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Plus-sized Vancouver model takes on body-shaming bullies

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A Vancouver model who found herself in the crosshairs of a cruel social media body-shaming campaign is taking a stand against her online bullies.

Ruby Roxx (Jenn Palsenbarg), a model and the editor-in-chief of Beauty Mark Magazine, said she was angered and upset when she came across a photograph of herself online that had been digitally altered to make her appear thinner.

She was alerted by a Facebook follower that a doctored photo of her was being featured on the Facebook page Project Harpoon, a harassment campaign targeting plus-size women that has contributors altering images of them to make them appear thinner, then posting them online beside the original images.

In an August 22 blog post, Roxx let loose on her harassers but also thanked them for showing her that she has “the drive and determination to fight bullies” like them.

“I don’t like to put a lot of negative energy out into the world, as cheesy as that sounds,” said Roxx.

“I went on the page and saw that it wasn’t just my picture, but it was other models and actresses and everyday girls. Then I read the comments and they were even worse than what they were doing to me. The captions were horrible and the text was atrocious. It was upsetting to read.”

While Project Harpoon’s original Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts have been taken down, new pages continue to emerge spreading the same messages and doctored images. Images of actress Rebel Wilson, singer Meghan Trainor and model Tess Holiday have gone viral, along with photos pinched from people’s personal social media accounts.

Many posts bear the hashtags #projectharpoon and #thinnerbeauty, and some include captions like, “Wow, from a depressed chub to an elegant fox!” and “from blocking the view to enhancing it.”

The administrator of thinnerbeauty.org writes on the page that the goal of the movement is to provide people with “visible, achievable health goals” and not to promote hate.

“It is not hateful to encourage people to be happy, healthy and beautiful,” the admin says.

“In fact, we’d go as far as to say the opposite: It is hateful to want people to be unhealthy, and to try and make people think that such a thing is OK.”

But Roxx said rather than encouraging people to be healthier, such images could actually trigger people who are struggling with eating disorders.

“What they say they’re trying to do is encourage people to lose weight, which is stupid, because the only person who can tell you to lose weight or gain weight is a doctor, it’s not up to anybody else in the world,” she said.

“That’s not encouraging anybody to do anything. All it’s doing is shaming people.”

Roxx has spoken about her experience on Good Morning America and said she’ll continue to report such sites in an effort to get them shut down.

She said her blog post wasn’t for her own gain and was meant to encourage those who are most vulnerable to online body-shaming.

“I’m a confident person, I can handle what they’re saying about me,” she said.

“But there are a lot of girls who read this kind of stuff and it really affects them, really negatively.”