ATLANTA — Tate Sequoya Farris has never been shy about her music or her body. On an early October day in her hometown, Atlanta, the 24-year-old rapper was getting fitted for a music video for her song “Dungarees,” dressed in snakeskin boxer shorts and a see-through halter top from Gucci. Her stylist, Todd White, was working alongside a seamstress, and a photographer buzzed around too, all of them like bees swarming their queen.
“Can we make them shorter?” Ms. Farris asked. The shorts grazed her knees. Mr. White asked the seamstress to pin them at the middle of her thigh.
Standing in front of a full-length mirror, Ms. Farris evaluated all five feet and one inch of herself. Her hair freshly braided in cornrows, with a heart braided on the left side of her head, her makeup — a soft natural glam — flawlessly done, Ms. Farris threw a few mock punches while twerking gently.
“It’s giving baddie!” she said to the room as she danced with herself in the mirror.
Ms. Farris, who performs under the name Baby Tate, released “I Am” last year. It’s an empowering track with a bunch of affirmations nestled in the chorus: “I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am rich,” the song starts off. “I am protected, well respected, I’m a queen, I’m a dream, I do what I want to do and I’m who I want to be,” the chorus ends.
The lyrics serve as a mantra for Ms. Farris, even if she cannot always control what people say about her. In October, after a performance at Afropunk in Atlanta, she faced intense online criticism for the way her body looked in black leather boots and a belly-baring cougar-print outfit. She hadn’t intended to wear the exposed look, but her planned outfit didn’t pan out.Though she had had her doubts about showing so much of her body, she received compliments on her outfit from the audience.
“Of all the festivals that I’ve performed at, Afropunk is one that I feel like, especially for Black people, you can be the most yourself,” Ms. Farris said. “Everybody is out there in so many different ranges of what Black and Afro punk looks like.”
Several days later, however, as the images from the show made their way across the internet, comments turned from praise to disdain. One Twitter user said she “could lose 10 pounds” and another said that she had “bad habits and poor discipline.”
“I come out with a two-inch protruding belly and it’s, ‘My God, she’s eating McDonald’s every day,’” Ms. Farris said.
Ms. Farris’s critics seemed to think she wasn’t living up to the standards of other musicians and influencers on Instagram. The so-called Instagram body, seen on rappers, reality stars and actresses, includes an extreme hourglass shape, a flat tummy, with voluptuous hips and buttocks.
The physique can typically be achieved only through surgery, specifically procedures like the Brazilian butt lift, one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries, despite having the highest mortality rate for any cosmetic surgery, according to a 2017 report by the National Institutes of Health. In 2020, there were 21,823 buttock augmentations in the United States, which include implants or fat grafting, according to a report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
“So many people have died and I feel like people don’t know that, they don’t care about that, especially the young girls that look up to all of us,” Ms. Farris said while pressing her fist in her hand, after her fitting. “They see that, and they think: This is what I need to get.”
Ms. Farris responded to the negative comments on social media by posting pictures of herself in bathing suits, with comments about her love for her natural body. She knows the pandemic — which she refers to as the “panorama” — has affected her eating habits, but she doesn’t sweat it. She’s had a big year. After being independent for nearly seven years, she signed a record deal with Warner Records.
She’s unfazed by the disapproval and wants to broaden the idea of what kinds of bodies are acceptable. “I’m going to love my body in whatever state it is in,” she said. “Whether I’m working out at the time, not working out, whether I’m eating pasta every day or I’m eating salad every day, it’s a journey. This is my vessel that I’m on this Earth with and so I got to carry it, and I’m going to continue to love it.”
Mr. White, who did not style Ms. Farris for Afropunk, but has also styled Megan Thee Stallion, Latto and Summer Walker, said: “Everyone has their own style and idea of what they’re comfortable with, but for her, I think she’s just a little bit freer and more open.”
“I don’t think she’s scared to do anything,” he added.
Ms. Farris turned the body shaming into positivity. In October, she asked her fans to post photos of themselves in their natural state, showing their natural bodies and natural hair. Many responded with photos and notes of solidarity and thankfulness. When she recalled the responses she received, Ms. Farris’s voice broke.
“I already get emotional when people say that my music helped them get through any type of situation in their lives,” she said, her eyes welling. She dabbed her tears with her palm, to avoid disrupting her precise eyeliner. “To see so many people and specifically Black women, see how I stood up for myself — it made them feel like I stood up for them.”
After she took to Twitter to defend herself, she received a direct message from Rihanna, one of her childhood idols.
“I was really on the battlefield,” Ms. Farris said. “I was really out there like fending for myself, like I am right in the midst of it all, then here comes Rihanna.”
She was already in negotiations to become an ambassador for Rihanna’s lingerie line, Savage x Fenty, she said, but their conversation accelerated the agreement. After her fitting for the “Dungarees” video shoot, Ms. Farris started getting ready for her first Savage x Fenty photo shoot.
To set the mood, she put on “Let It Show,” a song she had recorded the night before while on Instagram Live. Her bright voice rang out in the chorus over a bass-heavy beat from her iPhone speaker:
“Where my bad girls with a big belly?”