Stacy and Danah Gutierrez, are the ladies behind one of the most popular blogs in the country. The identical twins, who champion body love and women empowerment, have become stars in their own right, with features and interviews in magazines, newspapers and on TV.
With how self-assured they come across, it’s hard to tell that these two beautiful and confident women once struggled with their looks.
Growing up with insecurities
In high school, both were teased a lot for being “tall and big-boned.” They were called “twin towers” and “white chicks.” It got the better of Stacy, who’s older than Danah by seven minutes, and made her struggle with her body image. She became more self-conscious because Danah, who was thinner, was attracting all her crushes.
Stacy thought, “We’re twins. How come they don’t like me? So I felt really insecure. I thought no one would like me if was big. So I decided I had to go on a diet.”
She started by eating crackers. When that didn’t work, she stopped eating altogether. She was able to do it for three days straight, only allowing herself to drink water. But when she felt she was going to pass out, she binged. Then, feeling bad and disgusted afterwards, she would purge. It became a vicious cycle that happened at least six times a day for eight months.
Stacy’s nails began to turn black and her teeth yellow. Her hair started to fall while her grades took a nosedive. She eventually found out she was suffering from a combination of two eating disorders, anorexia-bulimia, and she had to be hospitalized.
‘Fat acceptance and activism’
Stacy’s road to recovery wasn’t easy. She had to undergo therapy and she relapsed many times, but a turning point came in November 2009 when she and Danah were in college. They were browsing the internet when they chanced upon the blog of a girl in Australia named Frances who proudly describes herself as someone who “preaches fat acceptance” and “practices fat activism.” Frances’ bold posts immediately struck a chord in both Stacy and Danah. “She has principles she lives by that really surprised us. It made us realize that love for yourself comes from within,” says Stacy.
The two then decided to put up their own website, The Plump Pinay. It embraced acceptance and love for one’s own body shape and size, at a time when it was almost unheard of in the Philippines.
Soon, their website gained a steady following, attracting thousands of young girls and even new moms who were struggling to lose their post-baby weight.
But for the most part of 2012, Stacy and Danah rarely posted on their blog, largely because Danah sank into a depression. It was caused mainly by a hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The increased testosterone (male hormone) brought about many changes in her body, including severe acne, excessive growth of unwanted hair and a 40-pound weight gain.
Danah and a friend would later joke around, calling the disorder the “pampapanget syndrome,” (syndrome that makes one unattractive) but at the time, it was no laughing matter for Danah. With no work to keep her busy, she spent her days at home, sulking and crying. In a recent blog post, Danah openly talked about hitting her all-time low. “I made poor life choices, devalued my worth, hurt a lot of people close to me and lost a lot of good friends... It was one of the most painful things that happened to me.”
She reveals, it even caused her to feel resentment towards her own sister. “At the back of my mind, I also thought, I have a twin. Why doesn’t she have it? But then I also thought, I will never have the same body as she does, even if we’re twins. We’re still very different. So I had to accept that.”
Eventually, Danah decided to pursue healing and found a group of family and friends who supported her recovery.
Their bold comeback
Now, the twins resurrected their blog and they marked their comeback with a daring boudoir shoot that let the world know they’re back, stronger and more fearless than ever.
The self-proclaimed body image warriors are also setting their sights on expanding their line of swimwear into a full range of apparel. They also want to create a magazine and a modeling/talent agency for plus-size women.
Danah says, “You should never, ever make your weight or how you look limit you from living your life. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to dance but I couldn’t when I was insecure about my weight. May dancer bang mataba? (Is there a dancer who’s fat?) But I know I can dance so I did pole dancing. And then during the recital, they put me in front! That’s when I realized you can really do what you want no matter what your size is.”
Stacy adds, “if you’re really happy with what you’re doing, you’re going to shine. People will look past the body shape. If you’re really kind-hearted, you’re happy and you’re confident, people will see that.”
In this case, people are seeing double. For Stacy and Danah, it’s the best part of this journey of self-love and empowerment: sharing it with a partner and twin sister.