Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham

Monday, May 9, 2016

Image by Mary Fehr of

Social media may have saved Mary-Berkley Gaines’s life. About four years ago, she was at low point in her life.

“I wasn’t in college anymore and was trying to decide what I wanted to do next,” she says. “I didn’t feel confident with my body because I gained a lot of weight in college. I also was depressed.”
Then one day she was on Instagram and stumbled upon the account of plus-size model Tess Holliday (formerly known as Tess Munster).  “I saw someone who was a true plus-size woman like me—not a size 12,  but an actual size 22 woman,” Gaines says. “Seeing her doing photo shoots and being really fierce and owning all of it and not being apologetic at all about her body—that was when I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Gaines knew she wanted to be a part of the body positive movement, which encourages the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of shape, size, color, ability, etc. “Everyone is worthy of love, success, and respect no matter who they are and what they look like,” Gaines says when asked to explain what the body positive movement is all about. She soon began reading the body positive blog The Militant Baker by Jes Baker and the body positive magazine VOLUP2, which was created by plus-size supermodel Velvet d’Amour. “This idea that there is no right or wrong way to have a body—that way of thinking changed my life,” Gaines says. “It saved my life, to be honest. I was in a downward spiral of depression and I wasn’t being nice to myself. And finding that started to get me to the point where I wanted to be nice to myself. I noticed I was exercising more and eating better and starting to work toward solving my anxiety and depression problems instead of just covering them up.”
Today Gaines is the founder of the Beautiful Bodies of Birmingham Project, the Magic City’s own body positive movement. As the website,, explains, the goal of the project is “to inspire people to see themselves and others in a new way.” By sharing personal stories and intimate photographs that celebrate bodies of all shapes, sizes, and colors, Gaines hopes that the site, which launched in November 2015, will be a safe place for people to get the support and education they need to foster better self-esteem and improved body image.
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