Feature photo courtesy of @nabela
From adolescent diet camps to “kiss my fat ass”
It wasn’t until 2016 that I started to see different industries become more diverse, especially fashion. When ‘curves’ became the new trend, I was so happy. Up until high school, I didn’t think of the assets my grandma had given me (and no, I’m not talking about her jade bracelet) as being ‘ideal.’ Thanks to figures like Ashley Graham, Tyra Banks (remember her “kiss my fat ass” situation? Life-changing!), Kim Kardashian and Rebel Wilson, I started to see that beauty existed far beyond the old normal, which was a size zero.
I believe a huge factor playing a huge part in this is social media. With social media being so popular and accessible, we are able to see more YouTube stars and Insta-celebs that were generally absent from the mainstream media. Everyone has social media, even those of us normally excluded from traditional, mainstream media. Whether you’re part of the majority/minority community, you’re free to show your true identity and most honest self on your Insta feed, or on your Twitter page.
Growing up as a curvy, brown, Asian teenager, I would’ve been really comforted by seeing role models who looked similar to me. In a continent where most countries prefer the “slim aesthetic,” the beauty standards are still unrealistic and extremely narrow for those of us who sit on the opposite end of the Asian spectrum. When you’re 16 and you are told you aren’t wanted based on your looks, you view the world as a cruel, exclusive club from the vantage point of an outsider. Now that beauty standards are much more inclusive and diverse, I feel like I can belong, and I can only hope teenagers dealing with the same issues don’t feel as excluded as most of us did.
Although it’s almost 2020, outsiders are still clueless as to what being “Asian” truly means, due to factors like stereotyping and underrepresentation. Asia is not limited to just two nationalities or ethnic groups. We are a crowd of 48 different countries, covering 17 million square miles. Subverting a world that has specific expectations for what “Asian” looks like, here is a list of just some of countless badass, confident and powerful plus-size female Asian model and influencers who constantly push the boundaries imposed upon us. Watch out, because these noteworthy women are redefining what being an Asian woman means, through their professions, personalities and pluckiness.
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how I’m feeling with the launch of my new home & lifestyle page, @nabelanoorhome 🥰 I’m so excited to finally share more of my home and how I make it cozy and inviting. Home design and homemaking has always been a huge passion of mine and while I’m no professional, I hope seeing me discovering my home aesthetic will inspire you to harness yours! If you love all things home decor & homemaking, follow my newest venture @nabelanoorhome! ✨ I’ll be posting home decor hauls, glimpses of my home, transformations, my adventures in COOKING and more! 🏡💕☕️🍳💐
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#ad 🗣 My first episode in my “Bangladesh Homecoming” series is LIVE! 🇧🇩✨ In it, I take you along my first 72 hours in the motherland AND show you how I achieved this flawless face beat that can STAND THE HEAT using @Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation & Concealer. My makeup lasted all day and stayed fresh + radiant despite the blazing hot temps ☀️💦 Click the link in my bio to watch & visit a Clinique at Sephora or Ulta to get matched with a free 10-day sample! #clinique #beyondperfecting
Nabela Noor, or more commonly known as Nabela, is a Bangladeshi-American beauty guru and YouTube star. She started uploading DIY makeup videos on YouTube in 2014. Over the course of five years, she has garnered 740,000 subscribers and 1.3 million followers on Instagram.
Noor constantly talks about the bullying she experienced in her childhood, and how she eventually overcame her insecurity and self-doubt. “Its tough enough being plus size, but when you’re a woman of color and plus size on top of that, there’s so many things all of us deal with being marginalized. So it’s been important to me to share my experiences.” She is open about her struggles and issues in hopes that other women can feel that they are not alone and they can, in turn, flip the script.
Nabela proudly represents brown and Muslim girls anywhere in the world. She reminds her followers that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to, and nothing can stop anyone from living their best lives.
"I get so many messages on a daily basis completely degrading me. And I thought, ‘well maybe this is just the price I have to pay, and I’ll just deal with it in silence.’ But I finally realized, I am not going to do this anymore. I am going to advocate for plus size women as a plus size women and the dangers and aggressions you have to deal with as a plus size women."
