Morbidly obese Kenyan woman selected as finalist in Sports Illustrated Swim Search

Fox News is facing stern backlash for running a positive story about a morbidly obese swimsuit model that critics say normalizes obesity.

Published Sunday, the story concerns Achieng Agutu, a morbidly obese “influencer” and finalist for the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swim Search.

The story specifically concerns the way she deals with criticism — or “trolling,” she automatically calls it — on social media.

“Block and move on. In the beginning, I could get 1,000 great comments, and that one negative comment would ruin my day, even my week. Like, why would somebody say something terrible when I’m just trying to be positive and empower people, empower women? It would take over me,” she told the network.

“Now, it just feels good to block and prosper. That one person who has this nasty thing to say about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. Like, you took time out of your 24 hours to write something nasty, post it and feel good about it. That’s insane to me,” Agutu added.

“So, I block and prosper. Sometimes, if I do have time, I will give you a piece of my mind and then block you. But I’m always choosing my peace. So I will block you, and I’ll live my beautiful life on the tantalizing, sexy side of the internet,” she continued.

Fox News’ story goes on to highlight the excitement and joy Agutu felt when she learned that she was a Swim Search finalist and would be allowed to strut down the catwalk during the SI Swimsuit runway show in early July.

“It was midnight, and I was sitting outside because that’s the only place where I could get network. I got an Instagram DM from SI. At first, I was like, ‘OK, sure,’” she recalled.

“But when I checked my emails, I was just screaming. And then I called my dad who was in a different city, and then he started screaming. It was midnight, and I was screaming my head off. It was the best feeling in the entire world,” she added.

She was reportedly in Kenya when she got the call.

Here’s the problem: While positivity and confidence aren’t innately bad things, critics worry that Fox News is normalizing obesity by publishing such a glowing, noncritical profile of Agutu.

Note, however, that Fox News has turned off the comments section for this particular story, and so the only criticism can be found on Twitter.


To their credit, even several left-wing papers have previously called out the “normalization” and promotion of obesity. Take The Guardian.

“[W]hile your own body is your business, actively encouraging unhealthy lifestyle choices and denying health risks in a public space isn’t promoting body positivity – it’s just giving the green light to different kinds of eating disorders,” Lizzie Cernik, reportedly a journalist, wrote for the outlet in 2018.

The Arizona Republic ran a similar piece two years earlier by opinion columnist Linda Valdez.

“Much of today’s obesity epidemic in adults and children is caused by junk food and inactivity. These are not healthy habits. These habits – and the obesity they cause – should be called out and decried,” she wrote.

Agutu for her part appears to strongly disagree with this line of thinking.

“I think we need to give ourselves so much grace stepping out of our comfort zones… I started dressing in the way I wanted to dress, not for other people’s opinions. That has been liberating. Once you feel liberated, you can live life to the fullest. Whether it’s stepping out in a bikini or stepping out in a dress you’ve never worn before, celebrate who you are,” she said.

“And it’s all baby steps. Start wearing the bikini in the comfort of your own home and see how that feels. Then take it to the pool. Take the next step and wear it at the beach. Take another step and now we’re on vacation. You have one life – live it,” she added.


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Vivek Saxena


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