Writer, Wanderer, Workaholic - Interview of Jamie Cole by Velvet d'Amour
Super excited to introduce everyone to VOLUP2's Contributing Editor, Jamie Cole! I had the GREAT fortune to cross paths with this intelligent, empathetic beauty and she has become, not just a kick-ass columnist, but I consider her a great friend! She is inspiring on so many levels, so I wanted to not just share her stunning pics- which you can see HERE and HERE but also give everyone the chance to get to know Jamie...
How did you first get involved with VOLUP2 where you are now the principal writer?
I’m not sure how I first came across VOLUP2 magazine, but I will never forget the first time I flipped through the digital pages. For starters, only three or four pages in I saw this captivating photo of a woman in Red sprawled out on the floor. She had big hair, ample breasts, thick legs, and a round butt. Her body was like MINE! And she was absolutely stunning! What stood out, even more, was the caption that said something along the lines of ‘I’ve never played by the rules, why start now?’. She is BAD ASS was the first thing that came to mind and I was forever inspired. This lady was none other than Velvet d’Amour.
Wide-eyed and anxious is the best way I can describe the feeling I had as I went page by page, scanning each from top to bottom. I couldn’t wait for the next image or bit of realness to surprise me. There were women with big thighs, round bellies, freckles, physical challenges, grey hair, you name it- and every single one of them were striking.
I think I stayed up half the night until I made it through every one of the magazines that had been published to date. Each one approximately 300 pages but I wanted more at the end of each. I remember reaching out to VOLUP2 in late 2013 after moving to Los Angeles for work asking if I could contribute in some way, but I never followed up.
Fast Forward to 2017… Velvet made a post on Instagram that she was offering photos shoots in Southern California around the same time I planned to be there for work. It was completely out of my element, but I signed up to shoot with her. I had hope that if I spent just a few minutes with her that she would give me a shot at contributing to this magazine that changed the way I felt about myself and the other women I encountered daily. And here I am… contributing and stuff.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Southern California near the Port of Los Angeles where both of my parents worked. In 1991, my family moved to Montana. Back then the entire county was home to only 10,000 people and there wasn’t a stoplight to be found. It was an incredible way to grow up- where pride, respect, and appreciation were the key to enjoying life.
My first job was at Rex Theatre, the only movie theatre in town, which was owned by my Uncle and his family. The theatre had one screen and movies cycled through town about a month behind the actual release date. While I was in high school, I went to work for a restaurant in town where I took my turn as a cook and served customers. Often times people mock the service industry, but not only did I make some life-long friends working there, I also developed a lot of the customer service skills that helped me succeed in my current career.
When did you first identify as fat? Did you grow up fat or did you get fat later in life and how did that affect your self-perception and that of others?
I guess the first time that I remember a number on the scale affecting me was in the 6th grade. Our class had to weigh in for physical testing and I was 175lbs. I recall the look on the nurse’s face as she asked me to try again. I knew that I was always bigger than others my age, but I was very active and a little bit of a tomboy. I held my own in Physical Education classes, played softball with my brother and all his friends, and I was on the drill team, but, I still struggled off and on with understanding that I was looked at differently.
In my opinion, being fat from an early age had its advantages. For starters, my skin grew with me so I’m fortunate to not have the stretch marks that many have developed during rapid weight gain. My body is used to carrying additional weight and for the most part, has held up without many weight-related ailments. With that being said, I understand that this luck can change at any time so developing healthier habits has been my focus for the last year or so.
Most importantly, I think living in this body for so many years has allowed me to accept myself more easily than those who gained a significant amount of weight over a short period of time. I don’t really know what it feels like to be thin, so I don’t miss it. Although people think otherwise, accepting my body has been an on-going challenge and it takes a conscious effort to remain confident in who I am.
I have heard people say they developed a 'better' sense of humor or were more the class clown as a way of gaining acceptance from peers who could be apt to bully. Were you ever bullied, talk about that if you will?
You must be asking this because you’ve noticed that I’m hilarious?! So yes, humor has always been a way to deflect the focus from my physical attributes. Although, anyone that knows my dad knows that I come by the humor-gene honestly, but being a big girl only encouraged me to amp it up so that people would like me. I’m not sure that I consciously knew that is what I was doing at the time- it was almost like an automatic self-defense mechanism.
