Ellise Smith is a 29-year-old Ph.D. student at Indiana University, an advocate for those with bigger bodies and the intersectional identities they may have, and the founder of various media platforms such as Trap Scholar and Fatness Fiction, which is also home to +Plus Size Magic Radio and +Plus Magazine. In every role she plays, Ellise manages to center her work around marginalized and under-represented bodies, even if it means driving 16 hours in one night to get from a +Plus Size Magic photo shoot on Sunday to a morning class on Monday.
The ideas for this work came from many places. “In general, my work includes body justice, social justice, fat activism, critical thought, and perceiving intersectionality. Each platform is a result of me looking at the intersections of my life and using academia as my ‘drug of choice,’” Ellise said.
One of her media platforms, Trap Scholars, which centers around marginalized voices, stories, and narratives in academia, was founded when Ellise realized she and her peers kept reading literature stating that certain people were marginalized in academia and the professors kept going without acknowledging the reasons why marginalized groups are and stay marginalized.
Ellise is also passionate about giving a voice to those with bigger bodies and creating space for self-love, so she founded Fatness Fiction. Fatness Fiction is the platform that includes the podcast “+Plus Size Magic Radio,” the +Plus Magazine, photo shoots, poetry, and any other project Ellise decides she’s going to conquer. This platform, that centers voices, stories, and narratives from those with bigger bodies, was actually inspired by failed relationships. When Ellise kept hearing “I love you, but” or “you’re pretty, but” in situations where the second half of that always were intended to make her feel ashamed of her body, she knew that there was a need for body self-love that she could fulfill.
This position is so unique to Ellise because she “gets to interview regular people for [her] work. It takes a lot of people to build a platform before it can attract bigger names.” This work often isn’t compensated, either! Ellise funds these platforms out of her own pocket while she works part-time as an assistant in her Ph.D. program.
“If I don’t do this, no one will,” Ellise said. “These platforms deal with fears people don’t want to talk about. They cut through the noise to say things some people only say in secret. And this work comes as a priority to everything else I could have had. I don’t have any other choice; I owe it to the people.”
The biggest (and hardest) lesson learned from her work was “that even people who look like you and share those identities, they still might not support you,” Ellise said. “Some people are just not ready to be in that space.” After that, Ellise claims to avoid compassion fatigue and burnout, despite all of the different hats she wears. She often says she can’t be tired if she’s working for herself! With that being said, she takes naps, practices constant self-love, surrounds herself with people that care, and practices empathy with each person that gets involved with her work. “No matter how hard it is, if I can get someone to say ‘yes, sis!’ then I feel good.”
So what’s next? She intends to continue to build spaces for literature around fat bodies that center intersecting identities and keep it from being on dimensional in any way, finish her Ph.D program, and continue to increase and improve her magazine. Her hopes and dreams include starting a personal clothing line, getting her podcast on SiriusXM radio, putting out a web series that has been in the making for two years, writing a book, releasing an EP, continuing to center the people, and finally interviewing Oprah Winfrey for her podcast. With all of her success and future aspirations in her bag, Ellise Smith is undoubtedly a woman to keep your eye on!
Finding the strength to love yourself and love others may be difficult, but that is why Ellise works so tirelessly to show marginalized folks just how “magical” they are. So, as Ellise always says, “Wake up. Love you. Slay. And go remember to continue to flourish in your Plus Size Magic. Take care.”