McDonnell describes herself on Instagram (_the_b_word_ is her handle) as a “fat babe creating fat media” and that’s a pretty spot-on description of what she does. If you check out her #beinyourskin hashtag and her IGTV channel, you’ll see the video that has garnered her the most attention, “Shopping While Fat.”
‘Mind Blown’ By Body Positivity Bloggers
“I grew up in San Diego, Calif. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams of musical theater,” says McDonnell, who turns 28 in July.
When she finished college, she wanted to do something creative. “Fashion was always very important to me. I was always bold in my fashion choices. When I found plus-size bloggers when I was about 20 years old, my mind was blown, my life was changed.”
She hadn’t grown up hearing about fat liberation or body positivity. Everyone else in her family was thin. “I knew nothing about any of this.”
When she began reading the body-positive and fat-liberation bloggers, she thought to herself, “OK, so I’m not alone.” Then, she realized her blog was doing the same service for other women. “This is my purpose: to continue sharing my story to hopefully empower others.”
Her initial idea was to post a picture of herself once a week wearing a different outfit. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no concept that this could be a career,” she said.
But it worked. “I have had some of the craziest, best experiences. I have met some of the best people. The B Word has opened a lot of doors for me, personally and professionally.”
Soon, clients for all kinds of brands were asking her to conduct creative campaigns.
“I worked pretty exclusively in the plus-size fashion space for a while. And then I was like, ‘Wait, I could actually get paid to do this for a lot of brands.’ So today I consult with other brands. This was never my end goal. I consider myself an entrepreneur and a hustler. I’ve been working remotely as a social media strategist for the past two years, so that’s been incredible and cool.”
Brianna’s Personal Journey
“It’s been a long journey. I am 6 feet tall and a size 20,” she says. People said her voice was “too loud.”
“It took me a long time to say, ‘Eff it, I am big. I’m just going to do me.’”
“I’d been dieting since I was 9. I’ve been to every doctor,” she said. “Somewhere around 13 or 14 I made a conscious decision that I’m either going to spend the energy hating my body, or I’m going to love my body no matter what. I don’t have the energy to hate myself. I love fashion. I love singing. I love performing. I’m going to be unapologetic and I’m going to take up space.”
And Then Came the Coronavirus
“I was trying to transition to not working from home, and then Covid happened,” she said with a laugh.
Everybody has a COVID-19 story. McDonnell’s is that she and her boyfriend moved in together three days before the stay-at-home order hit. “We were actually in Munich, Germany, right before the shut-down travel ban.” They rushed home, arriving “in the nick of time.”
“It was a vacation that my boyfriend had planned like a year ago,” she said. “When we got back, we had to move. We were supposed to move like a week later. So we finished packing and we moved, and two days later came the stay-at-home order. We got into our place and had no furniture.” Now, they’re finally getting settled in.
No two days are the same for her. “It sort of changes. Prior to Covid, I had many more social media clients. If I wasn’t shooting or creating content that day, I was probably in pre-production. ‘The Word’ is my IGTV series. Every episode is a different topic.
“I love, love, love making those.”
One of the episodes covers the ubiquitous health troll.
The Rise of the Health Trolls
Every plus-size woman in the public eye — especially if she dares embrace body positivity — knows all about the health trolls. They pretend to be very, very concerned about the plus-size woman’s health. What if she gets diabetes? Heavens, what if she were to develop a heart condition? It’s not difficult to see through the health trolls, who are simply feigning concern for a person’s health in order to get away with fat-shaming them.
“We are in such a fat-phobic society,” McDonnell says. “You only see thinness related to health. I know personally I would never, ever comment on someone’s health. Your health is your concern. My relationship with my health is my own, and with my doctor. I know the truth, the stats. I know I am healthy, I am good. So that’s sort of how I feel about it. I ignore comments about my health, because I know they aren’t well-intended.”
“There’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that wants you to keep dieting. I would rather spend my efforts with radical self-love and to keep myself fit and healthy for myself, but to really put the effort into loving myself, nourishing my soul and to living life to the fullest,” McDonnell says.
“Do the things. I will not live a life that I’m holding myself back because of my insecurities.”
One example is zip-lining. She was initially worried it might be unsafe for her to do it, but after learning it’s fine, she decided she will go for it soon.
“That’s something I really, really want to do, is go zip-lining.”
Nobody Has 24/7 Confidence
McDonnell wants you to know nobody feels great about herself every single moment of the day.
“I’m not confident 24/7. I don’t wake up every morning thinking, ‘OMG, I’m going to kill this day and be totally amazing,’” says McDonnell.
Just because she shares her body positivity online, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have bad days just like everybody else.
‘Shopping While Fat’
One of McDonnell’s most popular pieces of content is her video about shopping while fat. “I wrote it sort of as a monologue in jest.” One of her friends shot her at a mall using her iPhone. The video received 3 million views on Facebook. She reposted it two years later on Instagram, where it had another moment.
“I get incredible comments, and then I get vile comments. I wrote in it, I starred in it, and that’s what I want to do. Also, I do a bikini look-book every single year. Every year it gets bigger and bigger. Last year, we did a music video. I’m singing a cover of ‘Diamonds are Forever.’ I’m a creative, through and through.”
She understands the power of stories in reaching people.
“I think people understand, once they hear more people’s stories. That’s just what I want to continue doing more of. I’m a 100 percent self-produced creative.”
She’s proud of her videos and blog, and in 2020 and 2021, “I want to make more things like that.”