Model and content creator Nzinga Imani. Photo Courtesy: CHRISTIAN OMESHUN

Plus-size models and creators are calling out TikTok for its selective video banning. The popular app has faced scrutiny in prior months due to creators calling out its censoring of Black, LGBTQ+ and plus-size people. In a response made in December of 2019, TikTok admitted to suppressing the reach of content created by users assumed to be “vulnerable to cyberbullying.” Nonetheless, plus-size influencers on the app are tired of the hypocrisy they’re seeing regarding curvier bodies. Nzinga Imani, a plus-size model, called out the app in early April for its discriminatory banning. Imani published an Instagram reel stating how TikTok’s community guidelines are fatphobic and are unjustly removing plus-size content.

“As influencers, we often spend hours on content creation and to have our art removed simply because we are fat feels overwhelmingly unfair and hurtful,” Imani tells GRAZIA. “It also affects our business. If I promise a lingerie company a TikTok but TikTok is constantly removing that content I cannot fulfill my agreement with the brand and it affects my relationship with them as well as my compensation for the work I’ve already done. It’s very frustrating.”

Imani started to up her TikTok content this past summer engaging in some of the trending dances circulating on the app. That’s when she first saw videos of her dancing in swimsuits were being removed. Moreover, the influencer noticed that despite her videos being removed there was an influx of thin creators in bathing suits being boosted onto everyone’s “For You” section of the app. Now, Imani’s content must be reviewed by the TikTok before she’s allowed to post. 

“I know several other plus influencers who have experienced the same issue,” she continues. “It’s comforting to know I’m not alone but also heartbreaking to see that it’s not a fluke there is a bias across the app. Some of the videos removed have been girls fully clothed dancing or embracing their curves and after hours of filming and editing, bam, it’s removed again. It’s discouraging and we are all looking for ways to fight back. Seeing others that look like us on social media is so important and we can’t just give in. We’ve got to do something.” 

Imani isn’t alone in this fight. Sydney Bell, a popular plus-size model, also called out TikTok on how they pick and choose whose content to block. In an Instagram post this week, the creator says “now I’m all for following the guidelines listed by TikTok especially when it comes to work. However, TikTok if you have rules and guidelines, please let those apply to EVERYONE. I’m sure you have all heard it and yes I’ve talked about it before but so many curvy, plus-size, and POC creators have been speaking up about TikTok removing their videos or banning their accounts for “adult sexuality and nudity.”

Plus-size creators already deal with the unaccepting nature of the fat bodies in the industry. The erasure of their content leaves many plus-size creators demoralized, especially when they use social media as a form of financial support. It additionally pushes the narrative that bigger bodies are taboo, creating more harmful narratives for young women who see themselves in these creators.  

“Part of me wants to delete the app but the other part of me feels compelled to continue to push for equality on the app because playing small doesn’t impact change,” Imani says. “I have to push past it and continue to try to represent the girls that look up to me. I hope TikTok will be fair, I hope they will apply their guidelines equally across all users’ content instead of picking and choosing what types of bodies they will allow being shown. We all have the right to love and embrace ourselves. TikTok claims to be an app just for that. Yet, there are quite a few communities that are being suppressed on the app. Maybe one day they will see that it discourages users that don’t fit the ‘acceptable’ content creator mold.”