Jane Belfry

Jane Belfry - Founder & Creative Director of The Thicc

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Jane Belfry worked in fashion for ten years before leaving that world to create The Thicc, a website and platform that celebrates body diversity through photo shoots while also tackling topics that range from money to anxiety. Since launching in April, The Thicc has grown into a digital community, and embraces a feel good vibe that I personally love and appreciate. I spoke to Jane about the origins of The Thicc and what went into making it happen.   

What inspired you to create The Thicc?
I was exhausted from working in fashion, and I used to write about fashion quite a bit and wanted to start doing that again, but I wasn’t finding anywhere that I felt like pitching to. I wanted to write about how curve clothing is marketed and size and shape diversity, and I wasn’t finding a home for it. I wasn’t reading the kind of content that I wanted personally, and I felt there was a hole for content that wasn’t constantly reliving trauma. I wanted to create a space and a platform that was fun and a break from that—somewhere you could go that would feel more like your group chat that you’re texting about these topics, and feel natural and not too heavy. That's how it was born—I came up with the concept for the written part and then the visuals turned into their own thing. I worked with my friend who went to Pratt, she was an art director and she worked with Milk Makeup and the Gap, so I was super lucky to have her come in and establish the visual identity which kind of took off in itself. I started doing shoots with girls that I knew and girls that I’d meet through Instagram and just made it this fun celebration of women looking great.

What is The Thicc’s mission?
The mission is to destigmatize how we talk about our bodies and living in them and everything around that, which could relate to fashion, beauty, mental health, food, everything. I wanted to do that in a way that wasn’t forcing people to relieve negative experiences, and I wanted it to be a celebratory thing. There’s parts of the body positivity movement that I love and think are amazing, but there are parts that I really haven’t identified with because I don’t want to be forced to think about all the self-hating I did for years. I wanted the site to be realistic and have people’s experiences that focuses on what actually makes us feel good, and to bring a variety of voices that I don’t feel we get enough of. A lot of our guest writers aren’t published anywhere else or are friends of mine who feel inspired to write about a certain topic, and that helps keep it really fresh.

Can you talk about the planning that went into creating The Thicc?
It was born with me writing things down in an iPhone note in January. I had the name and the general framework that it would be a lifestyle site and that it would have food content that wasn’t centered around eating, clothing try-ons featuring realistic bodies, and a couple of different ideas. The About page that’s on the website now was the first thing I ever wrote. I talked to friends and worked on it with a few people in the beginning to establish the voice and visual branding. I put together a lot of mood boards and came up with the yellow of our logo and a brand color palette that we stuck to, and the site layout and the content came after. I plan out themes about a month at a time, and we had a couple first themes that we wanted to do—one was a body issue that got into why we started the site, and a skincare issue and a makeup issue, and an anxiety issue. I had the idea that these were the topics we wanted to cover to start, and we started with a few photo shoots and an idea of what we wanted the visuals to look like and it just built from there.

Since starting The Thicc, how has it grown, and what has the response been like?
The response has been overwhelming positive. I was surprised at how kind and supportive everyone has been, and how down people have been to repost us and share a page. It really feels like it quickly turned into a community. Most of our Instagram followers are really active and DM us all the time and I love that. It has grown pretty steadily since late April/early May. Our Instagram has grown the most and we’re still building around that. We now have a team of a few people in New York—I have a designer, a photo intern, an on-set intern, and regular contributors and regular photographers, so it has grown into a nice little team.        

Can you talk about the importance of diversity and how it relates to The Thicc?
I definitely wanted The Thicc to be something where we wanted everybody to see someone that resembled them in some way, whether it was body shape, body type, skin tone. It’s been pretty natural that that’s happened. I post castings for our shoots and almost solely cast them based on who is reaching out to us, and we get such a wide range of people who reach out to us and people that the site speaks to. It’s been easy to weave into our brand because our readership and our followers are so diverse already. It’s been a natural thing, and it’s obviously important for us to show underrepresented body types, underrepresented women in what I think is a beautiful, glamorous light and celebratory.

What are some of the challenges you faced while creating The Thicc?
Definitely keeping up with a weekly letter, and keeping up with content for Instagram and keeping it cool and engaging. Keeping things up to the standard of what I feel they should be is a challenge, and feeling like you need to constantly be putting something out has been difficult. I’ve been getting better about planning weeks in advance and trying to get ahead of content and shooting for more issues at one time. Obviously, it being such a small operation, it has been hard to keep up with that stuff.      

What does a day in your life look like?
I wake up around 7:30-8 am, and I force myself to get out of bed and get dressed and walk to a coffee shop near my house. I usually work from there for a little bit on either The Thicc or my day job. I am also a dog walker and sitter, so occasionally there’s a dog with me. A typical day might be shooting something for The Thicc and having someone come over for an hour or having one of our interns come over and help out. I spend a great deal of time on our Instagram and Twitter, and editing photos. We’ve been really pushing collaborating with brands, especially women-owned brands, and I spend a great deal of time corresponding with people, going back and forth trying to figure out ideas for potential collaborations, or a natural way to showcase products that we like and not have it look like an ad and keep it authentic and to the brand. I pull a lot of clothes for the shoots and still do some of the styling, but it's very much going back and forth between my regular day job and doing stuff for The Thicc.

How do you unwind/practice self-care?
I take a lot of baths and I always enjoy that. I read in the bath a lot and I don’t bring my phone in there. I watch a lot of cartoons when I’m trying to not think about work. I go for a lot of walks if I’m really stuck and super overwhelmed, or feeling anxious. I’ll take a walk around my neighborhood, go to a bookstore or do something.

What's some advice you were given or wish someone had given you?
I’ve had a lot of people give me not feel obligated to push out content every single day. My friend Amber told me two weeks ago that not everything that I do needs to have a result, and that if I’m not investing into myself at the same time I’m doing myself a disservice. I thought that was really good advice—it’s easy to get wrapped up if the lines are blurred between work and your personal life. I have a lot of friends who contribute to The Thicc and help me with it, so if I go out for a glass of wine with them it will very quickly turn into a work thing where that’s what we’re talking about the whole time. You need to separate yourself sometimes from that to stay sane.   

What's up next for The Thicc?
We’ve been working on figuring out some cute merch, that’s been my week this week. We’re also trying to figure out how to incorporate video for issues coming up on food and fitness. I’ve always wanted to incorporate videos and it’s been a bit harder to do DIY. We’ve got an exciting fitness issue coming up with a few companies that have recently expanded their size ranges and started showing size 12 to 16 bodies on their sites, which has been great. That’s been a big push of mine since the beginning, seeing different bodies in fitness and active-wear because that’s still a space I kind of stay away from and know it’s a hard one for a lot of women.   

Fun Round!

What's your sign and how do you feel about it?  

I’m a Taurus with a Pisces Moon and a Sagittarius Rising. I’m very much a Taurus, I really fit the bill. I’m very indulgent and also really stubborn, which translates to work. I feel like I’m a Taurus through and through.     

What are you currently reading?
I just finished Shrill by Lindy West, which my friend lent to me when we were out for drinks—she was like you have to read this and I loved it. It was a really great read and similar to my mission, talking about body politics in a way that is digestible to people. I think she’s so funny and it was really smart.

What are three spots to visit in your neighborhood?
I’m in Ditmas Park, and a place that everyone goes to is Cafe Madeline on Cortelyou, they have kombucha on tap and green bowls but they also have really good not healthy breakfast food and good smoothies and juices. There’s a Greenlight Bookstore over here on Flatbush that’s great, and there's a really good ramen place also on Cortelyou called Koko that I’m pretty obsessed with.