I remember when I met Ama, but at the same time…I don’t. In the summer of 2013, we both attended a mutual friend’s birthday party. I thought she looked familiar and figured I recognized her from Instagram or something, so I walked up to introduce myself. She responded firmly with “No, we’ve met before”. And that’s the first thing I learned about Ama. She is very blunt and very real, and that’s something about her that I admire to this day. After that I started writing for Fat Girl Food Squad, curated an art show with her and Yuli Scheidt, sought her out for advice when I started freelancing on the reg, and now we’re actually really good friends.
Whenever I mention Ama to anybody who also works in Toronto’s media sphere, they’ll almost always already know who she is. Even last week I ran into her at the WWF’s inaugural Pandamonium fundraiser and my +1 said afterwards, “Wait, that was Ama Scriver? Everybody in my office loves her”. She’s becoming a household name in Toronto when it comes to sizeism and fatphobia advocacy, and if you haven’t heard of her yet…you will soon.
My Q&A with Ama is the first in my “Girl Crush” series, where every so often I’ll feature a different female entrepreneur that I’ve met and admire.
Q: As a full time freelancer, what’s a typical work day look like for you?
A: I’ll usually wake up between 8 and 8:30am, check my e-mails and make a to-do list for myself. Being freelance, I have various different publications and clients that I work on, with different deadlines and expectations. The thing about being freelance is that, you get to make your own schedule and go at your own pace. If anyone tells you that being your own boss is easy, they are lying to you. It’s hard work, but it’s hella fucking rewarding and fun. I love the fact that I get to work with so many amazing individuals on so many incredible projects. My days are busy and challenging and worth it.
Q: What was your first “step” into the body positive movement?
A: I would have to say that my first baby steps into body positivity would have to be thanks in large part to Tumblr. Without communities like Tumblr (and now Instagram) – I would not have understood or realized what body positivity or fat activism was.
Q – What article, photo spread, public chat, panel appearance, etc. are you the most proud of and why?
One of the moments I’m most proud of is the NOW Magazine cover shoot that I did alongside Fat Girl Food Squad co-founder Yuli Scheidt in December 2014. It just recently won the People’s Choice Award for the National Magazine Award. That cover was so important because it showcase two fat bodies visible (and happy) in printed mainstream media. All too often fat bodies (and fat voices) are made to feel invisible in media. We are marginalized, shut out and told to remain hidden. This cover gave us a platform and an opportunity not just attempt to breakdown some of those stereotypes, but also share some of the advocacy work alongside so many others. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this, but participating in any kind of activism work can be very mentally and emotionally exhausting. With a lot of participation and dialogue online, sometimes it can be very lonely and doubtful to know the message you’re delivering is really making an impact. So I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to be recognized when people have asked me to teach workshops and speak at conferences across Canada and the USA (at Venus Envy in Halifax, University of Toronto in Mississauga, Allied Media Conference in Detroit, etc.) has been so incredible as well. It demonstrates and showcases to me that the message and work I’m doing is impactful and meaningful, even if just in a small way.
Q: It seems like you have (for the most part, correct me if I’m wrong) strayed away from food blogging to pursue focusing more on fat culture/activism. What can you say about the connection between the two, and how was the transition?
A: No – I still do food writing, quite regularly. However, I have changed the type of food writing that I do, quite dramatically. For starters, I have strayed away from restaurant reviews of any kind, as I have found that there are a lot of politics attached to these types of pieces. There is quite a divide between ‘bloggers’ and ‘journalists’ – so I’d rather not get caught in the crosshairs of that, as a personal preference. What I really love to do is focus more so now on profiles. This can be of producers, chefs, mixologists or it can focus on a trend that is happening. For example: I have just recently pitched a publication on one of the first tea farms to exist in Canada. Another story I just recently pitched was about the Syrian refugees and their breakfast traditions. To me, these food stories have more oomph that the previous stuff I was writing. With that being said, because I’m pitching a lot of it – it comes down to if an editor sees value in these pitches or not, and sometimes the pieces don’t even see the light of day. Regardless, I’m still doing a lot of food writing for View the Vibe and Foodism – but more or less, I’ve tried to expand my palette to other opportunities and larger stories. My biggest goal for this year is to have something produced in print.
Q: Admire you SO hard for quitting your day job to pursue your dreams. What made you take the plunge?
A: I actually wrote an entire blog post dedicated to it: http://www.amascriver.com/view-glass-ceiling-sucks/ – I think this post summarizes why I left. I basically didn’t like the person I had become and I hate being sad all the time. Everyone thinks that money makes you happy, but sadly it’s not the answer to all your problems. Every since I have left and started working on my own terms, I have seen a dramatic change in my mood and my outlook on life. Even today, I had an appointment with my therapist where I was discussing with her just how much I’ve changed in the last three months (since leaving my job). I know it sounds cliched, but don’t continue to do the things that make you unhappy. Follow your heart and the rest will follow.
Q: What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overachieve with body pos culture?
A: One of the things I find incredibly frustrating is that there is still a lot of sizeism and body shaming that happens within the body positivity community that is passed off as ‘activism’. While I get that fat activism and body positivity are not one and the same, there are a lot of overlap between those two communities and a lot of snarking and dismissing going on of others lived experiences. I feel like for many, these experiences creates further divide, more shame and can be incredibly harmful rather than helpful. We must come to understand (and accept) that all bodies exist in our society and we need to continue to view them as positive and worthy and continue to empower them.
Q – Who are some bad ass body-pos babes that you admire?
In no particular order:
Sam Dylan Finch
Aarti Olivia Dubey
Stephanie – Nerd About Town
Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough
Q: What’s your favourite thing to write about?
A: I would have to say just life in general – there are so many different things to write about – so many stories to tell.
Q: And on a completely unrelated note, any summer plans?
A: Hoping that I can get away to Montreal, but we’ll see. At the moment, nothing fancy planned. Also, how it is almost July?!?
Photo credit in order: Patrick Tomasso (1st and 2nd), Caroline Brassard and Rochelle Latinsky.