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Dream Big, Hope Big
Hippo. Fatty. McNugget. That’s what they call me. After a while I started to believe them. They don’t know that my name is Hope and I want to be a model. All they know is what they see. At school people see my red cheeks, double chin, and Twinkie sized fingers. Everyone knows that I am the girl that buys my shirts in XL and my jeans in size 16. I don’t want to be this girl anymore.
“Hey, Hippo! Move out of the way! You’re blocking the whole hall!” Easton Aarons yells to me. I’ve been hearing this since the 1st grade and I’ve gotten used to it, but it still hurts. No one at school knows that I go home, cry and then console myself with candy bars and chips only worsening my problem. I was raised to be big. My family has always been fat. Is it such a crime to love to eat? Is it a crime to want to be treated like a human being and not a worthless fat nobody?
Walking into Algebra I go to my desk in the back of the room. My thighs feel huge as they brush against the other desks. I can barely get through and sitting in my desk is even more difficult. I squeeze in and feel like a big blob. I see the stares and hear the whispers. It is the same every day; make fun of the fat girl. I tell myself I’m beautiful.
I ride home on the bus this afternoon and reflect on my day. Only three people made comments about my weight. I’m sad to admit to myself that that is a record. In gym I was embarrassed when we ran the mile and I got 19:46. The second worst time was 10:25. I guess it was a fairly good day.
“Hi, Sweetie. How was school?” my mom asks.
She asks me this everyday and every day I feel like a disappointment.
“I ate lunch with the popular girls, I got asked to prom by the hottest senior, and I placed first in the mile run! How do you think my day was, Mom?” I asked.
“Honey I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m making my famous spaghetti for dinner,” she tells me.
“Yeah, like I really need to eat all those calories.” I walk up to my room and lay on my bed. I notice that there are at least 20 candy wrappers littered across my carpet. Snickers, Twix, Hershey, Milky Way, Three Musketeer; these are my best friends. They comfort me, listen to me, make me feel happy inside. They don’t say mean things and they’re not embarrassed to be with me.
Then I unfold the pink crumpled paper from my floor and read it aloud: Are you beautiful? Do you have a good sense of fashion? Are you outgoing? Do you want to be a model? Now is your chance! We are holding an audition at Yellowstone Mall and the top five girls will be models for our catalogs and ads for the next year! All you have to do is write a 500 word essay on why we should pick you and send us a photo of you. This is your chance for your dream to come true now make it happen!
I thought it was a joke from someone at school when I got it in the mail, but the mall sent the letter to every teenage girl in the city. Maybe the judges will see the real me. I may be fat, but I have dreams that are going to come true.
Saturday morning I wake up and decide that it is time. I pull the cold metal devil out from underneath my bed. I take off my clothes because they might affect the number. I step on and pray it hasn’t increased. I hardly ever weigh myself because when I do I feel ashamed and eat more than ever. I look down at the number and notice I have trouble seeing my toes. Why have I allowed myself to get so big? The number reads 241. I have gained four pounds in two months. I smile because four extra pounds is barely noticeable, but I have to punish myself because 241 is humiliating. No dinner for me tonight.
I pull on my giant jeans from the Gap and a plain black shirt because black is supposed to make you look slimmer. But how slim can you look when you are 241 pounds? I paint my face with my cheap make-up from the drug store that my mom bought with a 2-for-the-price-of-1 coupon. I want to look pretty in my picture I submit for the model contest. The last time I wore a dress was for Easter when I was nine. I haven’t worn shorts for almost four years. Why don’t they make pretty clothes for fat girls? I decided writing my essay would be easier.
Hi, my name is Hope Lillian McDonald and I want to be a model. Ever since I was little I have looked at the models in magazines and envied them for their beauty and poise. I think that you should pick me for this contest because I am not your typical applicant. I do not have a stick figure and I’m definitely not a size zero. But beauty is not just on the outside. I have had a 4.0 GPA since 6th grade and I volunteer regularly at a nursing home. I think that everyone is beautiful no matter their size, shape, or color. I think that the model world needs more girls like me because I could help other plus-sized girls feel confident and maybe they would be able to follow their dreams.
