It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Say what you want about Big Brother 23’s runner-up Derek Frazier, but the 31-year-old son of boxing champ Smokin’ Joe Frazier knows his worth — and he’s not letting anyone rain on his parade.
“I enjoy being a big guy. Are there things that I want to work on? Yes, but that’s the thing: I want to work on that for myself,” Frazier tells Yahoo Life. “I’m big, gay, Black and fabulous. I have a great personality, and if I make you uncomfortable, that’s on you. Not me.”
Indeed, Frazier’s larger-than-life personality made him a fan favorite on Big Brother 23, for which he came in second after housemate Xavier Prather won the top prize. Regardless of where he placed, however, Frazier says he still feels like a winner — especially since his appearance on the show created opportunities for him to talk about body confidence, an issue he cares about deeply.
“It's so funny. I’m confident in my body now, but four years ago, you could not tell me this,” he says. “I realized I'm always going to be a big guy, but I had to go through a phase to understand, you know, what do I want to be? I have been through that skinny era where my head looked like a big ass bobble-head doll. I remember that era very briefly, the one part that I enjoyed: when I walk into a [clothing] store and just buy whatever the f*** I want. Of course that was great, but what I realized is that nothing changed [in life overall].”
“It made me realize, oh, I did all that starving myself, eating less than 1,000 calories a day, lost all this crazy weight in six months, for what?” he continues. “That’s when I realized, you know what? I gotta do this for myself.”
Frazier credits his time on the show for helping him dissolve years of inner turmoil stemming from his childhood. The son of a world-class boxing champion, he explains, placed pressure on him to “rise up” to the standard of his famous fit dad, who he says has been a big supporter in his life.
“My dad never pushed [extreme fitness] on me,” he says. “He wanted me to focus on school and live my best life. Now, at times, I sit back and go, ‘I wish he would have kicked my ass a little bit.’ But, you know, he never made me feel like being the size I am or who I am is a problem.”
Frazier couldn’t escape the pressure to fit in growing up, though in hindsight he says it made him stronger.
“Because I'm Joe Frazier’s son, people are looking at me as an embarrassment, because they go, ‘How do you go from this heavyweight champion of the world to this guy? He's gay. He's big. He's nothing like how Joe Frazier is,’” he recalls. “I had to deal with that during probably my whole life. Am I thankful for it? Yes, because it taught me a lot. I never wish it upon nobody, but I’m glad I went through it because it taught me how people can be — and it also gave me the backbone I needed to stick up for myself.”
Frazier has certainly come a long way, and now he’s using his platform to shine a light on others and to celebrate the beauty in all shapes and sizes at the virtual BodCon 2023 on Sunday, March 5, for which he will be speaking about the lessons he’s learned in life and why it’s vital for men — especially gay men of color — to have conversations about disrupting beauty standards.
“I never thought in a million years that there would be a BodCon,” he says. “I'm really excited because, me being a big guy, I struggled in a lot of areas and it took me till now, age 31, to kind of get to the point where I like the way I look.”
Looking ahead, Frazier says he hopes to be a lighthouse for other plus-size men who for so long have been their own “saboteurs.”
“I think guys are scared to talk about their bodies, and I hate that because it's so f*****d up,” he explains. “If you think about it, men throughout the years could look however they wanted and they never got the same type of stigma that women were getting. So, I think that men talking about it, it’s like, ‘What are you talking about? I've looked this way or been this way for years.’ I think the men who are plus-size don't really speak about their bodies because they've dealt with being their own saboteurs and keeping it to themselves, not making it public, whereas women, because they’ve had to deal with body image for years publicly, it’s been more on a platform.”
That’s why, Frazier says, he hopes more stories like his can inspire other “big, gay men” to be unapologetic about being themselves — and to understand that their experience is, indeed, their “power.”
“There could be someone out there going, ‘wow, I don't feel attractive. I don't look good,'’” he says. “And that's why I push for not just myself, but for other people. If I have to be that person to kick down that door, and push for more people that look like me on TV shows so people can have others to relate to, then baby, let’s go.”
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