If you’ve ever seen Curvicality columnist and October cover model Carmen Rene (Eat the Cake Too) wearing her favorite bodysuit, you know it says “Body Love.” But where did it come from?
The answer is the body-positive genius of Eboni Lacey. Whether you agree with her politics or not, it’s hard not to fall in love with her heart. This rapidly growing influencer is building a career based on creativity and empathy through her beloved brand “The Identity of She.”
In case you haven’t heard of it, “The Identity of She” is a female empowerment brand that includes Eboni’s well-known clothing line, magazine and blog, all of which are focused on self-love and freedom of identity. Eboni tackles tough topics like divorce, postpartum depression, “always being on a damn diet” and many others. The entire goal of the brand is to “redefine our identity as humans and as women.”
Quite frankly, we love The Identity of She. It represents female empowerment at its finest through pure self-love and freedom of identity.
The Voice Behind the Brand: ‘The Identity of She’
So just who is Eboni Lacey?
Eboni Lacey is an Arizona-based entrepreneur who is determined to change the world — one beautiful body at a time. Interestingly, though she does not identify as homosexual, her first T-shirt celebrated gay pride.
“I’m strictly an ally. It wasn’t a part of my identity, so it was easier for me to start there.” That said, this very endeavor started her journey to finding the connection between body positivity and identity.
“As I started listening more to my community and my followers, for me personally, body positivity was a very personal thing. I didn’t recognize the connection between the two,” she says, referring to identity and body positivity.
But as society takes a closer look at things like the rights of women, minorities and LGBTQ people, Eboni sees body positivity as being a related identity issue.
“I see us becoming a more vocal and aware community. We’re all thinking about the next step.” Though there are not that many mainstream businesses that see the connection between body identity, racial identity and sexual identity, there are some body positive organizations that do see that connection.
Critics complain about special attention being given to people in marginalized groups, but Eboni strongly disagrees with nay-sayers. “I would say that the rule, to me, is that oppressed groups deserve the right to make spaces for themselves.”
Her apparel includes such messages as:
“I AM DETERMINED TO FALL IN LOVE WITH EVERYTHING THAT I AM”
“Hips. Thighs. Curves. Breasts. Booty.”
“NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED”
“THICK THIGHS AND PRETTY EYES”
It’s no surprise that Eboni focuses on wise words of wisdom. It’s in her nature. “I always wanted to be a writer. Like in grade school,” she tells Curvicality. “I’ve always had a vision of what I wanted to be, as far as creativity.”
Eboni and the internet came of age together, both experiencing bumps along the way. Like many of us, her parents divorced. Her family then moved from Sierra Vista, Ariz., to Kansas City, Mo. It was a huge culture shock for her, as she had to start over and make new friends, which wasn’t easy being a 15-year-old black girl who was 6 feet tall.
“It was a lot,” she says in a humble tone. “It was hard to grow up being who I was. I was picked on a lot and couldn’t do a lot about it.”
Also like many of us, she experienced bullying because she was in a bigger body than many other girls. But that didn’t stop her. It was just one of many experiences that would lead her to where she is today.
When she first learned to use PhotoShop at 15, she made her own magazine and put herself on the cover. In college, she double-majored in graphic design and in journalism. As part of her senior project, she started blogging about all kinds of identity, giving space to anyone who wanted to share a story. She learned how the internet could bring people together in creative and empathetic ways.
“It was an open forum,” says Eboni. She didn’t initially realize the reach she had, until a girl in The Netherlands wrote about antisemitism. Other contributors wanted to write about such heavy topics as sexual assault and abortion.
Respect for All
Eboni understands that some of her political views aren’t shared by all, so she is careful to draw a distinction between agreeing and respecting.
“Everyone is entitled to their own belief and own opinion,” she adds. She draws a fine line between disagreeing and individual rights. “You can be against gay marriage, but you can’t remove their right to have it … We can all agree to disagree, but discrimination is discrimination.”