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I never saw models in magazines that looked like me So I became one! BITCH 😜😍 I will show you the beauty of a Bearded Woman! I am Beauty! I keep my Beard because I adore her. Men are never questioned about why they choose to keep or remove hair- so why am I continuously questioned everyday! I am sick of it! #mybodymyrules As soon as a woman empowers herself to be true to her own damn self, weak minded people are threatened. Don’t forget your own power- it’s within you 💓 The type of love and kindness that you are searching for from others, lays deep inside you 💙 I am here to stay and I am here to have conversations that are uncomfortable. I will challenge your perceptions, and I will make you question stereotypes you live by. I am here to shake the world, I am fierce and courageous 💜 Thank you to Glamour magazine for my feature! I love shooting, I adore modelling and I like to think I take some pretty fantastic images! @glamouruk @deborah_joseph @annadaki @francescabrazzo @michelle_duguid @rebeccajadewilson_nails
English-born Indian Harnaam Kaur is a model, body image activist, and world record holder. Kaur started to grow a lot of body hair at the age of 11, for which she was relentlessly bullied by her classmates. She went to the doctor and, after receiving an ultrasound, found out her excessive body and facial hair was a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome.
By the age of 12, Kaur had tried every method of hair removal, only to find her skin “ripped and bleeding, with burns and scabs caused by the hot wax.” The failure to remove her body and facial hair eventually led Kaur to self-harm and contemplate suicide. However, at one point, she decided to “take that energy and turn it into something positive. We all have inner strength and I had to draw on mine to move forward and focus on living for myself.” Kaur decided to start to accept and love her body, and has grown out her beard ever since she was 16.
Now, the powerful 28-year-old travels the world, sharing her experience to thousands of young girls and boys. Because of her firsthand experience as a victim of bullying, Kaur is a powerful advocate for the kindness and empathy that people of all ages need to show each other.
Read Harnaam Kaur’s essay for Stylist Magazine UK here.
Japanese-American Yumi has made a name for herself as a singer-songwriter, YouTube influencer, and model. You may have heard her song “Camouflage,” from Forever 21’s International Women’s Day campaign ‘Forever Female.’ Fo that project, she says: “I wanted to do a song that’s not about guys or love, and I just wanted something to reflect my journey of self-love about my race and my body.”
Having grown up in a famous family (her uncle is none other than Steve Aoki), Yumi has previously admitted to the pressures of conforming to an impossible beauty standard, and how music has helped her feel liberated.
Her modeling career started when she was just 2 years old. At the age of 12 she returned to the industry but was considered ‘too big.’ Looking back, she also stated that when she was younger, the plus industry wasn’t as well-developed and full of opportunities like it is starting to become now. She admits that the road to self-love is long and bumpy. “Starting in middle school, I loathed the way I looked, and even at my skinniest I never felt like it wasn’t enough...It took a lot of self work, but when I finally let go of my impossible standards, I finally felt free, and I radiated happiness...I feel grateful for the normal I have created for myself now.”
Sarah Ayu Hunter
Last but not least, we have the Indonesian makeup and beauty queen, Sarah Ayu Hunter. Born to an Indonesian mother and an Australian father, Sarah Ayu received good genes from both parties. Her beautiful face and warm, almost big-sister-like personality have gained her 297,000 subscribers. You could n say she’s one of the most well-known and popular Indonesian beauty vloggers.
Not only does Hunter teach her followers and subscribers flawless glowing makeup looks, she also preaches self-love and acceptance. In a video shared via her Instagram account, Hunter talks about the pressures of being confident and conforming to society’s beauty standards.
“I always get asked, ‘How are you always so confident?’ Truth is, I still have insecurities just like the next person. I was always underestimated because I don’t fit in to everyone’s beauty standards. It’s hard to not listen to what others have to say. But I reminded myself of a quote that goes, ‘Everyone is beautiful in their own way.’ You have to slowly build confidence and self-love.”