That night after I finish my entry letter I get all the money I found in my piggy bank and wallet and drive to Yellowstone Mall. Every store window has plastic white mannequins with distorted anorexic figures that the employees dress in size 0 jeans and XS shirts. I walk right past Abercrombie and Hollister because there is no reason to pretend that I fit into any of the clothes they sell. I am about to go into Old Navy when I see him.
“Hey, I want a number 6 with a large fry and chocolate shake.”
It is just my luck that Easton Aarons would be here.
I turn my head and wish that he would just go away when he comes right over to me with his crew all wearing bedazzled designer shirts, jeans, diamond earrings, fancy watches, and their baseball caps on backwards. I’m twice the size of most of those guys.
“So Zander, what would be worse: kissing a guy or kissing Hippo?” Easton laughs, but his friends’ faces turn red.
“Dude, no. That’s not cool. Let’s go get a smoothie.” The new kid Zander says.
As they walk off I realize that none of them apologized to me. I am a living breathing human being and that is not how you treat a person! Just because I’m not skinny doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings! If only I had the courage to tell Easton and everyone else at school what I just said to myself.
In Old Navy I get some stares from others shoppers. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to have some cute clothes. I find a lavender skirt that has little flower beads embroidered on it. Even though I’m doubtful that it will fit I take it into the dressing room with all my other choices. I try on everything and most of it is too tight or the clothes just make me look even fatter. I couldn’t get the lavender skirt pulled up over my thighs. I walk out of the dressing room upset and get sympathy from one of the employees.
“There is a store for plus-size girls on the upper level. I’m sure you would be able to find some cute clothes there that fit,” she tells me.
I bow my head and mumble, “Thanks.”
Instead of going to the store the lady recommended I go and get a double chocolate chip cookie and large pop at the food court. I guess I will have to decorate a garbage bag to wear in my photo.
“Do you really think you need to be eating?”
Easton just shows up at the greatest times. Zander looks at Easton with a disgusted face and I can tell he feels bad.
“Um, sorry Easton can be a jerk sometimes,” Zander says. Easton must have gotten annoyed because he and the rest of his matching friends went into a C.D. store leaving Zander behind.
“It’s okay,” I tell Zander.
“No, it’s not okay. Why do you let him treat you like that?” he asks me.
“That’s how everyone treats me,” I tell him embarrassed.
“Well you shouldn’t let people treat you like that. I’ll talk to Easton about it,” Zander said.
“You really don’t have to,” I try to tell him.
“I want to. You don’t deserve that crap from ignorant people like Easton.”
“Thanks,” I say with pure gratification.
“You’re welcome, I’m going to go catch up with the guys, but I’ll talk to you at school sometime,” he waves goodbye with a smile.
I smile back and thank him. That was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
That Sunday I go to that store for plus-size girls and amazingly enough, find some cute tops. I even bought a dress after I got so many compliments from employees and shoppers when I tried it on. What Zander said to me really made me feel good about myself, at least, the best I’ve felt in a long time. His comment even made me feel like eating healthier than I regularly do. For breakfast instead of having pop-tarts and chocolate milk, I had scrambled eggs and toast with butter. He doesn’t know how much of an impact his small comment had on me.
All day I’ve been daydreaming in every class what I will wear for the different catalogues and how happy the photographers will be when I smile perfectly. And I think about the girls who will look up to me and the fat ones that will realize they don’t have to be skinny to have their dreams come true. I fall asleep that night with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.
At school I can’t concentrate because I know when I get home that in the mail there will be the letter that says I am one of the five winners in the model contest. Finally everyone at school will see how beautiful I am. I will be famous!
