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552,000 likes and counting: How one plus-sized woman became a body-image champion

Stella’s self portrait

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Stella Boonshoft isn't afraid to strut her stuff – stretch marks and all. In September, the New York college student launched her crusade for a better body image with The Body Love Blog, which included a bikini shot of herself with a radiant smile and plus-sized belly (and photos of Marilyn Monroe in the background).

Since then, Boonshoft herself has become an icon of sorts.

More than 80,000 people shared her photo from her Tumblr page, People.com reports. Then her black-and-white photo hit the big time.

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Boonshoft had a chance encounter with Brandon Stanton, a photographer famous for street portraits in his Humans of New York project. Stanton took a photo of her fully clothed. But instead of adding that photo to his project, he grabbed the half-naked shot from her blog.

Initially, Boonshoft "panicked," she wrote on Tumblr, and considered asking him to take it down. Then she saw his Facebook page and her photo's 367,000 likes (which has since risen to 552,000-plus and counting as of Tuesday night).

The vast majority of comments were along the lines of "you go, girl!" Jezebel reports.

Still, as Boonshoft wrote on her blog, "IT'S WAYYYYY EASIER, however, to focus on the smaller percentage of negative assholes rather than the overwhelming love."

Boonshoft, who has polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disorder associated with excess weight, told the Today show she started her "size-ism project" after years of being judged because of her shape.

"I finally came to a place where I was really happy with the way that I looked," she said. "I wanted to leave a message to the bullies who tormented me."

The original text for the photo on her blog reads like a battle cry. "My body must be a revolution," she wrote, along with the caption, "Picture might be considered obscene because subject is not thin. And we all know that only skinny people can show their stomachs and celebrate themselves. I am not going to stand for that. This is my body, not yours. MINE."

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Nevertheless, the haters remain. "It's great to love your body but it's NOT great to be obese!" Annlynnmarie wrote at People.com, adding, "In no way is she a size 12."

Does a healthy body image have anything to do with body size?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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