You might think of 18 as too young for one’s nostalgia to have marinated, pickled and aged like a fine wine, but Jay Krakower says otherwise. The artist, model and self-professed hoarder has kept everything from childhood, whether her friends and family like it or not. “It drives my partner crazy, but I keep everything,” she says. “Even the bad memories are eventually pretty interesting.”
We visited Krakower’s childhood bedroom in the north end of Toronto this past August, a few days before her mother moved out of the house. By then, most of the artist’s keepsakes had been shipped off to her apartment in Montreal (it currently overflows with her collection of Webkins, Barbies, Polly Pockets, Bratz dolls, American Girls dolls, stuffed animals… the list goes on), but what was left was a pared back ode to her formative years. Only the essentials—a pair of ballet shoes, her prom dress, paintings of her mother and a large assortment of stuffed animals—were left in the hyper feminine room. “My house was always pristine. Everything was always in place, even with all the hoarding I did,” she says of the space she lived in since age two.
Krakower inherited the collector’s gene from her Bubbie, who would often support her granddaughter’s penchant for rare finds. “She once drove all day to find a Webkin I wanted,” she says.
"I wish my younger self knew that it was ok to be fat and that my worth didn’t change when my weight did."
Krakower spent most of her childhood dancing (something that’s clear within a few minutes spent in her graceful presence), exerting her admitted ADHD energy on jazz, ballet, lyrical, contemporary, tap and hip-hop. She later moved onto painting, where she cites her mentor, Ramon Serrano, as flipping the switch on a future in art. “As a kid I spent a lot of time alone. School wasn’t great for me and I didn’t have many friends,” she says. “He taught me for four years, which were probably the best years growing up for me.”
Today, her paintings and sculptures explore the societal roles of ‘fat peoples,’ with the goal of encouraging self-acceptance. “I try to highlight the beauty of fat people without romanticizing them,” she says. Meanwhile, she’s been a favoured face of size-inclusive brands such as Savage x Fenty, Universal Standard and Minnow Bathers, images she shares frequently alongside the popular body positive hashtag #effyourbeautystandards.
Krakower’s Instagram feed is filled with messages of body positivity and confidence, two things that are often in short supply throughout one’s teen years. “When I was growing up, I was severely bullied, especially about my weight,” she says. “I was always taught that fat is bad, even from people in my family.” Instead of letting it consume her, she harnessed its power.
“When I heard that many more people had [experienced] the same situation as me, I learned that it wasn’t personal, it was a societal problem. So, I try and spread the message that having a fat body is ok and being visible with a fat body is ok.”