Is there anything better than a brand that promotes both colorful, whimsical items AND being an advocate for anti-diet culture? I think we can all agree that there isn't, and today's interview is with the entrepreneur behind it - Jai Mobley.
To be honest, I've been wanting to feature Jai for a long time because I think her brand, Fat Mermaids, is doing something that a lot of others aren't. It's making being fat or plus-sized into something is not only accepted, but fun and celebrated. With Fat Mermaids, there's no "shopping in the plus-size section for whatever is fits." The brand makes it clear that its customers should be able to wear whatever they want - especially if what they want is to wear cute pastels, comfy sweatshirts, and tees covered in rainbows, donuts, and catchy phrases.
Jai and I finally got the timing right, and I can't wait for you all to learn more about the work she's put into Fat Mermaids, the popularity of her infamous "I DGAF About Your Diet Susan" shirt, and she took her brand from a fun side project into a full-time gig that takes a strong stance against diet-culture.
My pick: this rainbow Anti-Diet Culture Club tee is one of my favorites and a club we should all be in.
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: I started Fat Mermaids really in the beginning because of my love of literal mermaids and whimsical stuff and never seeing bigger bodies represented in this way. I wanted to do a t-shirt line inspired by my love of these things. It didn’t take much to get started, I sought out help from my friend and now head illustrator, Marlena Jones and we worked together to create some amazing and fun t-shirt designs. Being an advocate for fat positivity and also someone with very ill feelings towards diet culture my brand began to shift from just being cute and whimsical fat mermaids to radical in your face anti diet culture and fat positive tees. Today we have a good mix of body positive, anti-diet, and simply fun tees amongst other items.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: My IDGAF About Your Diet Susan design was noticed by Jes Baker @themilitantbaker in 2017 and she re-posted. I made that shirt out of the frustrations of being fat and constantly getting advice about weight loss and diets . . . never expected it to be so huge but I’ve sold well over a thousand of these shirts and it was also worn by Jen Lyon on the TV show Claws which was also a really proud moment for me. I can’t stop now :)
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: I was very nervous to share my venture, especially in the beginning because I thought everyone would think I was silly for starting a whole store dedicated to fat mermaids (lol). As I evolved to discuss more serious things like fatphobia and started being more intentional with my messages I think I became hesitant to share my business outside my general circle of friends and family because I didn’t want to constantly explain myself to people who refuse to get why this is important. These days I share my message with everyone regardless of what they might think of it . Overall I have gotten many more positive reactions and support from family than not and I really appreciate them for it.
Q: Did you work another job while you were starting? How long did it take you to turn this into a full-time venture?
A: I did have a full time job up until January 29th of this year. I was kind of forced to quit because my body literally couldn’t take working and fulfilling orders anymore. This is year 3 for me and I feel like I made the right decision to make this a full time thing.
Q: What do you think more people should be doing to support body positivity, either as businesses or consumers?
A: Support fat people, especially fat Black women and femmes. We are often the most overlooked people in the body positive community and are often asked to labor for free while our smaller and White counterparts are not. Let’s uplift the platforms of those who are constantly giving without getting anything in return.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge of running a small business for you?
A: My biggest challenge if I’m being transparent is money . . . there’s never enough of it to do all the things.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: Personally my favorite item is our Squishy Belly Bebe sweatshirt because it’s pink and fuzzy and that’s all I need lol. Our customers are still loving IDGAF About Your Diet Susan . . . I don’t see that changing anytime soon but we have so many other cool designs that also do quite well.
Q: What goals do you have for your
business going forward?
A: Getting to the point of being able to give everyone everything they want. I am a fat woman and I know the many issues in the plus size industry. It's my long term goal to make enough money through this business to create my own blank line of plus-sized merchandise as well as launch a fashion line that caters to fat women that are often overlooked. I know I have big dreams for a 36-year-old woman but I have so much faith that it’s going to happen.
Q: Most importantly, what is your favorite flavor of cupcake?
A: Oh this is a good one cause I used to bake :D . . . sorry to bore yall but vanilla with vanilla buttercream and rainbow jimmies (pastel). That’s what I call delightful.
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
A: Dr. Joy Cox, https://freshoutthecocoon.com/
Neish Cromwell, https://carefreefatgirl.bigcartel.com/
Jaina Bennett, https://www.secretslayer.com/
Follow along with Jai:
Shop Fat Mermaids
Follow Fat Mermaids on Instagram
Like Fat Mermaids on Facebook
Follow Fat Mermaids on Twitter