Courtney Harrough is a lifeguard in Orlando, Florida, who also happens to be fat*. The 24-year-old talked to Refinery29 about her experience of being physically bigger than the lifeguards in the Bay Watch movie, and why she's just as capable at saving a life as someone who's a size 6.
In high school, Courtney was a competitive swimmer and water polo player, but even so, she received some backlash from other wannabe lifeguards during her training for the job.
"A woman my height, but three times smaller than me said, 'I find it hard to believe you were an athletic swimmer,'" she said.
Courtney added that she's used to proving herself because of people's biased first impressions. "If you're a plus-size woman presenting to a company, not just for an athletic-based career, you face a stigma that if you're fat, you're lazy."
On her Instagram, she expanded on this idea.
"My weight and height may cause some to think that I'd only be a pleasantly perched beached whale upon a lifeguard stand - but that isn't the case," she wrote. "My body is strong, sturdy, and sexy! I don't have smooth legs, or cut shoulders accented by tiny boobs like most of the girls in my class but I have courage, and a spirit to try. That is all is takes in this world."
But there were unexpected setbacks, too.
Even though she excelled in the training program, and passed her tests with flying colors, there were no swimsuits in her size.
"They said, 'You don't look like a regular lifeguard, we're going to have to pull you from your job.' I said, 'I'm sorry, you're not going to pull me. If my weight was such an aesthetic issue, you would've seen it, because I've been half-naked in a swimsuit. If you knew you couldn't accommodate, you shouldn't have put me through this. And you're not going to fire me, because that's discrimination. We're going to figure out how to get it done.'"
Courtney didn't let it hold her back, and put together a makeshift uniform. (Although, let's hope her employers start to offer larger sizes so other women can follow in her footsteps!)
"If it's a matter of my ability to perform my job, that's one thing. If it's aesthetics, you're fat-shaming and size-shaming. And you're being really rude, because fat people can do so much more than we think they can. Fat women have a right to lifeguard."
She also clarified exactly how difficult it is to be a lifeguard - and not just physically.
"A huge misconception is that lifeguards are dumb oafs who look really good. You need to be a human with patience and heart for other people," she said.
Uh, I'm so pumped up right now that I might *willingly* exercise this weekend. All bodies are amazing bodies, and we're all capable of more than we (or the people around us) realize. Thanks for the inspiration, Courtney!
*Btw, fat is not a bad or cruel word; read this to understand why.
Follow Laura on Twitter.
You Might Also Like