marie southard ospina
From the Jersey Shore to traveling the world to teaching people how to love themselves, Marie is one inspiring young woman. Her enthusiasm and passion about the way we perceive ourselves and our bodies, and the media’s influence on that, is helping to shape the lives of many of people across the globe.
I was born in New Jersey. My mom is Colombian, but has lived here most of her life and my dad is born and bred New Jersey. I grew up mostly in the Jersey Shore.
[Laughs] It was just like you imagine it to be, it’s very much like that show.
I didn’t particularly enjoy the town I grew up in. It was very bland, mostly white, upper-middle class people who had very narrow views of acceptability. There was a lot of rampant racism and homophobia. Anyone who was gay, black or fat in high school was guaranteed to have very little of a social life and to be tormented by it.
How old were you when you got out?
I left as soon as I graduated high school. I was like “I’m leaving and never coming back!”
Where did you go?
Here, to New York. With the exception of my Junior year in college when I studied abroad in Madrid and Prague, and when I lived in the UK for a brief time it’s been about 6 years.
What was your impression when you first moved here?
I don’t think I was prepared. I was very naive. I thought I would get here, make all the friends I’ve always wanted to make, meet all different types of people and it would be rad. It took me a really long time to actually meet anyone.
I went to NYU, and it’s massive, about 10,000 students per year. You’d think that would make it easier to meet people, but I found it really hard. I think also because the friends I did have, I’d had forever. We had grown up together.
It was a shock. I didn't know how to go about experiencing the city. It took until Junior Year to get a feel for it.
You mentioned you studied abroad and lived in the UK, and you also met your partner overseas.
Yes. We actually met when I was studying abroad in Spain. It must have been the first week I was there because we were still doing orientation for school.
The school wanted to give us a guided tour, but my friend and I decided we’d rather explore in our own way. We ended up at a cafe/bar having a drink and my partner was also there having a drink. Him and his friend were there on a busking holiday. His friend, who is a very eccentric and outgoing person heard my roommate and I speaking english. She needed help translating something on the menu so she called us over to sit with her. We ended up all hanging out that night.
It was strange, I’d never had a very serious relationship at that point. I'd dated but had always been sort of closed off to the idea of something serious, I wanted to focus on school and my career.
We ended up keeping in touch via social media, we did a lot of weekend trips. Within 5 months we were seeing each other every weekend. It was hard when I had to come back to the US to finish university. When I graduated I went over to the UK. I didn’t have any job prospects but I thought I would prioritize my personal happiness and see what would happen. It was great.
It was hard but actually letting myself prioritize my romantic relationship for a year was very rewarding.
Are you an only child?
Both of my parents have been married multiple times so we have quite a blended family. My dad has six children, and my mother has two (my older brother and I).
My brother stayed in New Jersey, got married and had a baby. He’s a teacher, and he’s happy. I think he really likes that area. I’m the only one who left Jersey.
How did your mom come to live in America?
She came initially as a teenager with her father who was coming to work here and earn money to help support five kids and a wife back in Colombia. So my mom started working when she was young, I think she was 16.
She went back to Colombia in her twenties to finish school and ended up getting married to her first husband there. After that relationship didn’t work out she moved back to the US. I think she was about 25 when she moved back here on her own.
Did she encourage you to leave and experience different things?
She definitely encouraged traveling from a very young age and tried to get us to see as much as we could. We went to Colombia every year.
I’m thankful that that’s a big thing she instilled in me. She didn’t do it as much with my brother, but I think that’s because he was very settled. New Jersey is a good place for him. We’re very different humans.
What lead you to the job you’re in now, working in fashion journalism at Bustle?
I never thought I would work in fashion and beauty. Immersive journalism has always been my main passion, so I thought traveling would be a huge part of my career. I definitely still want that, to travel and meet people, to tell their stories. That is a long term goal.
Fashion and beauty was sort of an accident. I started getting into body positivity and plus size blogging on my own, after discovering people who were also doing it. Fashion seemed like a good way to introduce people who aren’t as familiar with movements in body positive and size acceptance to view the movements in a way that is very accessible.
Bustle’s idea is fashion and beauty for people who never thought they were interested in it. Anyone who has ever felt oppressed by the fashion and beauty industry, or marginalized by them, could find a place at Bustle's fashion and beauty page. They were very encouraging of me doing whatever I could to mix in body positive and size acceptance with fashion.
Did Bustle approach you?
They actually hired a friend of mine as an intern. They were looking for a lot more plus sized content, and my friend knew that I had started my blog and I was interested so she put me up for it. Luckily it worked out.
Have you seen a change in body perception even in the short time you’ve been working there?
I think so. I think fat shaming is just as prevalent as it’s always been and fashion hasn’t really changed, but I think the conversation has at least started.
