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Vancouver travel blogger Jae’Lynn Chaney: “We don’t have to shrink. The company must expand.

Jae’lynn Chaney goes far.

From Hawaii to the Dominican Republic to the hip hotels of Portland, this Vancouver-based travel blogger assesses her experiences and raves about them to her social media followers. While there, she models new clothes and touts a useful product or two.

Chaney has such a large and loyal following that she is considered an “influencer” or someone who can persuade her fans to buy a product or service simply by mentioning it on her social media. Top companies pay her to review their products and services, which is not unusual for social media celebrities.

What’s amazing about Chaney is that she’s at the forefront of a new phenomenon: plus-size influencers.

“For so many years, the narrative we’ve seen is, ‘You don’t fit society’s standards of beauty, so you have to be miserable and not travel and go places and wear clothes. that you are not wearing. ‘not like,'” Chaney, 25, said. “A bigger person who has found love and is traveling the world and who is happy and confident and helping others find those things is why people connect with me. I give them hope and inspiration that they can live their best life, no matter their size.

The idea that tall people should enjoy the same respect and opportunity as everyone else is not new. Current thinking about body positivity (celebrating all body sizes) and body neutrality (body size is neither good nor bad) originated in Llewellyn Louderback’s 1967 essay in the Saturday Evening Post, “More People Should Be Fat”. In 1969, Bill Fabrey, inspired by Louderback’s ideas, founded what became the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. In 1979 Louderback published the book “Fat Power: Whatever You Weigh Is Right”.

What is new is that national brands are finally appreciating this power, namely the power of the consumer. Airlines, hotels, theaters, clothing lines, and big-box stores like Walmart and Target are getting the message that Chaney and hundreds of other influencers are shouting every day: Bigger people won’t be told ‘they can’t be fashionable, comfortable or just plain happy.

“When I’m on social media, I see tons and tons of people working with brands, demanding change from brands, to increase their sizes and to welcome their plus-size customers,” Chaney said. . “I love him. I love seeing us get what we deserve and what we deserved for a very long time.

Chaney took a circuitous route to self-acceptance and advocacy, overcoming staggering odds to succeed with his company, Jae Bae Productions. She said she hasn’t always shared details about her journey, but now finds courage in her story because she “has been through a lot and if I can make it through, everyone does. may”.

She was born to teenage parents and grew up in a family struggling with drug addiction. She was 11 when she first experienced true homelessness, she said, slipping in and out of housing for the next six years and struggling to stay in school. Nevertheless, she graduated at 17, days after moving on her own. A year later, she enrolled in college at Washington State University Tri-Cities. She graduated in 2018 with a degree in business administration and management.

“That was my ultimate goal – to have my own business,” Chaney said. “I really wanted to build something for myself.”

A few months after graduating, Chaney fell very ill. Her whole life changed, she said, from corporate work and international travel with her fiancé to doctor’s appointments and debilitating symptoms that kept her at home. Medical professionals focused on her size, she said, and told her they couldn’t help her unless she lost weight. It was a scary and deeply disheartening time, she says.

“I was at rock bottom. I had all these dreams. I just wanted to share myself with the world and I didn’t want to hold myself back anymore,” Chaney said. “If I didn’t have a lot of time left, I had nothing to lose, I just had to start learning to love and accept myself.

After 20 hospital visits, a heart catheter procedure and numerous trips to Seattle to see specialists, Chaney was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, a rare lung disorder that causes shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pressure. There is no cure, but it can be treated with medication and oxygen therapy.

When she felt well enough to travel, she documented it on social media. Her upbeat videos and posts immediately found an audience eager to hear about her experiences, with a focus on how airlines, hotels and other businesses accommodate plus-size travelers and travelers with disabilities. Visitors to its social media sites can find useful information on everything from reserving airplane seats and renting vehicles to seat belt extenders. Followers connect with his message that everyone deserves adventures, regardless of body size or health issues.

Chaney’s fans know she gets paid to review products and services, and Chaney herself notes when content is sponsored. The arrangement aligns with Chaney’s mission to educate businesses about the needs of large customers and encourage people to stand up for themselves. Chaney has worked with prestigious brands such as Torrid, Lane Bryant, Google, Dove, McDonald’s, Crayola and Aaron’s Furniture. She has produced content for Portland’s Jupiter Hotel and Hi-Lo Hotel, the recent Van Gogh Immersive Experience at the Portland Expo Center, and the Winter Wonderland holiday light show at Portland International Raceway. She reviewed products like the Big Fig Mattress, ASOUT Double Size Sleeping Bags, and Plus Size Camp Chairs.

Online and print media also took note of Chaney’s influence. She has been featured on the Fat Women of Color YouTube channel, Fat Girls Travel Too website, Queen Size Magazine, and PLUS Model Magazine. She wrote for Allure magazine’s online Body Image column and was named one of the Best Plus Size Travel Bloggers of 2021 on Insyze, a website featuring clothing in sizes 12 to 5X.

Chaney also organizes body-positive vacations for tall travelers and those with mobility issues. Chaney herself travels on oxygen and frequently uses a wheelchair, so accessibility is paramount. She is planning – through TrovaTrip, a company that runs specialist group travel packages – an all-inclusive trip to the Dominican Republic from December 5-9.

“We are starting to travel again now that things are reopening and the pandemic is slowing down. We have an upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast. We hope to travel to Las Vegas this year, Canada, San Francisco and Northern California,” said Chaney, who just returned from Hawaii. (She also acknowledges that traveling is not without perils. She and her fiancé tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after returning, although they both recovered.)

Some body positivity influencers shy away from the phrase “plus size” because it implies that people with larger bodies aren’t normal (no one uses “less size” as a descriptor, for example). Chaney, however, embraces it as a helpful categorization. There’s more of her, and that’s great.

“We have one life and one body, and we shouldn’t spend it hating everything about us. We’re so caught up thinking we won’t do anything until we get to a certain size, but we deserve to love ourselves at every stage of our lives,” Chaney said. “We don’t have to wait to live until we lose weight. We don’t need to shrink to fit into society. Society must expand to include us.

–Monika Spykerman/The Colombian