American lifeguard Courtney Harrough has opened up to Refinery29 about her experience of being physically larger than the lifeguards you see on television, and why she's just as experienced and capable at saving a life than someone who's half her size.
Despite spending years competing in swimming and water polo, Courtney received criticism when training to be a lifeguard by fellow students.
"A woman my height, but three times smaller than me said, 'I find it hard to believe you were an athletic swimmer,'" she said.
The 24-year-old has come forward to explain that she is used to people judging her by her weight: "If you're a plus-sized woman presenting to a company, not just for an athletic-based career, you face a stigma that if you're fat, you're lazy."
On Instagram, she wrote, "My weight and height may cause some to think that I'd only be a pleasantly perched beached whale upon a lifeguard stand - but that isn't the case," she wrote. "My body is strong, sturdy, and sexy! I don't have smooth legs, or cut shoulders accented by tiny boobs like most of the girls in my class but I have courage, and a spirit to try. That is all [it] takes in this world."
When your second round of interviews requires you to get a little wet, don't mind me. 🌴 - How many times have you set your sights on a job, a position in life and doubted yourself? Uh- I have done that MANY times! Yesterday in my interview I was met with such excitement that I wanted to be a lifeguard by the board of my prospective employers. They informed me the Deep Water position is rigorous and can be tiring at times, I answered with a resounding "I have no doubt I can rise to the occasion and swim with the best of them!" My weight and height may cause some to think that I'd only be a pleasantly perched beached whale upon a lifeguard stand - but that isn't the case. My body is strong, sturdy, and sexy! I don't have smooth legs, or cut shoulders accented by tiny boobs like most of the girls in my class but I have courage, and a spirit to try. That is all is takes in this world. Carry yourself with courage my dear friends and do not let your size, shape, weight, or height be a factor of fear to your future endeavors! 🙌🏻 - Wish me luck as I dive in to save some folks and swim my butt off for a deep water lifeguard position. 🌤🌊
But, becoming a lifeguard didn't come easy for Courtney. Even though she passed her training program at the top of the class, there were no swimsuits in her size.
"They said, 'You don't look like a regular lifeguard, we're going to have to pull you from your job.' I said, 'I'm sorry, you're not going to pull me. If my weight was such an aesthetic issue, you would've seen it, because I've been half-naked in a swimsuit. If you knew you couldn't accommodate, you shouldn't have put me through this. And you're not going to fire me, because that's discrimination. We're going to figure out how to get it done.'"
Courtney put together a makeshift uniform, and proved to everybody that her weight does not define her abilities: "If it's a matter of my ability to perform my job, that's one thing. If it's aesthetics, you're fat-shaming and size-shaming. And you're being really rude, because fat people can do so much more than we think they can. Fat women have a right to lifeguard."
You go, Courtney!