joyce) who was in New York (Big Farin) and would send all the latest clothes (which sometimes were too tight) so I too could look good on Sundays as I made my way to Kingdom Hall or the annual Discovery Bay All Age School Fair.
Even though finding nice clothes was a challenge, I didn’t grow up feeling marginalized or different for being a “fatty bum bum” because, where I come from (Kingston people like to call it kunchrie), it meant I was well-fed; and, since Ms Liz (my mother) is known for her cooking and baking, being a “fatty bum bum” was merely evidence that her food tastes nice, right?!
Anyway, once all-age school was over and high school began at the prestigious St Hilda’s Diocesan High School in Brown’s Town (I know you know it!), some girls tried their best to let me know I was fat.
But since I was already aware of that, again, it didn’t ruffle my feathers. But as the high school years rolled by, I realized that my country was clearly schizophrenic about weight.
Being heavily influenced by music, I would hear dancehall songs like “ku kum kum” and “buduff baf” and I wasn’t quite sure which title was the most desirable for any woman to take on because both seemed to be making fun of the female body whether she was slim, averaged sized or overweight.
Then we got into the dancehall dance “body basics”, which clearly meant that weight is an issue as the song by Mad Cobra and Conrad Smith started out by saying “fat girls, they said you are in trouble…di body basics fi di fat people dem, from yu know sey yu fat den yu inna problem…”
But in the same breath, other songs were lauding the fat saying “yu fat and round and fava English pound.” So am I in problem or am I valued like the sterling pound?
When I went to visit my family in Montego Bay and Mandeville on holidays, I’d be greeted with “what a way yu look fat and healthy?” or “a wey yu a big a guh?” My answers would vary from “mi never really set a limit to wey mi a big a guh” or “I like my body thanks.”
High school and university rolled by and, because I was always well-dressed, very flexible *wink wink* and confident in all that I did, some persons would declare that I was not fat, because fat is a state of mind. I am still trying to figure that one out.
But as we wade the waters of fat, fluffy, full-figured, plus size or slim, average sized or mawga, I still find it interesting how much a person’s weight seems to be everybody’s business!
So much weight (pun intended) is placed on women’s bodies. As we all navigate our lives, we are constantly under scrutiny for what we wear, how we carry ourselves and, most importantly, how we feel about ourselves. This “heavy weight” that I have carried for three decades and all the days I stood naked in front of my mirror loving my hips and bottom (not so much my breasts, but that is for another article) inspired me to start a swimsuit line specifically for full-figured women called “Broadtail Designs.”
Why BroadTail? Well, a Jamaican man once called me “broad” and I walk with the confidence and grace of a peacock with its beautiful tail on display. Plus, we really couldn’t call it “big bottom swimsuits” now could we?
Back in my beautiful summer days in Discovery Bay, I had to wear my mother’s swimsuits from the 70’s (those high cuts were hot like St Ann sun!) because I couldn’t find any ones stylish enough for the “fat girls.” In the three years of being in the Broadtail business, I have met so many women—fat and slim—who walk around with so many issues with their bodies that I have come to realize that this journey is about so much more than swimsuits and cover-ups. That’s why I am so excited to introduce you to my world in “Being Broadtail.”
Every other Thursday, we will discuss lifestyle through the Broadtail Lens. Join me as we navigate fashion trends, being a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated world and some of the fandangles of the unadulterated full-figured life.
Dania Beckford is the Managing Director of Broadtail Designs, a Jamaican fashion company that designs and produces swimwear/resort wear for full-figured women as well as costumes catered to the curves of women for the Xaymaca International Carnival Band.
IG: @officialbroadtail @dpublicist