#BeYouIU: IUPUI’s first body diversity summit


We all exist in our bodies.
No body is better than another body.
People are people.

While these statements are simple and true, in today's society, body diversity has become a complex and prominent topic. Many people have faced obstacles both in their personal and professional lives in relation to how they look, including Ellise Smith, #BeYouIU Body Diversity Summit founder, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Division of Student Affairs and Ph. D. student in IUPUI's urban education studies program.

"We shouldn't go out in the world wondering 'Will I be accepted if I'm a certain size?' or 'Will I be accepted if I have a disability?' While I am not the pioneer of this conversation, I have been a catalyst for change because of my own experiences. And I want to bring awareness to people."

Smith's inaugural #BeYouIU Body Diversity Summit invites everyone in the IUPUI community to engage in discussions related to body diversity topics. Speakers at the summit will cover topics like Body Mass Index (BMI), bodies in theatre, body diversity in the workplace and more.

Event details
Wednesday, Aug. 24
10 a.m.–3 p.m. | Campus Center 405

Register for the event before Tuesday, Aug. 23.

"This is the beginning of a long overdue conversation and what it means to exist in bodies that are not in the mainstream," said Smith. "My hope is that everyone who attends will come with an open mind and have fun!"

What to expect at #BeYouIU

IUPUI's first ever body diversity summit will include four sessions. One of which will be led by Molly McDonald, owner of The Cocuun: Yoga, Movement, and Massage studio. Light yoga will be taught by McDonald that is for all body types. Also, expect spoken word performances by Smith to be sprinkled throughout the event.

"This is year one. As the DEI director for the Division of Student Affairs, I'm hoping to make this an annual event that gets bigger and better each year," Smith said. "I'd like to see student organizations and the Indianapolis community get involved, or host a runway show at the next summit where people of all body types are represented."

How #BeYouIU came to life

While getting her master's degree in higher education at IU Bloomington, Smith developed her own brand -- Fatness Fiction. Smith uses her brand as a platform to encourage new perspectives surrounding people's limited views of others, specifically based on size.

As Smith later pursued her Ph.D. through IUPUI's urban education studies program in 2018, Fatness Fiction became engrained in her research. Inspired by Dr. Lori Patton Davis' work, Smith saw an opportunity to bring her brand and message to life through a body diversity conference.

"I first reached out to Dr. Karen Dace about the idea, and from there began to find my academic identity and voice beyond being a Ph.D. student. I really wanted to put this on campus," said Smith.

#BeYouIU has been a work in progress for several years and is also a celebratory moment for Smith, who views the summit as a milestone of five years of research surrounding body diversity topics.

"This is my Beyonce (or 'Eyonce') moment," Smith said. "Every person speaking at the conference has supported my research from day one because they believe in the work I'm doing. The Division of Student Affairs, School of Education and DEI also helped bring the summit logistically to life on campus. This is a nod to all of them to say thank you."