I think that I was one of the lucky fat kids who didn’t endure much bullying at all. My nature was to be nice and caring to almost everyone, so it was like people who knew me couldn’t be mean to me. Now, those who didn’t know me at all would spout out slanderous comments as they passed by. There was an initial sting when that happened but at the end of the day, their opinions didn’t matter much to me.
Do you get the "But you have such a pretty face" thing and how do you deal with it if so?
Oh my goodness, all the time! Sadly, most of the time this came from people closest to me. There’s a running joke in my family about this because the women in my family are stunning. They all have beautiful faces but most of us are overweight to some extent (by society’s standards). We didn’t fit the typical idea of Beauty- BUT if only we could lose a few pounds. Society can suck it.
I recall shopping one day at Pike's Market in Seattle with my younger sister. We were all but chased by two male tourists who were taking our photo. They appeared to be snapping pictures of our faces, but I couldn't help but wonder if they were astounded by our body size since it's not common among women in their culture.
Did you attend your HS prom? If so what was that like?
Funny you should ask- I just reconnected with my Junior Prom date a few months ago when I was moving back to Washington from Wisconsin. In high school, I had no intention of going, to be honest, but my best friend was a senior and nominated for Queen (she got the crown) and she was determined that I was going to go. Back in those days it was so difficult to find stylish prom dresses in my size and to top it off we lived about 100 miles from the nearest clothing store, so it was an actual event to go shopping.
I had dates for both my Sophomore and Junior Prom, neither who were interested in me romantically. Each prom was a slightly different experience for me, but positive ones in general. During my senior year, my boyfriend was 24 years old and the school wouldn’t allow him to attend, so I chose to sit that one out.
You began at your work as a temporary receptionist and you climbed your way up to a much higher position, how did you manage that, and did you ever feel that your body affected how people perceived you in the workplace?
It’s difficult to distinguish between my insecurities and how I feel others perceive me. My parents helped instill a strong work ethic in me from a very early age so I began working at a young age. In my opinion, I feel as though I’ve had to work twice as hard as some in the corporate world to prove my value to the company. There has always been the stereotype, which shows up on T.V. and in movies, that fat people are lazy. I think that just as in society, there is fat prejudice present in the workplace.
As with any misconception, the only way to change the perception others have is to disprove the negative connotation. I spent many years working 14+ hours a day, traveling to offices that needed emergency support, and training team members. Because I’ve been with my current employer for over 15 years, I would say that my colleagues and leaders are now fully aware of my work ethic and skill set.
Do you think there is fat prejudice in the workplace? How have you in a more managerial position make positive change so that you allow for more diversity?
It has been extremely important to me to highlight employees that may otherwise be overlooked, especially since I am in a management role. My management style is a good mix of people focused and business minded. I spend a lot of time listening to my colleagues and trying to understand and remedy their pain points.
My position allows me the opportunity to be the voice for others who aren’t as comfortable representing themselves. In doing so, little by little, they begin to speak up and learn to be confident in their contribution and ability.
What have your dating and relationship experiences been like? Is it difficult to get dates or to find dates who don't see you as a fetish? What tips have you for meeting people? What tips would you give men who are dating plus size or super-size women?
In general, I tend to keep my actual romantic life fairly private, especially when it comes to Social Media. For those who do have a front row seat for the show, my dating life has become the entertainment factor for many of my friends and family, but I generally only share intimate details from the bizarre encounters or train wrecks.
Since I feel like I have been living my life in reverse, let’s start from the beginning. When I was 16, living in Montana, my boyfriend at the time had a 6-month-old daughter that I helped raise for 3 years. At the age of 20, I moved to Oklahoma where I met a man, who I later married (and divorced), with a young son. After my divorce, I felt like I missed out on my teens, and 20’s, raising kids so it was now my chance to live a little.
