The magic of participating in Carnival celebrations, no matter where in the world they may be, is the ability to don a costume, transform yourself in the masquerade, and let loose with joyful abandon.
In most Caribbean-based Carnivals, this is called “playing mas”, but there has long been an unspoken rule that the privilege should be reserved for people — women especially — of a certain size and fitness level. For Trinidad and Tobago Carnival 2019, Candice Santana, who is plus-size, decided to “play mas” regardless. She was body-shamed for it, but fought back, prompting online discussion about the issue. Santana received a tremendous amount of support as a result of her courage and grace under fire.
As it turns out, a Caribbean body-positive movement — #everyBODYplayahmas — has been available as an online resource since 2014. After being body shamed herself in a Trinidad Carnival publication, plus-size model and Carnival lover Nadelle, who founded the site, made it her mission to “a safe space for #everyBODY to be comfortable playing mas”. Since then, she says, “#everyBODYplayahmas has grown to being a social media campaign that has reached Caribbean carnivals around the world.”
Nadelle was heartened by the attention that Candice Santana received, saying, “Many women believe they cannot wear a costume and thanks to masqueraders like Candice Santana and our followers we can shed a different light on what true representation of masqueraders looks like.”