Where are all the Asian women in the plus size community?
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Whilst I loved my trip to Hong Kong, one thing I’m glad to escape from is the constant body shame. I think it’s worse in my case because even though I can’t speak Cantonese, I can understand most of it which means I’m privy to conversations that are meant to be basically be behind my back. As I’ve been travelling a lot lately, my chronic pain has flared up quite a bit so on my last day there, I decided to get a massage. The first 10 minutes of the appointment, I got to enjoy multiple conversations about my body between staff as the clothes they provided me didn’t fit, and let’s just say they weren’t polite. I got so fed up that I just said I’d have the massage in the dress I came in. I know you’d think I’d say something but I didn’t because to be honest, I think it’s a waste of energy if it’s not going to create any change. And in Hong Kong, my hope is small. Also I just wanted to get on with the massage and I’m so numb to it. Comments about my body don’t get to me but that’s not the point because there was a time in my life when it would’ve. And there are so many others who are having to face this on a daily basis and with the majority of people it does affect them! This stereotype that all Asian women are tiny is simply that, a stereotype and one that enhances the shame that plus Asian women face for not being dainty. This is why it’s important for inclusion and representation for ALL kinds of plus size bodies. #representationmatters • Dress: @riverisland (gifted – @skinnerashleigh Can you become my personal stylist? Everything you pick out for me is perfection)
At a time when brands and the media use the terms “body positivity“, “all bodies” and “every body is beautiful“, Elman noticed that Asian women were being left out of the equation and she decided to speak on it.
She has a point. Asian women seem to be absent and almost forgotten within the plus size community, just as women over a size 24, which we have mentioned many times.
And let’s not forget the stereotypes that surround Asian women. They’re thought to be small and thin. Elman wrote:
Plus-sized Asian women very rarely feature in campaigns, especially in mainstream brands, let alone on their website or in sponsored posts. Since starting my advocacy work within the body positive community four years ago, and being invited to plus-size events, I have always been the only Asian in the room. Despite attending more than 100 events within that time, I don’t have a single memory of being in a room with another plus-size Asian woman. Not once. I would hazard a guess that most white plus-sized influencers wouldn’t be able to even name an Asian contemporary. (Grazia Daily, 3/24/19)
Elman, who is half Chinese and half British, has acknowledged her own white privilege but still felt that she had to stand up and use her voice to bring awareness to the fact that plus size Asian women do exist and they are just as worthy of being seen as other plus size women.
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If you only ever take one message away from me and my page, let it be this: Life has already started so stop wasting it. I don’t care if it’s body confidence issues or a shitty ex that is getting in the way of you living your full life, but you only have one life and if you are still alive, that is enough and you are enough. I know it’s a cliche but you shouldn’t have to go through what I went through in order to realise how short life is. I didn’t just get a second chance at life, I got a fifth chance at life so I’m going to make sure my time in this world counts. Are you? #ScarredNotScared • Bikini: @bonmarche (Gifted)
After writing about this and using her social media platform @scarrednotscared with over 150,000 followers to have her voice heard on this topic, she took it a step further.
Why not create a campaign of her own to showcase ALL plus size Asian women?
Elman did just that.
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PLUS SIZE ASIANS EXIST As you all know I’ve been talking about the absence of Asians in adverts, campaigns and fashion in general so @lindablacker and I decided to team up on a little passion project. Look at how incredible these women look! Here’s to showing them what they are missing 💪🏽 Despite the absence in the media, asian is actually the largest ethnic minority in the U.K. Asians deserve to be represented. Asians deserve to be seen. And all Asians aren’t the stereotype of being small and petite. Being Asian is not one look. Being Asian is not one culture. Whilst even this shoot isn’t perfect representation, it shows just a small sample of the diversity within Asia. #AsianRepresentation • Thank you to all the wonderful women taking part and being my stunning models @nesslala @bishamberdas @saalene @kat_v_henry @minakumari.uk @simksandhu95 • This was such a personal project and I couldn’t have done it without @lindablacker. She came up with the idea when I was talking about asian representation earlier in the year and I wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it. She has always placed diversity at the forefront of her shoots and her talent is remarkable. This entire concept was her doing and I’m so grateful for everything you did to make this a reality!• Thank you also to @umberghauri and @hannah.shaikhup for the incredible makeup! It felt so complete to have the makeup artists also be Asian. We need just as much diversity behind the scenes on shoots as well!
Elman told Glamour UK:
I work within body positivity and even when a campaign is praised as being body positive, often they are still missing an entire continent and we have to understand that inclusivity has to be intersectional and a campaign is not diverse if an entire continent is missing.
There is a stereotype that Asian women are petite and small and this absence of Asian women, especially in the plus size community, has meant I am often the only Asian woman at event but we have to realise that this is a simply a stereotype and it only exists due to the under-representation of Asian women of all sizes. Asian is the largest ethnic minority in the UK and everyone deserves to feel seen and represented.
Blacker said via Instagram:
This photograph is important, here’s why:
Plus size Asians exist and deserve representation, but are so often excluded from main stream media.
I teamed up with Michelle of @scarrednotscared who has been talking about the absence of Asians in adverts, campaigns and fashion in general. Together, we created this photoshoot to support this important push for inclusivity for plus size Asians and ask for change in the industry! But we need YOUR support. Like, comment, tag your friends, let’s get everybody talking!
Look how INCREDIBLE these women look, why shouldn’t they be represented too?
They deserve to be seen.
Whilst even this shoot isn’t perfect representation, it shows just a small sample of diversity within Asia.
The models included in the photoshoot alongside Elman are:
- Bishamber Das, Britain’s first Asian plus size model
- Kat Henry, blogger and plus size model
- Mina Kumari, personal stylist
- Saalene, food blogger
- Sim, Literature Coordinator for the UK’s Asian Woman Festival
- Vanessa S., body positive influencer
This is what we need to see. More representation.
This also begs the question… who decided which bodies were “good enough” to be seen in the media? There are so many women and young girls out there who need to see a reflection of themselves in the media and in campaigns. That’s what body positivity is all about.
We hope Elman has started something amazing here, which will have a domino effect leading to more representation for Asians, women over a size 24, visibly plus women with non-traditional body shapes and all other marginalized people who yearn to be seen.
All bodies means just that… ALL.
What do you think of this photoshoot and its representation of plus size Asian women?
Images: Linda Blacker