Layla Cameron receives 2018 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy for fat activism

August 22, 2018

Layla Cameron, a journalist, filmmaker, fat-stigma activist, and Simon Fraser University PhD student, is the recipient of the 2018 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy. She wins the prize for her work on issues surrounding body size and image. These include the institutional and systemic discrimination faced by fat people.

“While I would like to think that my work isn’t controversial, I know it is based on the backlash I experience on a daily basis,” says Cameron. “With fat phobia, fatness is seen as a ‘looming threat’ where anyone could become fat and individuals ‘defend’ themselves in the name of ‘lifestyle’ and ‘health’ rather than recognizing fat phobia as oppressive.”

Cameron says fat stigma and discrimination are harmful, and entrenched in all aspects of society. Fat activists and fat studies scholars point out how ‘obesity’ has been used as a negative term to characterize fatness and to medicalize it as a disease and an ‘epidemic’—despite not meeting the criteria for either.

As a communication PhD student, Cameron’s dissertation research analyzes the participation of fat bodies in reality television and whether fat-positive representations are possible within the genre.

Cameron also produced her first film Fat Hiking Club—a documentary that follows Summer Michaud-Skog, the founder of the Portland, Oregon organization, Fat Girls Hiking, and her mission to make the outdoors accessible for everybody and every body. Cameron’s film premiered at the 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival in August. She is currently touring the film internationally and is integrating it into her research.

“I’ve learned a lot in terms of what fat activist media looks like by making the film,” says Cameron. “In order to visualize a group of fat people hiking, I had to be conscious of portraying people while navigating tropes of fat people sweating or catching their breath, which are so often used in reality television shows like The Biggest Loser.”

Cameron will receive the Sterling Prize at an award ceremony to be held on Thursday, Oct. 18 at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at SFU’s Vancouver campus. Following the award ceremony, Cameron will give a presentation on her work. The lecture is free with registration, and open to the public.

The Sterling Prize was first awarded in 1993 and remains committed to recognizing work that provokes and contributes to the understanding of controversy, while presenting new ways of looking at the world and challenging complacency. The prize recognizes work across disciplines and departments and is awarded annually by the Sterling Prize committee.

This story originally appeared in SFU News.