Growing up with a mother who is an evangelical Christian, Eboni says it was difficult for her family to understand her support for LGBTQ issues. “My mom thought I was gay for so long!” she exclaims.
She credits her blog, and the way it drew so many people of different identities, with shaping the messages on her apparel. “It really made me think differently about the concept of identity.”
At first, even with a journalism major and as the editor of her college newspaper, she thought she wasn’t interested in politics. That has changed, and she now sees that politics are inherently a part of every cause.
Eboni has always been athletic. Volleyball was her sport, and she wanted to play on the team. But, like many athletes who aren’t born into thin bodies, she experienced pushback.
“When I was 15, a coach told me I was too fat and playing in college would never happen. That really crushed me. It pushed me into a very unhealthy relationship with my body. I proved him wrong and got a volleyball scholarship. That was the goal.”
It wasn’t her first brush with being told by authority figures that her body had something wrong with it.
“When I was 12, I had to see a nutritionist. I’m just now learning, at 29, about percentage of body fat and things like that. At 12, they’re giving me bullshit on BMI and not realizing I’m just a bigger person.”
“It got to a point where my weight became an issue. I was exercising about three times as much as my teammates. I was taking diet pills. My teammates and I would weigh in in front of one another. Because I was much bigger than they were, that was very triggering for me, especially considering I was recruited at that size originally. I was constantly picked on.”
Then, she started learning to love her body and became enamored of the Teafly Peterson quote:
“My body is not a democracy, it is an empire. I am its dictator. You do not get a vote and your opinion does not matter.”
Her views about healthy body image and body autonomy involve being healthy and making your own choices for your body, regardless of your size. Notably, she has merchandise aimed at celebrating girls with smaller bodies, too.
“I really want to be able to speak to different groups,” she says. And quite fittingly, she’s adding “The Identity of He” to her line of retail products.
Eboni has found both structure and flexibility helpful at different times. She practices mindfulness and stays active in a volleyball league. But some days she eats what she wants and she works out as she chooses, “loving life.”
“I don’t scold myself at all. I believe in fitness without guilt. I believe in body freedom, and not judging people for their choices. It’s not your place to judge.”
Some people misunderstand and accuse her of promoting obesity. But to Eboni, the whole point is to love yourself regardless of your body type or identity, period.
For perspective on societal changes, she cites the experiences of her grandmother, who is 91.
“The fact that I can talk to my grandma about politics and have this conversation, and the fact that our society is becoming more conscious and more ‘woke,’ if you will … our generation is really going above and beyond in understanding who we are. Media has given us a space to vocalize things that we feel just aren’t right.”
Eboni is continuing to add marginalized groups to her brand, and it’s no surprise that most reactions to her apparel are positive. “How can you hate someone who is simply trying to create a better identity for themselves?” she notes.
But if someone doesn’t react positively, she doesn’t care. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to take up any less space or be less vocal for your feelings.”
“I’ve learned a lot in terms of finding body love. I’ve learned much more in running a business. I understand that some people are out for their own agenda in terms of business. You have to be on the same team as yourself. You can’t be a people pleaser. Everything is not all rainbows and sprinkles when you’re running a business.”
Eboni at Home
“I have an older sister and a younger sister. I’m in a blended family.” She describes her father as having a “bachelor” lifestyle today. “But when my parents were married, I had a traditional Christian upbringing. We went to church every Sunday.”
Also in her family is a 4-year-old lab-pit mix rescue she named Ivory, because he was white when she got him at the age of only four weeks. His color changed from ivory to gold but his name stayed the same.
But what will the future hold for this fire-starting millennial?
“My goal is to continue to build an international online store that will provide resources and speak to different people. I’ve also started doing a lot of different relationships with body positivity organizations.”
She said she wants to find more ways to be inclusive, like her recent addition of the model who uses a wheelchair. And she continues to build relationships with all different kinds of organizations.
For more Eboni:
Instagram: @theidentityofshe and @theidentityofeboni
Website: theidentityofshe.com, where you’re invited to take the Body Love Pledge.