FATASS (Fat Action Troupe Allstar Spirit Squad), a Portland-based group of radical cheerleaders, are unique in the cheerleading arena. No less beautiful than your standard cheer squad (if not more beautiful—I mean, isn't everyone completely over the stereotypical wiry blonde cheerleader?), FATASS certainly aren't run of the mill. Their appearances in Marie Claire, Bust, and even on German television corroborate that statement. Recently, I spoke with Chelsea Lincoln, who has been with FATASS since its fatass inception, about the group in general—and, of course, Bring it On.
MERCURY: Tell me how FATASS began.
CHELSEA LINCOLN: It started in February 2003, shortly before FatGirl Speaks [a size-positive annual event in Portland]. Krissy, one of our members, came up with the idea of cheerleading fat girls. Everyone was really excited about it—you know, it's kind of cliché, the fat girl who wanted to be a cheerleader but wasn't accepted. It's all about "taking back the pom poms" and cheering about fat acceptance.
Is it only women in your group? And only fat women?
It's not that we don't allow men. It just happens to be all women. Even though every person is affected by fat discrimination, women definitely feel it the most. So, the idea of being a fat cheerleader is more appealing to a woman trying to take that power back and cheer about it. Further, all our members identify as fat. We've never had any men or anyone thin approach us to perform, but we do have many fat allies that support us.
Are there any other groups doing what you do, either locally or globally?
I haven't heard of any other troupes starting up after we did. But, at some point, Marilyn Wann [author of the book Fat! So?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size] had a cheerleading troupe as well, before FATASS.
What's the queer-to-straight ratio of the group?
At least half the troupe identifies as queer, so there's going to be that natural undertone. Plus, we perform in a lot of queer venues—like when we did the Queer Pride Party at the Meow Meow awhile back. We've also performed at sKeRvY. But we cheer to everyone. In fact, one of my favorite lyrics is in the cheer "Be Progressive": "Let's start a revolution/It's easy if you try/Don't judge yourselves on color/preferences or size!"
That lyric brings together everything we're talking about—not just a movement of fat acceptance, but acceptance of all people.
So, the group is currently on hiatus? What does that mean?
We aren't currently active, but part of what we do is about education. We've appeared in various magazines, on the radio, and even the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls. We want to spread the message of body image not only through our cheers, but also through our words.
Have you ever all gotten together to watch Bring it On?
We've talked about it, but never followed through. But we're definitely fans of the movie and quote lines during our practices.
There's definitely a prevalence of lesbian cheerleader porn on the internet. Any thoughts?
(Laughs) Oh, we don't partake in that.
For more information (and more cheers—my favorite being "Gastric Bypass March"), visit fatasspdx.com.