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Ohio model and digital creator aims to disrupt beauty standards

Modeling under the name Riah Lynn, Mariah Faw hopes her work as a model inspires other women.
Modeling under the name Riah Lynn, Mariah Faw hopes her work as a model inspires other women.

According to recent reports, roughly 67 percent of American women are classified by the fashion industry as plus size (women who wear clothing larger than a size 12). Yet, mainstream beauty standards and marketing campaigns don’t reflect that. Ditto for modern media (television, film, digital content). Thinner, smaller women continue to be shown as the national beauty standard.

People like Mariah Faw are working to change these standards. The 26 year old Cincinnati native is a plus size Facebook digital creator/model (her alter ego and name on her page is Riah Lynn). Her page has 17,000 followers and counting.

“I've been on social media for a few years now, I think most of my modeling pictures started about three years ago,” says Faw. “Growing up was hard for me. I compared myself to many of my friends growing up, the people around me, celebrities, etc. I was always that little girl with extra weight to her, while my friends were super small. People in my schools would say things about my weight all the time. For years I was embarrassed with the way I looked, but I think growing up as a woman it was very hard to see my body vs. other women, and expect for myself to look like them, because that's all I would see. You turn the TV on, and there was this gorgeous lady on the TV. You flip the magazine page, and there was a beautiful woman. You scroll through social media, and see women that look perfect.

I had to learn how to truly love myself, or I wasn't going to be happy with who I was or be able to love others. I had a photoshoot done about three years ago, and that's when I realized that me posting photos of myself helped other women. I had women message me all the time on Facebook and tell me how they wish they had my confidence. I think that truly made me feel important, the fact I had the chance to not only help my confidence but allow other women to see that you don't need to be a size zero to be able to show their curves.”

Faw says that her photos are a statement for other women, and that can be disruptive to people’s typical concept of beauty. “I think people take the context out of my picture as ‘Oh she's just wanting attention from men’, but honestly, it's a statement to women all over the world that no matter what your body looks like that it's enough. My pictures are considered a rebellion against typical American beauty standards because my look isn't what the ‘normal standards’ are. Normal standards would be to be a size zero, to have the perfect shape, no acne and no stretch marks. I think it's disruptive because I go out of the way to show that my body doesn't have to be a certain way to feel beautiful. My body is able to have stretch marks, cellulite, acne, etc. It doesn't always have to be photoshopped.”

As far as professional modeling goes, Faw says, “I've turned my Facebook into a digital creator page, and for the past two months I've allowed my page to be in the ‘public view’ instead of private. I've allowed people I don't know to come onto my page and see my photos, what I post ,and they're free to comment and post whatever they may want. With my photos being more boudoir style, I thought I would have a lot more negative opinions on my photos of course, since we've talked about the ‘standards’ of beauty. I've had a lot of women reach out to me on how to make themselves feel more beautiful and how I was able to get myself out in front of the camera. My goal for modeling and even my images is to promote body positivity and women empowerment. I would love to have my own studio and capture other women's beauty. I would love to model for Fashion Nova since many of my outfits come from there. I also would love to travel and work with other plus size women. I love uplifting others, because I know how it feels to come from a place of hating the way you look. If I can make a difference in any woman's life based on my photos or the way I can uplift them; I know I've done my job correctly.”

Plus size modeling has been around for a while now. But, disrupters like Faw still have a lot of work ahead. And if you’re a student of culture, you know that from time to time, we need some disrupting. So, let’s all watch and marvel at Riah Lynn kick in a door that we all know needs a battering ram.

Greg Simms Jr. is a veteran content creator and cultural expert who's worked for numerous digital publications over the years. He's a resident of Greene County, but he's always aware of social-cultural events happening all over the Miami Valley. To contact Greg, email him at: grgsmmsjr@gmail.com