NEW YORK (AP) — Body positivity was on full display Friday on the steps of the New York Public Library as three women had their naked bodies painted in front of lunch-time crowds.
The event was organized by Kimberly Massengill — who goes by the name of Substantia Jones — to mark the eighth anniversary of the Adipositivity Project, which celebrates fat bodies and works to combat sizeism.
She photographs naked, fat people, mostly women, and posts the pictures on her blog to empower and teach people about different sizes.
Massengill collaborated with local artist, Andy Golub, and three models of varying sizes and shapes.
"We're here promoting body love," she said. "I want people to love their bodies and let other people love their bodies."
She said in a news release that the word "fat" should be used whenever possible, as "overweight" imposes judgment and an expectation that there is an acceptable weight limit.
Passers-by were impressed by the women's bravery.
"I think it's amazing; people shouldn't be ashamed of their bodies," said Michal Bezalel, a tourist from Israel.
Golub — who has been painting naked bodies for several years — said society expects people who are fat to be ashamed of it, but when faced with people who are happy to show off their naked bodies to the public, they find themselves in uncharted territory.
"I think there's something very, very powerful about the fact that we're doing this with no sense of shame or embarrassment," he said. "We're just painting pictures, that's it."
Massengill said that aside from one or two people, everyone walking by has had a positive reaction.
Mollena Williams, one of the models, said she was really nervous about being naked publicly, but the positive responses to the Adipositivity Project prompted her to volunteer for the event.
"My favorite part today has been the fact that when people have approached with children, they've allowed them to enjoy it," Williams said. "That kid probably is going to have that much less issue with people's bodies."
As the women waved to the crowd, a busload of tourists driving by cheered them on.