For a very long time, you couldn’t really talk about it … how dare you be fat and happy. You had to live your life under the assumption that you wanted to be thinner and that's what people expected of you. In the last few years, conversations about body positivity have really blown up and plus size modeling has also had a peak in the last 12 months.
It is interesting, when people think “thin” they assume healthy, but the fashion industry is so known for being unhealthy …
The health conversation is really interesting, and also unavoidable when you’re talking about plus sized fashion. Everyone will bring it up.
I feel like I have a lot of lines rehearsed in my head for when this comes up. The main fact is that you can’t tell if someone is healthy or unhealthy by looking at them. “Health at every size” is a district of body positivity. It’s about how ridiculous it is that we’ve been brainwashed into thinking “oh that person's fat, they must have diabetes” or “that person’s so skinny she must be anorexic.” You can't know that, it’s something that I try to reiterate a lot.
That being said there are going to be fat people who are unhealthy, and there are going to be skinny people who are unhealthy. Either way, both people deserve respect, and they deserve to feel beautiful and to feel love.
Is that one of the main reasons you started your blog, Migg Mag?
When I started, it wasn't really about fashion so much as it was talking about body image and my own experiences with it, and how they translate to the bigger picture of everybody’s experiences.
I started talking a lot about how once I opened my mind to the fact that I could be fat and happy and beautiful, I felt so much more beautiful, happy and healthy. So much more so than I did when I was 120lbs and not eating. I felt hideous at the time even though I was skinny and fit the standard of beauty.
I was model size, but I hated everything about my body. It doesn’t always equate to happiness especially if you're losing weight in a way that’s so self harming. It’s really destructive ideology.
You really can’t escape it, even in the way we talk to ourselves.
We don't treat our bodies like they’re our friends. We’ve been taught that we shouldn’t, and that we should be very self critical. I think that’s something all women and some men have to a degree. We’ve been told to nitpick at everything, whether it’s the fat on your tummy or your nose. Nobody teaches you not to do it.
If we were seeing more diversity in our imagery, we’d do it less. It’s human nature to want to improve yourself but our definitions of that need to change a bit. When we talk about improving ourselves it’s so often related to physical stuff. Why is the key of our worth that one thing?
Why is it OK to look at someone and make judgements about their health? Why does it even matter? Why do we care? ‘Concern-trolling’ is such a big part of the body positivity discussion.
What is that?
‘Concern-trolling’ are people that troll people online but under the guise that they’re really just worried about your health. A beautiful fat woman will post a lingerie selfie, and 10 out of 15 comments will be “you’re promoting an unhealthy lifestyle” or “I’m concerned that one day you’re going to have diabetes.”
I really don’t believe that you’re concerned. It’s an excuse that people have for fat shaming.
You run your blog, you work at Bustle full time, how do you balance everything?
It’s been harder since starting full time at Bustle. My blog has taken a back seat. I post when I can and luckily people have been very understanding of that.
It’s just what happens when you have to do a full time job, your side hobbies are going to get left behind a little bit. I’m trying to dedicate at least one day of my weekend to doing blog stuff.
You moved back to New York in November of last year...
Yes, my partner and I moved back from the UK when I got the full time offer from Bustle. Although it's definitely not our long term plan to be here.
There is such an emphasis on career in New York, which can be great because it’s correlated to all the opportunities that there are here, but we don't want that to be our focus forever.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give?
The biggest thing is connected to self love. Be better and kinder to yourself and your body and your mind. Don’t forget that mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health. It’s really hard not to belittle yourself especially when media tells you to do otherwise, but fight through it, there are so many outlets now online. Find them and immerse yourself in that way of thinking.
What’s your favorite place to take visitors in New York?
They're mostly food related! I love BareBurger and Shake Shack. I also really like taking people to Prospect Park. Central Park can be very overwhelming, and most visitors want to see it but Prospect Park is a nice little chunk of sunshine and delight hidden in Brooklyn.
Do you have a favorite New York moment?
There are a lot of different moments, but one I always think about is a night I went out with my cousin. The last time he was in New York we had a very typical New York night, where you just have the goal of going out and finding something to do.
We took the subway into Alphabet City and stumbled upon a bar called Home Sweet Home. It was a Friday night and they have a little dance floor and were playing the most amazing music; 50s rock and roll, blues and rockabilly. It was surreal to stumble upon this at 1am, it was so very much us.
It just shows that if anytime you venture out in New York you’ll find something, even if you don't know what you’re after. This was a shining moment of that.
What does New York mean to you?
New York to everyone means possibilities. You come here and you feel it. You feel like something’s going to happen. There are very few cities I think that inspire that. It’s a graspable thing here, not just an idea floating in space. That’s what it means to me, a place to make things happen.