TikToker Leo Skepi Apologizes After Backlash Over ‘Fatphobic’ Comments

Leo Skepi, an influencer with over 4 million followers, has responded to accusations of being fatphobic

TikToker Leo Skepi Apologizes After Backlash Over ‘Fatphobic’ Comments
Leo Skepi at a NYFW event in New York on Feb. 8, 2024.

A TikTok creator has apologized after facing backlash online for making comments about clothing brands and size inclusivity that were interpreted widely as fatphobic.

Leo Skepi, who has gained over 4 million followers on TikTok for making lifestyle content about fitness and fashion, was criticized after posting a video on Monday arguing that people shouldn’t be upset with brands if they don’t carry their size. “Brands are allowed to want a certain image and look with their product,” he says in the since-deleted video. “They are allowed to make things for the people they want to make them for.”

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The backlash was swift, among audiences and other creators, who called out Skepi for using fatphobic language. The fashion industry has long been criticized for its storied past of exclusive sizing. In recent years, household brands like Lululemon and Abercrombie have introduced a wider range of sizes to be more inclusive.

On Tuesday, Skepi, posted another video. “I’ve got some sh-t to own up to,” he says. “I deleted the video because it did the opposite of what I wanted it to do. It made a lot of people feel unsafe and that’s the last thing that I wanted.”

Skepi says he recognizes how the comments he made could be interpreted as hurtful. “Instead of saying sorry because those are just words and they don’t do anything for anybody, I’m going to give you my word that I’m going to do any work necessary to make sure that you always know and feel that I’m looking out for you and I’m here to protect you,” he says.

That video was met with a mixed response, with some people saying they did not agree with his sentiments, while others commended him for explaining himself. “Love the realness and self-awareness that other influencers don’t have,” goes one comment. Skepi did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

Skepi’s initial video was stitched by multiple TikTokers who criticized his take, with several reaction videos receiving over a million views on Tuesday. The model and body positivity advocate Tess Holliday posted a video in response, saying Skepi was putting himself “into a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with” him.

“As someone who has modeled, done runways, and worked with designers, I can tell you they want us in their clothes,” she adds.

Other influencers like Drew Afualo and Fannita Leggett were asked comment on Skepi’s video, because both have previously collaborated with him, leading many to assume they endorsed his opinions. Both posted videos by Tuesday afternoon to make it clear they vehemently disagreed with him.

Afualo, who has 7.9 million followers, is known for her takedowns of harmful comments made by men. In a video she posted Monday night, it was clear she was referring to Skepi’s comments, even though she did not name any particular person.

“The subject of fatphobia is constantly discussed on this app in a way that is unhelpful and unproductive,” Afualo says. “You cannot speak on something you’ve never experienced and past that if you don’t think you’re fatphobic, but you’re upholding fatphobic rhetoric; guess what, you’re fatphobic.”

@drewafualo

thanks for listening, love u

♬ original sound – Drew Afualo

Stop “blaming women of color for things that white people do on their own,” Afualo says at the end of the video. “Believe it or not, when we spend time with people in real life, they don’t always show us sh-t like this.”

On Tuesday, Leggett told her followers she does not support Skepi’s comments in a reaction video she posted. “If I constantly advocate for plus-sized people on every single platform… and I’ve continuously talked about my experience being fat, what makes you think my mind has changed and I would agree with some bullsh-t like that?” she says. Leggett echoed Afualo’s statement about women of color having to answer for problematic comments made by white people. “Stop making POC women pay for the crimes of what men say, me and Drew didn’t say sh-t,” she notes. “I’m not surprised that he said that. [Fatphobia] is rooted into society.”

@fannita

Alright now leave me out of it!!!

♬ original sound – Fannita

Samyra, a TikTok creator whose videos focus on plus-size fashion, stitched Skepi’s video and said, “If a brand not making my size doesn’t give me grounds to talk sh-t or degrade them, then why am I still in their mission statement?” Samyra highlights multiple popular clothing brands like Forever 21, Aerie, H&M, and Revolve as she investigates why these brands “say they make clothes for everybody, even though they stop at a size 20?”

@samyra

If we can be in the mission statement, we can also be in the size chart.

♬ original sound – Samyra

She ends her video by saying she will continue advocating for more inclusive sizing. “If you’re going to include me in the mission statement, you will also include me in the size chart,” Samyra says.