I may have lived a little too much! I never found it difficult to meet potential mates, but, what was difficult was finding quality guys in general. Then add to the equation finding a guy who wasn’t ashamed of dating a big girl openly. Still, to this day it can be exhausting. Dating is tough enough without having to worry about all the fat caveats.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve been a fan of online dating since the early 2000’s. I’ve always been straight up about my body, which has allowed me to be more successful than some, but it still comes with obstacles. I’ve come to learn more and more over the years about the fetishes that certain men have related to fat women. In fact, in recent conversations with an ex-boyfriend, I learned that he had kept his fat fetishes secret. And to think, the whole time we were together, I thought he was judging my size. To each their own, but I’m uninterested in being with someone who is only attracted to me because I’m fat.
I’ve moved around quite a bit since 2008 and had the opportunity to meet men from many areas. I’ve been fortunate enough to share time with some amazing guys who showed me how a lady should be treated, most of whom I’m still good friends with. Sadly, I’ve also experienced blatant disrespect from those I should never have wasted a moment of my time on.
Let’s take the Pirate, for example. He was 6’5” tall with a handsome face. We saw each other for a few months and one night we were out having a nice dinner and he put his arm around me and leaned in. I sat there thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, he’s about to say, I love you’. Instead, he looked at me, pointed to a lady across the room and asked me, “Can we take her home?”. What in the actual F*#K? He justified his comment by telling me that this is what comes with loving a Pirate. Wait- a WHAT? I knew that he said he had a pirate costume for Halloween and was extremely proud of how realistic it looked. I had no idea that he thought he was a real pirate. Oh, but he did! And he still does. Arghhh!
The best advice I can give other BBW or SSBBW who are dabbling in the dating world is to go with your gut. Don't give yourself, or your time, to someone unworthy. It's easy to be blinded by a nice smile and a few witty jokes, but listen when a guy tells you what his intentions are.
Are you in any plus size groups or community's where you live? Do you attend fat specific events like GODDESS PARTIES and the like or are you more apt to just hit a regular club? What do you do for fun?
Fat-specific events have never really been appealing to me, so I haven’t attended any that I recall. Part of the reason for not socializing in these circles relates to my opposition to dating guys who are only interested in me for my size. Another reason is the lack of genuine camaraderie among plus-size women. I feel like this may be evolving as the body positive community grows, but it’s a slow process.
I’m more apt to hit a small pub or outdoor venue with live music. Here in Washington, we have an amazing music scene that amps up as spring and summer hit. I also travel to Los Angeles each month where there is an abundance of unique events.
The outdoors is where you can find me when I have downtime. I’m drawn to the peace I find when I’m surrounded by water, mountains, and the trees. I'm a fan of being in the water, whether it be poolside or at the beach. People think I’m a little strange, but I don’t think twice about hopping in the car on a whim to find the serenity.
If you could see one major change within the Plus Size world what would it be and why?
I feel like quite a few plus size women still feel like they must be overly sexual or play into fetishes in order for men to show them attention. There is a difference between being provocative or being comfortable in your body and being raunchy. My hope is that the body positivity movement will encourage women to own who they are, feel good about themselves, and try to obtain the attention they desire by knowing and demonstrating their value.
Often, we hear people say they felt held back by their weight, you seem to travel a great deal. Do you feel your size inhibits you in any way? What are some fun things you have done which people when looking at you might never imagine you did so?
PS Check out some of Jamie's travel advice HERE.
I wouldn’t say that I’m held back by my weight as much now as I was when I was younger, it just may take me a little more time to convince myself to go certain places. This is exactly the reason that I tend to buy a ticket the moment an idea pops into my head. Due to size limitations, it is important to put some additional thought into planning trips. This helps ease my mind before and on the day of the event.
People are often shocked when I tell them about events I’ve attended or trips I’ve taken. Mind you, these didn’t always go without mishaps. I’ve been thrown from a jet-ski during a storm and rescued by the coast guard. Don’t worry, I got over the embarrassment of being pulled onto the back of a boat by my arms and legs when the good-looking lifeguard gave me his number on the way back to the dock. Another time in Las Vegas, a seat I was sitting in broke during a live UFC fight at the MGM Grand, but it opened an opportunity to move to seats closer to the action. Once I traveled to Stockholm with two herniated discs in my back where I walked 7-10 miles a day because I didn’t want waste my time exploring such a picturesque city.
Some might think that these snafus ruined the trips when they only make the experiences more memorable. No regrets, so far!
You travel to the UK fairly often, have you seen any differences on how people treat fat people in the US versus the UK? Tell us a bit more about that.
