Why You Need to Attend The Big Lunch Event in Chicago Next Month

It’s no secret that we, at PMM, firmly believe that anyone can do what they set their mind to, no matter what size you are.

This is why when we heard of the Big Lunch event happening in Chicago next month and its organizer, the amazing Kelly Lenza, we had to share the deets on the event, as well as have our readers get to know Kelly better.

Lenza is the owner of Bloom Photography, with a mission to make their subjects feel amazing and tell their story through imagery. Lenza shoots ALL people, from babies and weddings to boudoir and fantasy glam. When you look through their portfolio, you can see the happiness and joy in each and every customer exuding from the images.

We recently chatted with Lenza on their Big Lunch event, their thoughts on navigating life as a fat person and more!

Editor’s Note: Kelly identifies as non-binary and prefers to use they/them/their pronouns.

PMM: Hi Kelly! You have an exciting event happening in Chicago on April 7th. We want to know more! What inspired you to create this event? What do you hope to accomplish and that people will take away from the event?

KL: I created Big Lunch because I want to share these amazing Midwestern adventurers with more folks! The speakers at this event – Bisa Myles (@MylesToTravel), The Dimple Duchess (@TheDimpleDuchess), and Lisa Hendrickson (@PlusSizeScuba) are all people that have expanded what I thought might be possible for me as a fat person. The fatter I’ve gotten, the more things I crossed off my “to try” list thinking that they wouldn’t be accessible to me – sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously. I think that’s an experience many big-bodied folks are familiar with.

We count ourselves out of something because we have had so many experiences or places being inaccessible to us and people turning us away because of our bodies. All three of the speakers are doing amazing things and showing both local and worldwide audiences that fat people can have these amazing adventures, either at home or abroad.

Bisa is showing how travel and doing things like climbing mountains is something achievable for plus-sized people. The Dimple Duchess went through an abusive relationship and healed, in part, through empowering herself with burlesque, this amazing performance skill.

And Lisa is showing how accessible scuba diving can be for all kinds of bodies. I’m taking a scuba lesson in a few months and literally before I met Lisa, I thought scuba was off the table for someone as big as me. I want to share all these folks’ stories with a local community that can build off of them. Also, I love to feed people! Sharing a meal can be a really intimate time to connect with people and ideas – nourishing your body and mind at the same time. So of course food!

PMM: You describe yourself as a body liberation activist, which is a term we don’t hear enough of in the plus size/fat community (in my opinion), especially during a time where the term body positivity has become somewhat “trendy” and used in other ways that stray from the true definition. What is a body liberation activist? And how does your photography factor into that?

KL: Body liberation is about helping people find freedom from a few things. For me: freedom from others’ expectations about their body, freedom from expectations about how they should feel about their own body, freedom from oppression across the board. Body positivity leaves behind so many folks who can’t feel positive about their bodies or themselves, for so many reasons.

Body neutrality or maybe even body image stability is a greater and more reasonable goal. Plus, there’s no room for leaving anyone behind in body liberation – if you talk about liberating people from damaging cultural and personal expectations, it doesn’t work to exclude queers. Or people of color, or fat people, or trans folks, or disabled folks. In the end game, body liberation is a tool to tear down patriarchy, white supremacy, all oppression – and build a community of inclusion in its place.

Photography is a way that I can, to the best of my ability, offer a body liberation space for people to experience as they have their photo taken. Taking a photo of someone that makes them “look good” is easy. There are cultural rules coded into how we look at ourselves and others about appearances, and techniques to use to make those things happen.

I think the experience of being in a purposefully created body liberated space – where a client can talk to me with confidence about their body, what they like about it, what they don’t, what will make them feel best in that moment, and trust that I will respond to them respectfully and thoughtfully – is an intimate and subversive moment. When you experience it, you may not realize it right away. It comes into relief when you spend time with others who make you feel bad about yourself. So then you crave the space again, because of course you do – I think we want to be as we were born, only questioning our bodies with curiosity and how to meet its needs. A body liberation space is a mindful space, and we know how powerful and healing a mindful state is for people.

PMM: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned, navigating the world as a fat person?

KL: The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a fat person is not very kind or inspiring. It’s that hierarchies damage us so much on a regular and daily basis in so many facets of our lives. The larger I’ve become, the less accessibility and friendliness I see in my daily life, sometimes most damagingly from people I need help or care from, like medical providers or family members. I carry a lot of trauma with me and it makes many relationships very difficult, despite a lot of access to privileges like therapy, medications, and relatively stable finances. I’m angry all the time, always hungry for someone to acknowledge my humanity, and struggle with chronic depression. And over all, I’m really really privileged. The bare minimum response to the lesson is trying to be aware of myself and always be learning how to not harm and then to actively heal.

A pluckier option, because I know the first answer is intense and raw: the biggest lesson is that we are all often expected to rely on ourselves for all kinds of fulfillment and healing, but we need folks to really witness whatever traumas we are carrying with us. Social hierarchies convince us we’re better or worse than one another, so we cause harm to ourselves or others. We need connections on equitable footing and community to fully heal. I think so many of us fat folks feel really alone, and some of us are always the biggest person in a room. We need each other to see how common we are – and that’s where some of our power can be.

PMM: What advice can you offer others who would like to advocate for fat people? Often, when someone fat posts images online and gets negative comments, many times it’s shocking to see those comments coming from other fat people. How can we better connect with each other and instead inspire and support one another in the community?

KL: I think the best advice I can give in general is to remember that your experience is not a stopping point on a ladder, and get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. However great you feel about your life and the work you’ve done for yourself, your experience isn’t a goal post to judge other people by or get people to. Your job as an advocate is to help people figure out what it is they need and then help them get that, even if it doesn’t look like your own life.

If you’re a size 3X, ask companies for clothes for the folks who are fatter. If you’ve never questioned your sexuality, support folks who are gayer. If you forget what race you are on the regular, listen to people who are browner. Recognizing these experiences beyond your own are uncomfortable and can feel threatening because your own grasp on support and access – power – might be tenuous, and you don’t want anyone unseating that. There’s room for everyone at the table if we’re building a new table and make the room.

PMM: After Big Lunch, what’s next for you? More events?

KL: After Big Lunch, I’m hoping to book more fat, diverse clients for portrait sessions, especially anything artsy and weird – email me (Kelly@BloomPhotographyChicago.com) if you’re in the area and you’ve got a wild idea, or if you want to be in one of mine – and do more work connecting with and supporting other local folks. I’m looking forward to some specific art projects I’ve had on the back burner, and actually hoping to rename/rebrand Bloom Photography later in the year.

I’m also planning on continuing my Instagram journey of posting pretty pictures of myself and food on my feed and in my stories, flip flopping between goofy parenting of young kids and hot takes on healing, advocacy culture, and depression. I’m a hoot, come have a visit.

Thank you for chatting with us, Kelly and being so candid on your experiences as well as your work in our community.

You can check out Kelly’s photography website at www.BloomPhotographyChicago.com

Want to attend the Big Lunch event? Visit www.BloomPhotographyChicago.com/biglunch for more information and to get tickets!

Follow Kelly on Instagram here.