On my walk home from school I practice what my reaction will be when I open the letter and see the words: YOU ARE A YELLOWSTONE MODEL! My family will be so proud of me and people will be jealous of me at school. All my dreams are coming true.
I slowly open the mailbox and there inside is a pink envelope addressed to Hope McDonald. I run up the driveway squealing and rush to my room to open the letter. I gently open it and make sure to not tear any of the beautiful paper. As I unfold the paper and smooth out the creases on the side of my bed, I get little butterflies in my stomach.
Dear Hope McDonald,
Thank you for entering the Yellowstone Mall model search. We had a lot of great entrees and it was a hard choice to only select five girls to be models for us this year. We read your essay and viewed your photo. Your essay was great and you have a pretty smile, but you are not the type of girl we were looking for. Thanks again for entering.
Sincerely, The Yellowstone Mall model contest judges
I feel the giant lump form in my throat and the tears well up in my eyes. “You are not the type of girl we are looking for.” By now I’m sobbing hysterically and I’ve managed to stuff an entire Snickers candy bar in my mouth. The chocolate is salty tasting from my tears. When I look in the mirror I see a sad fat girl with mascara rundown on her cheeks with pity and embarrassment in her eyes. I’m fat! I’m ugly! I deserve to be called Hippo! I scream this over and over again in my head and believe the words I tell myself. I snatch the scissors from my desk drawer and cut up the new shirts I bought. I don’t deserve to wear these! I was crying so hard that my mom came running into my room.
“Honey, stop it! What are you doing?” she asks me.
I can’t breathe. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m embarrassed my mom has to see me like this. She is rocking me back and forth and telling me: It’s okay, Mom is here. She holds me and I cry.
I wake up and look in the mirror once again. My eyes are red, bloodshot, and poufy. My cheeks have a faint trace of mascara left. My hair is a mess and standing up in every direction. Then I remember it wasn’t a dream and I lost the contest and I lost all hope. My carpet has rags and scraps all over from what used to be the cute shirts I bought. I see the pink paper that to me
reads: You are fat and ugly. Nice joke entering a model contest. Those judges ruined my dreams. And what about the dreams of the girls who would have looked up to me?
At school I am numb. I go back to being the fat girl and feeling bad about myself.
“You entered the model contest? Of course you wouldn’t win, Hippo,” Easton laughs in my face. Apparently the mall’s website listed all the names of the girls that entered the contest. All day people are laughing at me and asking me if I actually thought I had a chance of winning. Yes, I want to tell them. I wanted them to see the real me.
At lunch I sit in a booth in the corner and eat three slices of pizza, a bag of Doritos, and a brownie. I know that I should be eating healthy in fact I shouldn’t be eating at all, but what is the point?
“Uh, hey Hope, um are you okay? You looked upset in art,” Zander sits down in the booth across from me.
I hate that he has to see me at my worst, but he will never like me or love me the way I wish he would.
“Oh I’m fine,” I lie.
“Look, I know you entered that model contest thing and I think it is stupid that people are making fun of you for it. Can I tell you something?” Zander asks me.
“Yeah, what’s wrong?” I ask.
“In elementary school I was the fat kid and everyday my classmates teased me until it hurt so bad I moved to a new school and exercised excessively. It was stupid and sometimes I wouldn’t eat for days. I’ve never told anyone that before.”
“I-I don’t know what to say.” I stutter.
“Just don’t do anything stupid. I’ll talk to you later Hope.”
As he waves and walks off to join his crew of friends I realize that it is time to change. But this time I will change because I want to, because I want to be healthy and beautiful, inside and out.
Once again I pull the scale out from under my bed and step on. Today it reads 242 and in three months I hope it will read 200. Gradually I will lose weight, not to be size zero, but to be happy. All my life I have been the fat girl. I have been teased, taunted, and called every fat nickname there is. But it all ends now. Maybe Easton thinks I’m fat and maybe the model judges didn’t think I was good enough. Well I am good enough. I’m going to show everyone how beautiful Hope really is.