My interest in the U.K. first stemmed from a chance meeting in an airport a few years ago. I had a layover in Phoenix and right before boarding the plane, this man and I locked eyes. There was an instant chemistry, though no words were spoken at first. He boarded the plane well before I did, but as I walked down the aisle I noticed him sitting in his seat. He grabbed my arm, pulled me down towards his face, and said, “I think you’re absolutely stunning. Do you fancy a chat once we are up in the air?”, in the thickest British accent, I had ever heard in real life. I’m sure my face was 10 shades of red while I timidly agreed. I recall he asked me what seat I was in and when I responded that I was in Row 20, he asked, “No but which seat?”. Ummm, I guarantee you he wouldn’t have missed me when he made it back to Row 20 since I was stuffed into my Coach class seat.
While the plane was still half vertical in the air, he came bounding down the aisle. He sat down, in the walkway, and proceeded to conduct our first date. Within about 15 minutes, I knew his entire life story, which ended with, “You’re going to be my wife one day.”
The whole story is quite touching, comical, and bizarre, but I won’t bore you with that. Sad to say, this situation didn’t have a fairytale ending, but, it certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of dating internationally. Here was this man who thought I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He wasn’t afraid to go after what he wanted, nor was he afraid to confess his feelings in front of a plane full of people- or an airport full of people after we got off the plane. Such a different experience from anyone I had met in the U.S. and so the appeal for visiting the U.K. was born.
In late 2016, I pulled the trigger and bought a plane ticket to ring in 2017 in the United Kingdom. From that moment until I landed at Heathrow airport my emotions went from pure excitement to completely nervousness. Even though I had traveled to Sweden the year before, this was a big trip for me. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to feel right at home in England.
In my experience, the people in the U.K. are less critical of a person’s size. Now, my friends in England tell me that ‘Fat Bird’ jokes are abundant, but that wasn’t something I endured during my travels. It appeared that strangers made eye contact and/or noticed my face more often than people in the U.S. I feel less disregarded when I walk into a public area than I do when I’m in the states. And this is all before I open my mouth and my American accent spills out. Once that happens, I fall into a whole new category of attractiveness.
My trips to England were some of the most memorable days of my life. I spent time on the southern coast and traveled all the way up to Scotland and many places in between. Along those journeys, I crossed paths with several people that inspired me, encouraged me, and enriched my life. From falling in love on the beach in Brighton to my weekend with Velvet and friends, my life is forever changed thanks to the U.K. Part of me wonders if the fact that when I’m in England I literally GLOW that draws others to me or makes me more approachable. Whatever it is, I like it.
Do you feel that there is a sense of competitiveness within the plus size world or more camaraderie?
I feel as though there is a competitive undertone in the plus size community, both in person and online. It is disheartening because I think it’s important that we build each other up, no matter body shape or size.
A few months ago, I attended a corporate training event, and as the evening concluded we gathered with other companies staying at the resort. I was looking less than fabulous after a night at the driving range, but my intention was to mingle with my colleagues. The only other plus size woman in the room spent her time looking me up and down and interjecting herself into conversations at the most inopportune times to redirect attention to her. She represented herself poorly because [I think] she saw me as competition when I could have been her biggest ally and introduced her to quite a few of my connections in a more appropriate fashion. Sadly, this happens often.
My closest female friends are quite a bit smaller than me and beautiful, and yet, we do not feel the need to compete in any way. There is plenty of room in this world for all of us to shine!
You are such a supportive and caring friend, you really work towards uplifting others, where does your sense of empathy stem from?
Thank you for saying so. From what I remember, I’ve always been a sensitive and caring person. My family is quite loving, and I learned by watching my parents, aunts, and uncles, and grandmother interact. Saying that I learned by example is somewhat of an understatement. I had a few years when I was completely consumed by events happening in my life- If it hadn’t been for my family and the countless hours of them lending an ear, I would have lost my mind. Also, my little sister was born when I was 16 and my hope was to be a positive role model for her as she grew up in this crazy world. Strangely enough, she somehow became one for me throughout the years.
