Airplane flights are horrible enough without the passenger next to you sending nasty messages about your body.
That was Natalie Hage’s awful experience on Thursday as she sat through a flight to Los Angeles. The plus-size model was on her way to a photo shoot and posted the entire ordeal to her social media pages. Hage put photos on Instagram of the man’s rude messages to a stranger and posted a video on Facebook of her confrontation with him.
Hage explained she is a “flight anxious” person who pays extra for the seats with leg room. When she sat down, the passenger next to her began to loudly sigh and huff while squirming in his seat. Once the man began to hide his phone from her view, Hage suspected he was messaging someone about her.
And he was.
“If you can’t read the texts, it says ‘hopefully she didn’t have any mexican food’ and his response is ‘I think she ate a Mexican,‘” Hage wrote on her Instagram post. “Then he proceeds to say he’s leaving a ‘neck mark on the window’ because he’s so smashed against the wall.”
Hage eventually confronted the man, identified by the name Eric, in a video posted to Facebook that now has more than a million views. He at first denies sending the messages. But once Hage begins quoting the messages, his explanation is that he was drinking and he offers an apology.
She isn’t about to let that be the end of it, though.
“You made me feel so uncomfortable to exist in this seat,” Hage says in the video. “I didn’t want anything from you.”
Eric interrupts the model by questioning whether she is fit to sit in the emergency exit row and assist other passengers. Hage responds calmly, asking whether the passenger is a medical professional with the knowledge to pass judgment on her physical condition.
When he tells her it is none of her business, the irony is scorching.
Hage uses her social media following to encourage body positivity and has modeled for the Torrid fashion company in the past. She is also an administrator for the @EffYourBeautyStandards Instagram page, an account dedicated to pushing back against body shaming.
Her experience highlights some of the cruelty people who do not fit societal standards can face every day.
“This is a fat person’s daily reality and not just on a plane,” Hage wrote on Instagram. “This is on a bus, standing in line at the grocery store, at a concert, on the internet. You can be completely in your own space, not bothering anyone, and people will still fuck with you and try to hurt you.”