City Pages' People Issue celebrates people making Minnesota a better place.
While it’s fair to say that Cat Polivoda is part of the body-positivity movement, she prefers the title “fat activist.”
“Body-positive is lovely, but I take more of a fat-liberation approach,” she says. “I want to center the struggles and identity of people who are most marginalized.”
Her campaign started in 2015, upon her return to Minnesota after time in Louisiana and Texas for school and work. She founded Cat’s Closet, an online and pop-up shop that offered vintage, consignment, and thrifted finds for plus-size women. After a class with WomenVenture and a successful crowdfunding campaign, she was ready to open a brick-and-mortar space, CAKE Plus-Size Retail, in 2017.
“I like fashion and I care about plus-size people finding garments and having access to clothing that works for us,” she says. “The shop has allowed me to do that and to have conversations around that and to be a voice for that.”
Since opening, the space has hosted a variety of happenings, including lingerie pop-ups, film screenings, burlesque shows, and a benefit for the Subversive Sirens, the all-sizes LGBTQ synchronized swimming team that won hearts (and the gold) at the 2018 Gay Games.
Another way that Polivoda has found a voice for her work is through Matter of Fat, a radio show hosted by KFAI, where she and her friend Saraya Boghani chat with locals about navigating a good life with a bigger body.
“It’s a body-positive podcast with Midwest sensibilities,” she says. “We wanted to stay really rooted in the Midwest.”
Polivoda will continue to build community with her next project, Big Bold Confidence, an online course and support group to help plus-size people get out of their comfort zones, talk about their struggles, and develop positive feelings toward their bodies. She hopes to offer the program, which started up in January, several times a year.
“Everyone struggles with feeling confident about themselves—or most people struggle in some way—and diet and weight loss culture impacts everyone. But my work is more focused on people who are fat and are experiencing things in different ways. Not just internal, but also external.”
In the meantime, she continues to fight the good plus-size fight.
“For years, I have loved to use the word ‘fat’ and describe myself as ‘fat’ because I think it makes people reconsider the stereotypes and ideas they have about fat people,” she says. “People will be like, ‘Oh no no no! You’re not fat; you’re beautiful.’ I can be both of those things, and I want to remind people of that in the language I use.”