This is one area that I always think I could improve upon because sometimes I get caught up in my life and forget that others need me to just listen. My natural instinct is to provide a solution, but sometimes opening my ears and closing my mouth is the remedy. My grandmother was a special lady and the glue that held our family together. Although I could never fill her shoes, I try to follow in her footsteps by reminding people how important family and friends are.
Who are the people that inspire you and why?
I would love to have an incredibly profound answer to this question, but quite simply I’m inspired by people who are genuine and kind.
You recently have modeled for Velvet d'Amour what was that experience like and how were the photos received?
The drive to the first shoot with Velvet d’Amour was the most nerve wrecking 30 minutes of my life. That feeling went away the moment Velvet welcomed me with a giant hug and sat me down in the makeup chair. Aside from a set of boudoir photos I had done in England, this was the first time I would be taking direction and posing for photos. Oh, and did I mention, I was only half dressed? Mhm.
Surprisingly, I felt right at home within the first few minutes, even though I was wandering around in a Johnny Cash bodysuit with giant pom pom buns on top of my head. Velvet has an amazing way of making a person feel comfortable in front of the camera. Her experience and artist’s eye allow her to direct a client to a position that is flattering for them.
Initially, I never intended for anyone to see the photos from that day; however, Velvet encouraged me to share them with others. I found myself whipping out my phone to talk to strangers about the magazine and my experience everywhere that I went. For once, I didn't feel like I had to apologize for my chunky legs or rounded belly. I was proud of the space I took up and anxious to reassure others that if I could do it, then so could they.
I also shot with Velvet a second time during a trip to London this past January. It was such an incredible experience. The way that Velvet interacts with all the ladies she photographs only highlights her lovable nature. Velvet is overflowing with personality and a talent that inspires others more than she knows.
I feel like you are a person who has no limits, you don't speak much about 'going for it' you just buckle down and do whatever you aim for. Has that sense of inner strength come from having a great support system in your family, or did you hone that yourself? What advice would you give others as to how they can take risks?
My family is amazing. I’m very fortunate to have been raised by two very strong parents who allowed me to be independent when needed. Trust me when I say that even they aren’t quite sure where I get my spontaneity. My mom has had many sleepless nights from me boarding a plane to another country on a whim. And my dad covers his ears when I come back from a trip with details of my adventures.
If you were to ask my friends which trait I possess that drives them most crazy it would be that I pressure them to step outside of their comfort zone. Getting overly excited about an idea of travel or personal growth that they merely mentioned is not uncommon. My mind quickly turns their suggestion into a full outline of how they can execute and the benefits. My advice to others would be to skip over-thinking things. All that does is give you time to talk yourself out of it.
Think about it- your average retail store learned this rule of thumb quickly. They put all impulse buy items at the cash register because it gives you less time to rationalize the actual need for the product- and before you know it it’s in your bag as you walk out the door. If you see a photo of a place that captures your attention or lights a spark within you, put a small deposit on it with a travel agent or book a portion of it that is within your budget. Once you’ve invested even a small amount of money, you are more likely to buckle down and go!
What beauty regimes do you ascribe to?
I’m so the wrong person to ask this of, I’m the worst! I think I washed my face with only water (and maybe soap) for the first 30 years of my life. I may have used a little Noxzema from the time to time if I was having a sleepover and someone had it, but otherwise, it was plain water and soap. These days, I use a scrub, charcoal wash accompanied by a seaweed toner from the Body Shop and moisturizing lotion. Aside from the above, I drink a ton of water, which helps my skin stay hydrated.
My make-up routine is super simple and takes about 10 minutes from start to finish. I’ve been wearing makeup since I was 15 or so and until about 5 years ago never left the house without it. My makeup bag is mostly comprised of drugstore brands with a few name brand splurges like Urban Decay Perversion, Kat Von D Lovecraft Lipstick, and Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.
Sequins or Taffeta? Taffeta
Citrus or Floral? Citrus
Bowling or the Movies? Movies
TexMex or Indian? TexMex
The Seychelles or Japan? Seychelles
Road trip or Cruise? Road trip
Live concert or Dance club? Live Concert
Tell us three little-known facts about you?
I’m a sucker for forehead kisses.
Most people don’t believe it, but I’m extremely shy.
One of my fears is seeing someone I love settle for less than they deserve.
Here is a compilation of just a few people who bring me to life!