Rock out with your ass-crack out.
I remember the very first time I played mas in 2015. My marriage was slowly dying, stress and depression had been weighing on my shoulders for several months and I weighed almost 180 pounds. I grossly underestimated my weight gain and found myself insanely insecure with a bottom that clung on to dear life.
Since this was my first year I allowed my twin sister to be my guide. Standing next to her who was probably 30-35 pounds lighter was difficult. In my mind, she was showing me what I was supposed to have looked like coming out on the road. I remember trying to get ready and I was a lot less agile when I was lighter, falling over myself to get my leggings and panty on. I was flooded with insecurity. As she ushered me to the meeting point I found myself constantly using my fan to cover up my waistline and caught myself checking to see if I was revealing more than what I should in the back.
But as I began to look around, I saw women of varying sizes and shapes. Post baby bodies— stretch marks adorned in glitter. Size 16 and up wearing thongs. I saw the smiles, and the hugs. THE CONFIDENCE. The freedom. I realized that this was the norm and I was accepted and welcome regardless of my weight. I began to relax a little. And as the bass from the truck permeated my spirit, and something told me to just let all that shit go. Carnival changed my life.
Endurance is important, appearance is not.
It’s very important to have a level of cardiovascular endurance so you can have a good time on the road. Fitness will also lower your risk of heat injury. But flat abs, leaner thighs and hips is not what Carnival is about anyway. Our ancestors took to the streets to celebrate their freedom; I cannot imagine back then anyone wondering if their bodies were good enough to go out and celebrate their liberation and discard any burdens they carried leading up to that special day.
F*ck Social Media's definition of beauty.
I blame commercialism for clouding the spirit of carnival and its true origin and meaning. I blame society and social media for it as well. While I completely understand the phrase that “sex sells,” who said that thick isn’t beautiful?? In the spirit of Carnival do I not deserve to be celebrated as well for everything I have endured and accomplished? It seems as if we see an abundance of lean women in costume without a stretch mark in sight on every platform. Girls that I could easily bench press gracing the stage in the costume I wonder is really right for me. To this day model-type bodies are flooded with likes and comments but our thicker brothers and sisters in mas get less love. The photos and videos you see captures moments, but does not embody the TRUE spirit of mas. Mas is all sizes, shapes, colors… coming together in the spirit of unity, love, and liberation.
Your CURRENT body is your carnival body.
With six years into playing mas I admit that I still struggle with body image challenges especially when it’s time to get into costume. But when I finally get on the road, I find that all that anxiety about my physical appearance didn’t even really matter in the moment. Like seriously, why did I put myself through all that?
One thing I have also realized is that when I remember what Carnival is truly about, the photographers that have asked me to step aside and the presentation of what is beautiful on social media does not matter. I don’t need a camera or likes on social media to validate my accomplishments, or boost my spirit. They have no bearing in my ability to celebrate my own life.
AWM exists to remind every current and future masquerader that the measurement on the scale is not what playing mas is all about. Regardless of your weight gain or loss, the purpose of mas is to leave your stress behind, celebrate and/or mourn the wonders of life and everything you have endured. Your weight is not your permission slip to play mas. The simple fact that you woke up that morning with oxygen filling your lungs and blood flowing through your veins when others did not is your reason why YOU CAN. That body you have right now is a representation of everything you’re enduring and overcoming. This is why we celebrate carnival… we celebrate your spirit and those of our ancestors. Your current body is your carnival body.