The Circle’s Sean Taylor Responds to Critics Who Say She Shouldn’t Have Catfished

She says she posed as a straight-size woman because she has experienced harassment online simply for existing as a plus-size woman

(Photo: Netflix; Illustration: Maegan Fidelino)
(Photo: Netflix; Illustration: Maegan Fidelino)

You’d think the number one rule of Netflix’s highly addictive reality-TV show The Circle would be to never reveal that you’re a catfish, but contestant Sean Taylor did the exact opposite, shocking everyone when she revealed to her cast members that the Sean they knew wasn’t the straight-size girl in her photos but, rather, a plus-size woman who’s a self-proclaimed champion for body positivity.

The Circle, which can best be described as Big Brother meets Catfish, sees complete strangers rating each other based on their profiles and interactions on a fake social network in order to be the highest-rated contestant and winner of the $100,000 prize—all while remaining in isolation in separate apartment units seemingly in the same building. Thanks to this premise, it’s very easy for contestants to pose as other people—and a few of them did for the duration of the game.

But while on The Circle (which, note, has now ended), Taylor, who was posing as her real-life friend Colleen, felt overwhelmed by the pressure of lying about her identity and decided to share her secret with her fellow contestants (who, by the way, all still keep in touch in a group chat). The 25-year-old, who works in plus-size fashion, was met with mostly positive and supportive responses from her cast mates but received a ton of backlash and hate online when the episode aired.

“The scariest moment of this whole process was the day [the episode] came out; the first messages I got on my Instagram were a few people commenting on photos of mine with puking emojis or a pig emoji,” Taylor tells FLARE. “And then soon after [people were commenting] ‘Why would you catfish?’ The irony of reading those two DMs at the same time is just pretty striking.”

As Taylor said on the show, she didn’t use someone else’s photos because she’s not confident in herself or in her body—she posed as a straight-size woman because she has experienced the hate and harassment plus-size individuals receive online simply for existing.

“I’ve seen the worst of the worst online,” she says. “So if some people were to say ‘Oh, you could have just gone in as yourself and people would have liked you more,’ I would think, ‘Well, that’s just not my life experience.’ It’s taken a lot of courage to be where I am, and I didn’t want to put my chances in the hands of strangers. But, being myself…that’s my bread and butter, and I know there’s a lot of power in doing that, so when I saw an opening to do it, I ran for it.”

When it came time for the big reveal on the show during episode nine, Taylor says it brought her back to the time she “came out as fat” to her family and friends—that is, when she had to explain to her family and friends that she would not be living up to their expectations of working toward weight loss.

“A lot of people have to have a conversation with family members or friends, saying ‘Hey, this is actually who I am, and I’m not planning on changing that,'” Taylor explains. “And being in that situation on The Circle—it’s funny how it really brought me back to that moment. I felt very raw and extremely vulnerable.”

And while Taylor feels confident in herself now, she says she didn’t always feel happy in her body.

“Growing up, anyone acknowledging my body at all felt humiliating; the word ‘fat’ felt like a weapon that anyone could use against me at any moment,” she recalls, adding that she tried “countless” diets, starting from the age of 10 and into her college years. But after the body positivity movement began growing online, Taylor’s confidence began to grow along with it.

“That world just completely changed the course of my life,” she says. Part of her confidence came from reclaiming the infamous “F-word” that had been used against her in the past.

“I know it’s a word that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but…all of these other words, like ‘curvy’ and ‘plus-size’ and ‘voluptuous’—[they are] just putting a hat on a hat on a hat to ignore the root of what caused me so much fear and so much shame. Really getting to the root of that [helped me] take back that power,” she says, adding that the more she’s used the word the more comfortable she’s felt with it and with herself.

“A lot of people online that I look up to have said ‘fat’ is just a descriptor—it’s neutral, it doesn’t have to be positive or negative, and I think there’s a lot of freedom in that, and that’s something I really identified with.”

Despite the criticism of Taylor’s decision to catfish, the social-media manager says she has no regrets.

“The truth is when there’s finally a fat girl on TV and it’s not what I want it to be, I’m always the first one who’s like, ‘Wait, but I wish it was different!’ But the reality is, because there’s not enough of us on TV, it’s never perfect, and I had to accept that in some ways,” she explains. “The decision [to catfish] really came down to the fact that I thought I could make a bigger impact by really focusing on the side of body positivity that people don’t want to talk about. Of course, body positivity is about loving yourself, but I think it’s also about challenging systems and situations that make it next to impossible for people to love themselves.”

And the self-proclaimed “fat babe from The Circle” says she has received a lot of loving and supportive messages from individuals who were moved by seeing someone like them on-screen, such as a DM from a man who said he didn’t want to get into the pool with his kids because he was embarrassed for them to see his body.

“It reminds me of how it can be really difficult to be yourself sometimes,” says Taylor. “I’m grateful I have the opportunity to have someone see this and say ‘I’m not alone.'”