[EXCLUSIVE] These 3 Plus Size Malaysian Girls Are Redefining Body Image Ideals

Text and interview by Jessica Nair Photography courtesy of Nazirah/Ratnadevi/Rathika

If there’s anything good about the direction the world is headed towards — it’s how women are relentlessly challenging the norms of what the media tells us is acceptable or beautiful. Case in point: ASOS has stopped photoshopping its models, top beauty brands like Fenty Beauty are using models across the colour spectrum who five years ago wouldn’t be a face of a prominent brand and well-known plus-size models like Paloma Elsesser and Ashley Graham have become faces of big cosmetics brands.

However, just as how Rome wasn’t built it a day — neither was these ladies’ confidence! It’s tough enough to put yourself out there,  and to challenge all the beauty norms that’s been ingrained into us for generations? That’s no easy feat.

Here, a few Malaysian women share their true thoughts and experiences that comes with being a plus-size female.

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Nazirah Ashari

Nazirah is working that fall-vibes outfit!

Strategic Planner

What truly got us intrigued about Nazirah is how she uses the word fat — that’s right, fat. We’ve been conditioned so much to associate the word with a negative feeling when in fact, it’s just a word. She strongly believes that more inclusion needs to be practised and rightly so. “Being a fat Muslim girl who practises modest fashion, people like me aren’t even properly represented. Where are the fat hijabis on these mass platforms?” says Nazirah.

Dealing with Body Shamers

“This has happened many, many times — both online and offline. One incident that’s still ingrained in my mind happened many years ago. A stranger shared a few of my Instagram photos on Twitter accompanied with nasty, degrading comments that compared my size to that of pigs. This is one of my earliest memories of online bullying that occurs until today and it hurt me in ways that would have destroyed my younger self.

But the incident made me change my views. I was so affected by what people think of me knowing full well I have no control over these things. So, I worked on re-framing my mindset to care more about what I think instead of others. It was the process I had to go through in order to gain control of my mind and it hasn’t been easy.”

The Key to Confidence

“Honestly, people have this idea that I’m a very confident person — which isn’t entirely inaccurate but there is a layer of self-doubt that I’m still struggling with. Gaining self-confidence has been a life-long mission and I am proud to say that I’ve found my inner strength though self and body acceptance.

But remember that a conversation about self-confidence is bigger than just your body or personality — your thoughts and your heart needs to be equally positive too.”

There Is No One-Size Fit All

“While seeing Ashley Graham’s many successes as a supermodel is refreshing, she shouldn’t be the only one. She isn’t. Tess Holiday was one of the first plus-size models that made it, and then there is Paloma Elsesser adding on to that diversity conversation — but it’s still not enough. We need to talk about plus-size representation at home too. What about the plus-size men and women in Malaysia? Are they being represented at all? Are we seeing enough of the likes of Sherry Alhadad and Adibah Noor on mass platforms enough? No.

At the end of the day, here’s what we need to get: Every man and woman has a figure. Whether it’s an hourglass shape or not, it’s all a shape and there’s nothing wrong with any of it. We need to quite pigeonholing those who have a certain shape and stop glorifying another. Celebrate every single body and shape.”

Something I’m Struggling With…

“My neck! I have neck fat which I find unattractive. The good thing is that being a hijabi, I have the choice to cover up my neck. However, I definitely am less conscious about it than I was two years ago. It’s all a work in progress!”

CONFIDENCE TIP: Slowly learn to come to terms with the fact that you are a big guy or girl. Try to be okay with the word fat. There’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t call yourself plus-size — it’s a category term. Stop calling yourself curvy is you’re not. Accept yourself for what you’re not. Remember that this is a journey and you’re bound to struggle – but also know that things will get better if you work towards it.

Follow Nazirah on Instagram for fashion tips, her DIY cooking sessions and oh, did we mention she sings too? @nazirahashari

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