Survival of the Thickest: Is the Series Inspired by an Actual Fashion Stylist?

Netflix’s comedy-drama series, ‘Survival of the Thickest,’ follows Mavis, a fashion stylist who rebuilds her life after breaking up with her boyfriend of five years. Figuring out what her life means without the relationship with her ex leads her on a path of self-discovery and reinvention as she becomes bolder and more determined to become successful.

Mavis faces several struggles along the way, but with the support of her best friends and her desire to build a good life for herself, she carves out a place where she belongs. Created by Michelle Buteau and Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, the romantic comedy show presents a relatable character in Mavis. If you are wondering whether the makers were inspired by a real-life person or if they based ‘Survival of the Thickest’ on actual events, then here’s what you should know.

Survival of the Thickest is Adapted From a Book

‘Survival of the Thickest’ is partially based on a true story. It has been adapted from the book of the same name by Michelle Buteau. In it, the stand-up comedian recounts tales of her life in essays that focus on different parts of her life. Reportedly, it took her six years to write the book, which was initially titled, ‘Maintaining Chunky: A Thick Girl’s Guide to Not Getting Fat…Or Skinny.’

Image Credits: Vanessa Clifton/Netflix

The essays cover incidents from Buteau’s childhood in New Jersey, friendships, and relationships over the years. It also charts the beginning of her career as a stand-up comedian, which she pursued after working as a newsroom editor. Moreover, the book deals with Buteau’s intimate issues, like marriage and motherhood. Not just that, the conversation around body positivity is also one of the essential things the stand-up comedian talks about in her book.

While the book is non-fiction, adapting it into a Netflix series allowed Buteau to take it into the fiction territory. She kept the same issues discussed in the book, but it is presented to the audience through the fictional story of a fashion stylist. In an interview with Paste Magazine, Buteau said that Mavis, named after her grandmother, is an extension of herself. Instead of following the book and taking a biographical approach to the show, she wanted “to create a world outside of it.”

Image Credit: Vanessa Clifton/Netflix

Discussing the title and its importance, Buteau said, “I have a full heart but tight jeans. Sometimes I call myself a big titty, freckle face unicorn.” She wanted the title to reflect that, which works in tandem with the story’s theme. “Shit is always going to knock you down, but you got to get up. There’s a lesson, even if you don’t know it. Sometimes it isn’t you that has to catch up to the world; it’s the world that has to catch up to you,” the comedian added.

The most important thing that Buteau wanted to tell through Mavis and her story was to have the character own her individuality and accept herself for who she was. “[It’s] about finding your own voice and sticking up for yourself, because it’s very easy, especially as women, to get lost in the sauce and do everything for everyone else, and optics, and to make your parents proud and happy. But to go and take a chance on yourself with a new career, and a person that doesn’t look like the person that you thought you’d end up with, to love yourself, those are the qualities that I want to infuse in my show,” the writer-actress shared with Variety.

While romance forms an integral part of the show, it also dives into more serious issues that Mavis has to deal with, especially things like marriage and having children. “Figuring out health insurance in your 20s is a thing, and living in a country where health insurance is a luxury is also something we don’t explore enough. It was really fun picking these wild moments that I wrote about and building a whole different world around it,” Buteau added.

Image Credit: Vanessa Clifton/Netflix

Calling it a love letter to New York and all its diversity, the actress elaborated that she missed seeing people like herself in the shows like ‘Friends,’ set in New York. She said, “Mavis will definitely be exploring what it’s like to be body positive and sex-positive and own your sexuality without apologizing for it. Figuring out that you can be religious but also like other things as well. Just defining your own happiness, which a lot of us don’t do.”

In Mavis’ story, Buteau wants people to learn to feel “no shame in your game.” “No shame in your game. There’s this patriarchal thing that happens where you are always meant to feel sorry for ownership of your body or something you like. That’s dangerous. I want to take the shame out of it. It has to be a safe space to learn and grow; otherwise, we’ll just be living in hashtags and trying not to offend someone,” she concluded. Considering all this, we can say that while ‘Survival of the Thickest’ is primarily a fictional show, it has roots in Buteau’s life and experiences, which ground it in reality.

Read More: Is Michelle Buteau Married? Does She Have Children?