ahead of the curve

A Newsletter That Talks About Bodies in a Whole New Way

Jane Belfry. Photo: Savanna Ruedy

In the shallow sea of content about mental health and body positivity on the internet, the Thicc newsletter stands out. It feels safe and honest, like it was written by my friends. As someone who’s always fluctuating between sizes 10 and 14 (and is never particularly at ease with either), I’ve found the Thicc to be a small everyday joy, and I’m not alone in that sentiment.

Each week, the Thicc tackles a new topic — anxiety, weed, friendship, therapy — with humor and honesty. The same goodness and candor carries over onto the brand’s Instagram, an account that has grown sizably since it launched last April without any ads, regrams, or back-end boosting, largely because it’s fostered such an organic community.

The Thicc runs exclusively original photography (largely cast and shot by founder Jane Belfry) and features all different kinds of bodies. The feed is full of deliberately unedited close-ups of bumpy bikini lines, hanging belly buttons, and soft, glowy, comfortable smiles. Every photo is a reminder that the Fashion Nova hourglass figure isn’t the only type of plus-sized body worthy of celebration.

In less than a year, the Thicc has earned the attention of brands like Savage Fenty and Macy’s, collaborating on campaigns and social content creation. And last October, Belfry announced an expansion project: an in-house modeling agency. As applications pile up daily, Belfry talked with the Cut about finding new and creative way to represent all kinds of bodies online.

There’s already so much women’s content on the internet right now. When you were planning the Thicc, what were you hoping to add to the conversation?
I wanted something a little more body-focused, more accessible, and realistic. And as far as the aesthetic, I wanted it to look celebratory without being a space that could re-trigger people — a glamourous, fun, colorful space.

Were there any topics that you knew you specifically wanted to bring to life in the newsletter?
A big one for me was online shopping as a thicker woman, a plus-size woman, a curvy woman. That’s something I talk to my friends about constantly — how hard it is to find spaces that serve them. That was an important one. I wanted conversations about skin care that weren’t just about insanely priced dermatologists and serums. And anything about how people are surviving day-to-day. We did a therapy issue, and another about anxiety.

Why a newsletter versus a website or podcast or just the Instagram?
I just loved the thought of having something to open in my email inbox that’s not spam, sales, or reminders.

Let’s talk visuals — everything is so consistent. Did you have any creative/visual experience before the Thicc?
I worked as a stylist and a personal shopper for a long time. I had an online vintage store and used to produce all of my shoots for that — so I had a little bit of experience. I did work with an art director, Emily Kapsner, on the logo and initial branding and color direction, and she was amazing at putting a vision on a page. I learned a lot from her.

And everything is shot in-house. Why was that important to you?
When we started in the beginning, we knew we didn’t want to repost anything. I wanted continuity with the same presets, the same kind of filmy graininess. And I wanted it to feel unique to us.

Did you always plan to launch an agency, too?
I had it in the back of my head at the beginning, but wasn’t sure if it was the direction I wanted to go. As we grew and more brands started to notice us, people started using us as a casting service anyway, saying, ‘Do you have somebody that would be great for this?’ And I was like Maybe I should just turn us into an agency after all.

My first job in the industry was at a modeling agency in Minneapolis called Vision, as a development and image consultant. I used to travel with the models to New York Fashion Week and Paris, and I dressed them for shows and castings. It was a straight size agency, no curve models — that was a while ago. I used to model when I was a kid, too. So it felt like a natural next step.

How many models have been signed?
I’ve gotten a lot of submissions since October, when I announced it. Right now we have 14 people on the board, but it’s really going up quickly.

Have you found that a lot of the people you’ve signed wanted to be models before the Thicc came along?
Some of them had booked plenty of jobs before this. But a couple of them hadn’t really been in front of the camera before. They’ve said things like, “I never thought of doing modeling before, but I saw this and it seemed like I might fit.” Which is great.

I think that level of comfort and vulnerability can be attributed to the community you’ve built and the images that you post, especially the close-up detail shots. You guys are showing parts of the body that a lot of people try to hide.
Definitely. I’d say our close-up, body-cropped images are our most popular posts on Instagram, and I get tons of messages about them saying, “Oh, I’ve hated this part of my body, but I love it in this picture, so I guess I have to start to like it.” Growing up and going through my own struggles with eating disorders, I wish I’d had something like this. And I’m always really happy that the models feel comfortable posing for those kinds of images, cause that can be tough, too.

Are the models apprehensive?
Almost everyone has come in like “I’m ready to go.” They’re putting a lot of trust in me, and in the team. It can be hard — even for working models — to see yourself without retouching. If somebody has a bruise or something obvious we might retouch it, but otherwise we do almost no retouching.

I think there’s a phenomenon in the body-positivity space where we can see someone else’s body that looks almost identical to our own and praise it, but still feel bad about ourselves. Have you and the team talked about that?
I’ve definitely chatted with models on set about it. I do it too. Sometimes I’m shooting people and I’m like Oh my God, her body looks incredible, and then I wake up in the morning and I’m like Ugh, nothing fits, I don’t feel very cute. It’s sad, but I think it changes day to day. We’ve had a lot of conversations about body neutrality.

What does that look like?
Not hating your body, but not necessarily expecting to love your body all of the time. Just liking it and accepting it, more or less — because that’s a more realistic goal. Sometimes the whole body positivity thing can feel like too much pressure, like you feel bad if you don’t totally love yourself every day. A lot of people that we work identify more with body neutrality.

I still love body positivity sites, but I’ve seen a lot of them post not-so-flattering photos of women. That’s definitely something I considered — how all the people that I shoot still really want to look good, and feel sexy, and empowered. It’s one thing to be vulnerable, but there’s a whole other side of that where it gets to be a little forced.

Right, like where the on-set direction is to literally pinch a roll of fat or something. It feels performative.

It makes me think of the Thicc’s about page, which makes fun of trendy wellness summits and $400 serums. So many women’s publications talk to people on an unrealistic, superficial level. Why is that?
It’s just the status quo. It’s what we expect to see and read, and what writers expect to write. We’re excited to be doing things differently.

A Newsletter That Talks About Bodies in a Whole New Way