Natalie Hage of Dallas, Texas, is a full-time student, plus-size model, and social media influencer. She’s built a platform on promoting body positivity and health at every size — but on Friday, Hage’s message was put to the test when she came face to face with a body shamer on an American Airlines flight to Los Angeles.
Hage, 30, had paid nearly $70 for extra leg room, and boarded to find only middle seats remaining. Upon sitting down, the welcome she received from the man to her left was less than warm. “I could tell from the second I walked up that he was bothered,” she told TODAY. “He was making it very clear — jerkily arranging himself in his seat, slamming his seat belt — obviously distressed that I was alive next to him. I almost asked him if he was OK, it was so dramatic.”
Then she noticed him putting his phone between his knees, with his finger near the camera button. She suspected he was taking pictures of her — and when she glanced down at his phone, she saw a stream of derogatory comments that the man didn’t even seem to be trying to hide.
“Hopefully she didn’t have any Mexican food,” said whoever was on the other end of the text message.
“I think she ate a Mexican,” the man had responded, later adding, “If the news reports a DFW Airbus A321 leaving the runway without rotating, that would be my flight.”
Hage was shook. “I mean, I have a body-positive platform … even I, in that moment, felt an inch tall,” she told TODAY. “On a computer, you can delete it or scroll past it, but to have it happen in front of my face was surreal. The whole flight, I wanted to disappear.”
But as Hage thought about the message she spreads online, “I knew I needed to practice what I preach,” she explained. “If I didn’t say something, I’d regret it forever. I’d be a hypocrite … I’ve made a platform to make people feel good about taking up space in the world, and this dude wanted to make me feel bad for existing.”
Hage decided to address the man at the end of the flight, so as not to cause a disturbance and allow for a quick exit if necessary. She filmed the interaction and posted it to Facebook, where it now has more than 1.2 million views.