A Port Coquitlam woman is flipping the bird to the fitness and lifestyle magazine industry with a new publication that highlights the beauty, talents and accomplishments of plus-size women.
FabUplus was in stores starting in June and features similar health and fitness articles, recipes and motivational encouragement you might find in a typical women's magazine but instead of ultra lean supermodels and skinny actresses on the cover and in the ads, the photos feature rubenesque, curvy women working out, dancing or modeling the latest fashions.
The brainchild of Shannon Svingen-Jones, mother of two and recent MBA graduate, FabUplus aims to tap into the zeitgeist of women larger than a size 14 who are tired of being shamed, blamed and marginalized for their shape.
"Readers are telling me how powerful it is to stand at the checkout and see someone that looks like them," said Svingen-Joness.
A second issue is in the works for September and will break even at $6.99 a copy, Svingen-Jones predicts, arguing that her magazine is alone in tapping a market of larger women who have money to spend and are loyal to companies that celebrate rather than judge them.
"Not all mainstream media has embraced body positivity and the body-positivity movement," said Svingen-Jones.
In fact, it was only a year ago that she came up with the idea for FabUplus after her own lifetime battle with weight loss led to the doctor's office.
Expecting to learn she was a candidate for weight loss surgery after completing a battery of tests, Svingen-Jones, who weighed 245 lb. at the time, was told by her doctor she was perfectly healthy.
"Go be you," the doctor told her.
"I actually realized there was nothing wrong with me," Svingen-Jones recalls.
The epiphany led the active mom — a regular runner — to question some of the media messages she saw around her.
When she picked up a fitness magazine featuring a hyper-thin model lifting ultra-heavy weights, Svingen-Jones thought: "How is that even possible?"
She also wondered whether there were other women who were tired of being put down in the media or ignored.
When My Big Fat Fabulous Life star Whitney Way Thore agreed to be her cover model and be interviewed, the PoCo publisher knew she was on to something.
Traditional media is also taking notice, with stories in the Vancouver media, as well as Elle and People Magazine in the U.S.
There are challenges, however, in publishing a plus-size magazine in a culture that is obsessed with thinness.
Advertisers have to be comfortable with being in a publication that celebrates larger women and Svingen-Jones has had to turn away a few advertisers if they weren't supportive or respectful of plus-size women.
But there is an upside, too, in that her readers are extremely loyal and those who who have purchased the summer edition are waiting for the next installment.
"For the first time, we have a publication that is not changing who we are."
HOW SHE DID IT
FabUplus is printed in Winnipeg, with distribution in Canada and the U.S. through Chapters, Indigo, Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, Save-On-Foods, Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million Online Book Store.
Shannon Svingen-Jones has a business administration background but had never been active in publishing. She sought out mentors who had turned their hobbies and interest into widely-read magazines.
Content is not available online; you have to purchase the print edition to get the photos and articles. Svingen-Jones decided to opt for print over online distribution after her surveys found readers preferred print.
In addition to personal financing, Svingen-Jones, a Métis woman, received a start-up grant from tale'awtxw, an organization that supports aboriginal-owned businesses.
• FabUplus is on Facebook, Instagram (@fabuplus) and Twitter (@FabuplusM).