Sandy Perez is using a needle and thread to make a point: you’ve got to love yourself. The full-time nanny, part-time artist has been building a social media following for her eye-catching bordados; hoops that feature body positive statements, music lyrics, and pop culture witticisms that highlight non euro-centric beauty standards. Praising curves, thickness and brown skin, they offer decorative affirmations to women whose beauty is not usually celebrated by society, with statements like “Chillona pero Chingona” sewn in bold Old English letters.
Her most popular piece, the “Chillona pero Chingona” bordado was initially done in jest, Perez says. “I don’t even remember where I heard the phrase, but it was a joke. Then I came to realize it’s not much of a joke, you can still be a cry baby and you can still be a badass.”
Like many of her irreverent bordados, it sends an IDGAF message to anybody who looks down on crying. This same attitude can be found in her empowering statements like “Gordita y Que?,” which boldly proclaim that it’s ok to be who you are.
“It’s a recent thing for me where you have to accept yourself, love your body. [With] what society’s views are on body image, I think it’s something good to put out there,” says Perez. “Growing up, I was very self-conscious about several things, but mostly my weight, so I want to make sure the next generation gets it. Like it’s ok if you’re chunky, you’re still cute.”
What began as only a crafty project for her has become a passion that is helping others love themselves too. Images of her hoops have circulated on Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Since seeing them online, people have contacted her for their own uplifting hoops.
“I had one girl who I guess was having body issue troubles and she got a custom made piece that said ‘pinche chula’ and she put it by her mirror. She said she saw it everyday and it made it her feel good. Like it was reassuring, ‘Yea girl, you’re good looking’… I never thought my stuff would change somebody’s image about themselves,” Perez says. “I got teary-eyed when I read her message – like that’s something big and it’s so positive.”
Being a music lover, her hoops also feature lyrics from artists like Chicano Batman and André 3000, whose songs have included shout-outs to women who embody brown skin and thicker bodies– lyrics like “Su piel tiene color de Mazapan” (“Itotiani” by Chicano Batman) and “Thick girls are made for cuddling,” (André 3000 on Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter”).
As for what hoop to expect next, Perez says she is working on something inspired by the cult classic movie Mi Vida Loca.
Here is more on what Perez had to say about how creativity, body positivity and representations of women in society.
On how she makes her hoops
I make hand embroidery pieces or hoops, like a lot of people like to call them. It’s basically fabric (usually cotton muslin) stitched with acrylic embroidery thread/floss. I sketch directly on the fabric or make my own transfers then stitch on the design using different needles and different styles/methods of stitching to achieve my desired look. Most of the pieces I make usually stay framed in the round hoops. They’re pieces of art to me; just like a canvas or a ceramic piece.
On her inspirations
I get my ideas from a lot of things but the pop culture pieces were definitely inspired by the music I listen to on a daily basis. Whenever I get an idea, I write it down before I forget the vision I see in my head.
I think it’s just music, my Mexican culture and everyday things. I did the Drake piece and I did the Paquita piece, I did the Hot Cheetos one. The first one that became really popular [was] the chillona one. The pan dulce [hoop] is just because I’m a big baker [also] so that’s where it comes from, but my inspiration comes from a whole bunch of different places.
On the importance of body positivity
I grew up with my mom … [who] always had some snarky remark like “Oh you know you should stop eating that …” It’s a recent thing [for me] like ‘you know what, forget it. I like this, too bad.’”
My concha [hoop is] meant to empower both women and men, of all shapes, weights, backgrounds, ethnicities etc. I didn’t come up with the phrase itself; I’ve seen it all over the Internet. But I loved how they all meant the same thing; not to be so hard on your self, cause we all have flaws & no one is perfect. You own it & take pride in it. You’re chubby? You’re still cute. You’re short? You’re still cute. You have acne/hairy arms/a big nose? Don’t worry, you’re still cute.
On what the lyrics in her hoops say about women in society
In my personal opinion, the lyrics I’ve chosen to work with do say something about women in society and it’s nothing negative. Plus size women (not only brown, but many women of color) are constantly told by society, the media and a plenty (not all) men, that they are unworthy of love simply because of their weight, size etc. My work is absolutely not meant to be fetishizing or anything like that. I’m sure smaller/thinner women might go through similar struggles and everyone has different things that they go through; I have simply decided to work and express some of the things I have personally gone through as a plus-sized woman of color. [The work is] definitely meant to be positive and empower women.
On where you can find her hoops
I’m currently selling my pieces online, but I don’t have a online store such as Etsy or StoreEnvy.
You can reach Sandy Perez on Instagram and Twitter @sandeh for more information.