I’ve been following New Zealand pin-up queen Fran Robertson on Instagram (@frantasy_island, natch) ever since we featured her wedding on Offbeat Bride back in 2016, and it’s been a colorful journey for sure. Recently, I followed along with her photos of traveling from NZ all the way to Las Vegas to compete in the Miss Viva Las Vegas pageant — which she totally won!
Fran winning Miss Viva Las Vegas with her arm crutch in tow has clearly been such an inspiration to so many folks. While personally, I’d love to get to a place where disabilities aren’t even a thing people notice (I mean, with that hair, and those clothes, and those colors, and those dimples… who has time to notice Fran’s crutch?), but since we’re still not there yet, I asked Fran if I could interview her about how her experiences are setting new standards for visibility…
How did you get into the pin-up / rockabilly aesthetic?
Growing up, my mama did a lot of thrift shopping and made a lot of our clothes from vintage curtains or sheets, so I always had an appreciation for the sustainable side of vintage clothing, as well as the broad range of patterns and textures in bright and bold colourways. As I got older and curvier, I found that mainstream fashion didn’t really cater to my shape, so I naturally gravitated towards silhouettes that did — predominately those from the 1950s and 1960s. The older I got, the less conservative I got, until here I am living life in colour and chaos!
What motivated you to start entering pageants?
I’ve entered (and somehow won) two pageants now — Miss Pinup New Zealand 2016, and Miss Viva Las Vegas 2018 — and both of them called out to me as an opportunity to celebrate that our community is full of people who don’t necessarily fit the mould.
People tend to fall into subcultures when they don’t see themselves represented in traditional media and find themselves seeking others who feel the same, so being able to represent our community of weirdos in a way that really highlights the diverse nature of the people who make it up has always been hugely motivating for me.
I think that seeing someone up on stage that you can relate to is major, and it can really help you to feel as though your choices are validated (not that anyone needs validation, ever). So because there hadn’t really been anyone who looked like me or faced the same challenges that I do taking out big titles at these contests, I knew I had to at least try to be that person for someone else.
What do you feel like you bring to the look that it hasn’t seen before?
A lot of the more public figures within the Pinup / Vintage / Rockabilly scene are absolutely spectacularly lovely women who just happen to look like Disney Princesses and are really well put together, so I like to think that my flurry of general chaos and refusal to be classy and polished is definitely something new.
I don’t believe in censoring myself so I swear like a sailor and I’m a little bit bogan, but I’m perpetually excitable and really enthusiastic, which generally makes up for the fact that I barely ever do my hair and I’m often safety pinned together. I have a lot of fun putting my look together though, and I truly think it shows.
Given the response from some folks with disabilities, how do you hope your recent win in Vegas will push the dialogue forward?
On the day of the contest in Vegas, a woman got up out of her wheelchair to hug me and say thank you! I cried like a baby, because if me getting up on that stage meant so much to her that she would do that, imagine how much impact we could have by being brave and demanding to be seen?
I truly think that now is the time for us to be loud, because people are starting to realise how much impact representation can have, and how important diversity is to making all people feel included — And if holding the world’s biggest pin-up title as a limpy fat girl means waving that flag in everyone’s face, then absolutely count me in.
Anything else you want to say about how folks with disabilities can use sub-cultures and social media to increase visibility and normalization of ALL bodies?
Social media is such a valuable tool for changing the way communities are represented, and the best way to do that is to get out and post 7000 selfies in your wheelchair, or with your leg hair in full view, or with your fat arms exposed, because people need to see that all body types exist, and the more they see of us, the more accepting they become.
Just look around next time you go to the supermarket at how many people with different styles, different body types, different skin colours, and different abilities there are, all just going about their days and not letting their differences be a reason to not leave the house. Let those regular people doing their groceries serve as a reminder that the world is full of diversity, so don’t hide yours. Be proud of what makes you different, and if you can’t be proud, I beg you to at least stop being ashamed.
So, Fran: what are you working on next?
While I’d like to say that I have big lofty world-peace-esque plans, my plan for the rest of forever is to just keep kicking ass, working hard, talking about the things that matter to me, and challenging stereotypes one day at a time. As long as I get to be fun, have fun, and keep showing the universe that I can take whatever gets thrown at me, I’ll be happy!
Comments on Why it matters so much when a “limpy fat girl” wins the world’s biggest pinup pageant
Oh my goodness, she is ADORABLE! So much style and presence in front of the camera! <3
Beautiful ladies, all of them. I much prefer pinup fashion over mainstream fashion any day. Congratulations to Fran!
Was so excited when I saw online that she had won! So gorgeous and such a fantastic sense of style!
Going to Viva and seeing Fran and others will all sorts of bodies was one of the most empowering experiences I’ve had!! It felt like such a celebration of the beauty of bodies—of all bodies. I was so worried going in that I would feel self-conscious and not pretty enough, but everyone was so excited to be there and to be there lovely selves that I felt confident in my own body and in love with all the others around me.
Viva is such an incredible event – seeing people from all over the world sharing their love of music, culture, and fashion is the coolest thing ever! It’s one of the few events that I’d be just as comfortable at dressed up to the nines or in a tshirt and a ponytail, because people are there to have fun <3
Her smile is infectious! It took me a minute to figure out why the word ‘limpy’ and what this ‘arm crutch’ mentioned was- my focus was entirely on that smile and all the happy, bright color. And then to see someone with a visible physical disability in such a hugely positive context (not just her winning, which is awesome, but her cheerfulness, her vibrancy, etc), I realized how little I encounter that kind of visual in my daily life, which underscores that point about visibility.
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