When plus-sized model and positive body influencer Natalie Hage took a plane from Dallas to L.A. last week, it was supposed to be just another flight to a modelling gig.
Instead, the model found that she had become the target of body shaming when she witnessed her seatmate texting hurtful comments about her weight to a friend of his.
But rather than stay silent, the 30-year-old had a plan: she would take photos of his text messages with her phone and then confront the man (whose name is Eric) with her evidence, all while getting the interaction on video.
And that’s exactly what she did.
“I’m shaking right now,” Hage wrote on her Instagram account. “As soon as I sat down, the gentleman on my left began loudly huffing, sighing and readjusting himself in his seat. I see him furiously texting and then purposefully turning the phone away from me. So, naturally, next time he texts, I take a look. The texts were about me and I’m almost positive he took photos of me. Not only were they texts about me, but they were really mean and ugly, with even the recipient named ‘Linda’ chiming back with shaming retorts.”
“Hopefully she didn’t have any Mexican food,” the recipient on the other end of the text messages wrote.
“I think she ate a Mexican,” the man wrote back. “If the news reports a DFW Airbus A321 leaving the runways without rotating, that would be my flight.”
“He then proceeded to say he’s leaving a neck mark on the window because he’s so smashed against the wall,” Hage said. “From the photos, you can see I’m not in his space.”
According to Hage, there were several more texts commenting on her weight between the man and the recipient of the text messages.
And when Hage tried to ask the other man to her right to switch seats with her because of what the man was saying, Hage said the man laughed and refused.
But Hage didn’t cower at the situation. After thinking about the type of message she would be sending by not speaking up for herself, she decided to take action.
“I knew I needed to practice what I preach,” Hage told “Today”. “If I didn’t say something, I’d regret it forever. I’d be a hypocrite… I’ve made a platform [on social media] to make people feel good about taking up space in the world, and this dude wanted to make me feel bad for existing.”
So when the flight had come to an end, Hage confronted the man. Hage told “Today” that she had waited to the end of the flight, so as not to cause a disturbance.
In the video, Hage begins by introducing herself to the man before telling him about what she had experienced.
“I couldn’t help but notice that before we took off you were sending really horrible text messages about me to somebody,” she said calmly.
At first the man denies her claims, until she begins reading back what he had texted. At first, he apologizes and said he had been drinking.
When Hage continued to challenge the man, he lashed out again by asking her if she felt that she should be sitting in an exit row which others would need to use in case of an emergency.
She then explained to the man that the seat she was given on the flight was not her decision, but rather the decision of the company she works for. She also informed the man that she was a model on her way to a photo shoot and actually works out five times a week.
The man apologized once more, and then asked Hage if he could buy her dinner “for the trouble.”
In the end, Hage hopes the man has learned something from their encounter.
“I couldn’t NOT speak up,” Hage wrote in a follow-up post. “I’m so tired of fat people being a social punching bag. I won’t stand for it. I hope this dude learned something today.”
In response to the unfortunate encounter with Hage, “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” star Whitney Way Thore took to Twitter to address the issue with American Airlines.
Sharing screenshots of her private exchange with the airline to her Twitter account, Thore revealed that American Airlines was not to blame for the situation.
“Real Housewives of Toronto” star and body positive advocate, Roxy Earle, also weighed in after hearing what happened, writing in an Instagram post that she too has been body shamed.
This is a photo I recently posted on Instagram looking perfectly happy on route to a vacation, what this picture doesn't show is that my 50" hips are pretty snug in this seat and I'm glowing because I'm deeply embarrassed by this fact. In fact I feel shame. Shame because of the size of my hips. Can you imagine that feeling? Picture it, and then you look over next to you and realize that the passenger sitting beside you is texting cruel jabs about how a "fat girl" can't fit into the seat next to him. Sadly, this is a real story that happened to a beautiful girl named Natalie @nataliemeansnice on an @americanair flight, and it's NOT okay. Firstly I would like to congratulate Natalie on how she handled the situation with elegance. I too have been body shamed in embarrassing ways (like national television, everyday on Instagram etc etc) and it's painful, but you zeroed in on precisely the point I try to explain, that while we are strong, people have no idea what shaming can do to a persons soul, confidence and life. It's your body and just because you may not fit someone else's ideal of beautiful, it does not mean judgment is okay. So Natalie, my 50" hips and I are standing by you, and together by having the courage to draw attention to body shaming, we will take on the bullies one jab at a time. #MySizeRox #bodypositivity @cnn @goodmorningamerica @etcanada #bodyactivist #bodyshaming #beautybeyondsize #bulliesbeware #nojudgment #cnn #dailymail #viralvideo @theellenshow #RHOT #realhousewife