Matt Joseph Diaz joins us again on Mental Health After Dark. We really tried to stay on topic for this one and we did a pretty good job. We covered “thin shaming”, communication, relationships, dating, social media…..we covered a lot. He’s always a blast with a wealth of information, yummy male empathy, vulnerability, and openness. Our entire team is excited to hear what he’s going to say, how many times our host, Kristin Walker, is going to interrupt him to riff off of his wisdom, and how intuitive he is about being human.
Questions and Answers from Matt:
We’ve talked briefly about aspects of body positivity that might be overlooked, why do you think that is?
Body image is among the most universal of issues. It transcends race, gender, age, everyone who has a body has experience these problems from time to time. No matter how much we try and discuss it, there’s always going to be something we miss. That’s why it’s so important to have as many different kinds of people openly talking about it. We don’t want anyone to be underrepresented or feel alone, but it’s tough.
What do you think are the more overlooked aspects of body image?
A big problem for me has been the rise of skinny-shaming. I know that sounds counter-intuitive since fat-shaming is more or less where a lot of body image issues originate, but stay with me. The current problem in our society is that we take people with model physiques and hold them up as the ideal standard of beauty, while putting down those who are heavier. That’s obviously an issue, but when a lot of people rebel against that, their response is to claim “f*** those skinny girls” or “real women have curves” and though I see where they’re coming from, it’s still problematic. All you’re doing in that scenario is taking the idea of shaming one body type while idealizing the other and switching out the variables.
So how do we properly address that issue?
You put forth the idea that there is no “ideal” body type. It takes all sorts to make a world, and the sooner that we throw away the idea that one type of body is more valid than the other, the sooner we can approach having a society where people don’t need to feel invalidated because they don’t see their body types represented in the media.
Is it actually possible to make a society where we don’t hold up a specific body type as the standard?
I’m not sure, but it’s definitely worth trying. It starts in the smallest ways— representing more body types in advertising and on television and in film. It may not seem like a huge deal but we live in such a media saturated world that the things we see on TV and in magazines very quickly inform the way that we approach our day-to-day lives. Media infects and informs our decisions all the time, we just need to use it for good.
You often address yourself as a “weird looking guy”, do you think that has an effect on your work?
Absolutely. My work involves me going to schools all over the country, often talking to students who are only 3 or 4 years younger than I am. I’ve met a lot of public speakers, and I don’t look like they do. I’m younger, typically in some sort of weird and flashy suit with my tattoos, piercings and multicolored hairstyle. I think it helps students relate to me— I’m not a 35 year old white dude in a grey suit, I’m just a guy.
How do you think our appearance affects our body image issues?
When the video first went viral, I got thousands of messages from people all over the world who were saying they’d all felt the way I did at some point in their lives. A strange thing about this was just how many of them were actual literal supermodels. Gorgeous, breathtaking people who were telling me how insecure they’d felt. Often, people who are seen as conventionally attractive feel like they don’t have the right to open up about their self-image issues, lest they be seen as ungrateful or bragging. But it’s a problem that affects us all, and we all deserve the right to have an open and honest discussion about it.
Matt Joseph Diaz is a public speaker and social media activist tackling the issues of body image and self love. Matt has been working in social media since the age of 15, and has a long history of creating online content for entertainment and educational purposes. Matt’s videos have accrued over 120 million views in countries all over the world as well as being featured in People, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, Upworthy and numerous other news websites. He now spend a lot of his time traveling and speaking on self love at conferences, colleges and public events. Matt Joseph Diaz currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.