Interview: JENNY

Introduce yourself and let us know your race, ethnicity, background, where you were raised..etc.

My name is Jennifer. I’m currently a student, trying to decide between a degree in writing (journalism or creative writing) and sociology. Ideally, I would love to write novels for movies/television one day. I am Asian, - Filipino-American - and I live in San Diego, CA. I care deeply about feminism, pop culture, and posting pictures of food and things I make on Instagram. :)

How does your cultural background affect your views on beauty overall?

For a while my being an Asian woman was the source of a lot my pain and self-esteem issues growing up. I’m an only child, and I lost my dad when I was really young - he died when I was 8.

I was really thin right before that, and then I like to say that it sort of feels like my body stretched to bare the weight of that trauma. It led to a lot of bullying, from both my extended family and at school, and for a while I think I internalized a lot of what was going on around me.

I was louder, more defiant than my cousins or the other Asian women in my family, and I didn’t look like the girls I went to school with. I started to drown myself in baggy clothing and long sleeves and things like that, even when temperatures went up in the summer and I grew dizzy. I realize now that I was hurting myself that way because I didn’t fit into these beauty standards of what it meant to be Asian and beautiful - I was taller than my cousins, I was fat, I wore glasses, and I didn’t want to be like them. And it’s taken me a long time to finally realize that that’s okay.

How does your cultural background affect your views on body positivity?

Like I touched on, finding out and getting into body positivity goes against a lot of the stereotypes of being an Asian women and the beauty standards of what it means to be an Asian woman - thin and tiny, quiet, etc. I’m so grateful for having found out about body positivity, but it does remain a struggle to keep a float and feel confident sometimes when you are surrounded by naysayers and stigma and people saying the opposite. Sometimes it’s still hard to block out all that noise.

How does it feel being a woman of color in the online body-positive community?

It has been a great revelation. I can truthfully say I do not know what or who I would be now had I not found a body positive community online.

I once heard someone say that if you are looking for inspiration, surround yourself with people who look like you. So I now follow many plus size fashion bloggers on all of my social media, just so I’m surrounded by people who look like me or are shaped like me. It’s only when you step back from the perceptions of beauty that are being sold to you in the media and stuff, that you realize how warped your sense of self and your own self-esteem can become, so finding body positivity online has helped me combat that.

That being said, I realize there are still not many other Asian fat-shion or body positive bloggers out there, but I have seen more change especially in terms of making strides to include more women of color in the movement, especially within the last year or two and I think that’s great. It’s part of the reason I gave myself a goal in 2015 to start posting outfit of the day photos on my Instagram and Tumblr.

I want to hopefully add to the visibility and representation through my little corner of the internet, and hopefully maybe even inspire someone, in the same way that I was inspired to embrace my body and be more colorful and vibrant.

What helped you start loving yourself, completely?

A great deal of it has to do with finding the body positive movement online. I was just telling a friend the other day how I’ve always found it disappointing to see plus size clothing being modeled by people who don’t necessarily have plus sized bodies or aren’t plus size shaped.

There’s a difference between being a bigger model and being big, period. So since I wasn’t finding representation in advertisements, even in ones for clothing that was supposed to be geared towards someone like me, I’m so happy to have found a sort of home, and consolation online.

Women of all different races and shapes cheering each other on. It really helped me break the stigmas that I’d gotten used to. You can’t wear that color, don’t wear stripes or things like that. It’s given me hope and inspiration and that’s priceless, the fact that I can just go online and find solace and advice. I’m just sad that it’s taken me well into my 20s to get to this level. I so wish I could have had found this sort of community when I was growing up.

What’s one thing you want to see change about the way women of color (and their bodies)  are represented in the media, on social media, amongst your friends and family?

There is this stigma that Asian women are supposed to be quiet, tiny, and skinny. Much of the esteem issues I’ve battled when it comes to how I look was because I didn’t fit into that stereotype. I was bullied relentlessly by people I went to school with, and even my own family, for not fitting that stereotype of the quiet, skinny Asian girl.

I realize now that we’re not all the same. And we don’t have to be. We’re tall and short, we have bellies, and rolls. I would love to see more fat, Asian women represented in the media and advertising, and I’d definitely love to see more fabulous and fierce Asian women posting their outfits and inspirations online so that we can dismantle these sort of stereotypes from the inside.

And that goes for all women of color too. Representation matters so, so much.