We caught up with five fabulous women who are plus sized but do not let it define their confidence. Instead, they are proponents of body confidence and are working towards empowering fellow women in their own ways. Fiona Tan (FT) made Singapore proud when she was crowned Miss Top of the World Plus Size 2016 and is currently a freelance make up artist. We also caught up with Maya Korrs (MK) who represented Singapore in the reality TV series The Biggest Loser Asia Season 2 and while she has had rapid weight loss, she also had a rebound and is now working towards being Singapore’s first plus sized fitness trainer, where she brings a tailored programme for plus sized women to keep fit.
From the left in a clockwise direction: Fiona Tan, Maya Korrs, Catherine Lim, June Chen and Priscilla Boh.
June Chen (JC) has started her own boutique called Juneoesque, which sells plus sized clothing, and she often models for her own line. Priscilla Boh (PB) is a make up artist under her company Pristique Make Up, a model and she is also representing Singapore in Miss Top of the World International 2017.
Q: You’re all amazing and accomplished! How does it feel to have gotten this far and be the influence that you are?
FT: I first stepped into the limelight hoping that my personal stories and tribulations as a Plus Sized Asian female can empower other ladies to be more confident! I feel honoured and grateful to all those that have supported and voted for me. It has made my reason for going forward on this journey even more meaningful.
CL: I feel accomplished and proud of myself!
JC: There is a sense of feeling at ease with myself. I will say in general, plus sized folks may have to go a longer journey to achieve a feeling of being at ease with ourselves.
Of course, it definitely feels good when people (both plus sized or regular sized folks) offer compliments on my fashion sense. There is also a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to encourage fellow plus sized folks to dress up and guide them on how they can match certain outfits for a different look, some of which they never realised they could try and would actually like. Some who are plus sized tend to be a little more conservative on how they dress until they try and realise that they can carry off certain looks too.
MK: Initially, it was all very surreal to me. I’m just an ordinary girl living her life like any other woman. But then as more people reach out to you and see you as an inspirational figure, you take a second look at yourself and realise, “Hey…maybe there is something I’m doing that is helping these women and young girls out!?” I would never have imagined that I would one day be able to reach out to so many women and young girls. It has become part of my life to motivate and affirm young girls about their strengths, capabilities and desire to achieve their dreams.
PB: I was determined to inspire women to love themselves through fashion and make up from the moment I finished my university studies in Australia. This journey I have been on for the past 7 years with the people that I have inspired and the milestones I have met are nothing short of amazing. I have been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to advocate through my life as a Plus Sized Model.
Fiona who won the crown of Miss Top of the World Plus Size International 2016.
Q: Do you have tips on how people can accept themselves and their body image better?
FT: Discover your strengths – not just physically but also your personality. You might want to amplify the strengths of a certain area and that will affect how you carry yourself and that confidence would improve your body image.
JC: I think it all starts with us putting effort in maintaining our body image. This goes beyond what you wear or your hairdo, probably even way down to personal hygiene.
Societal norms are pretty standard and in general, most people tend to want to conform to it. Once there is any form of deviation, one may feel out of place. So its either you change your mind or you change the matter. Either
you conform and try to lose the weight or end up being very unhappy if you don’t manage to do so or, you change the way the think and feel better about yourself despite not being able to shed off those weight.
Having said that, I’m not advocating being plus sized or being a ‘heavy weighter’. There is a difference advocating being comfortable in your own size versus encouraging being a plus.
CL: Accept the fact that all of us look different and we are unique individuals. Embrace our flaws, flaunt our beauty and don’t dwell in self-pity.
MK: As women, we are all gonna have some of those bad days where nothing fits or we feel bloated etc. You can’t brainwash yourself into thinking that you look good when you don’t feel good. After battling with my weight and emotions my entire life, I recently came to the conclusion that:
- Acknowledge the bad days and the things that tick you off.
- Embrace the feelings that come your way. Feel the anger, the pain, the tears and joys that come with it.
- Let go and move on. Tomorrow is a brand new day. Pick yourself up and become stronger. You only fail when you give up on yourself. You must have that inner burning desire that propels you to do what you do. Know that BIG thing you’re fighting for, and do it!
When things get rough, look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself, “I am beautiful. I love myself. I am…(insert your name here)!!” That will pump you up!
Keep fit. Hit the gym. Do something that makes you happy. When you find that one (or two or three) thing that lights up your life, keep doing it. I strongly urge all women and young girls to lead an active life. It has helped me gain so much confidence and I bring that energy to the table everywhere I go.
PB: You must learn to block out the expectations of others and learn to find beauty within yourself and appreciate the simple things you enjoy doing. That is the key to finding yourself within.
Q: There must be a lot of people who might make assumptions about you due to your body. What are some of the things that you’re tired of hearing?
FT: Some of them are:
- She’s encouraging people to put on weight.
- Stop eating so much fried food and you will lose weight.
- You know, if you lose weight, you might just have a boyfriend.
JC: There are many for sure, like how fat people are definitely unhealthy, lazy or perceived to be less able to perform tasks.
I think people fail to registered that there are both healthy and unhealthy people in every size. But I must say, in recent years, I personally hear much lesser of them. Not sure if it’s because I have grown less affected or I have been more focused on my capabilities than my gaps.
Explicitly or not, there are definitely people who practice fat prejudice and fat shaming. There may even be people who simply do not like you for the fact that you are fat, yet are too ashamed themselves to face or say it. The saddest thing is that even professionals such as doctors, are not spared from having such prejudices. I personally experienced this with a doctor who told my mum (also plus sized) that he much prefers operating on a slim patient, citing his own nurse (who was slim) as a better patient. When he said that, he appeared totally righteous about it. I felt really sad and indignant for my mum after the episode and I did some reading online and found that this was not an isolated case. Of course, not all doctors are as such but if there is any cause I can stand up for, this is something I would want to for plus sized people because such fat shaming affects the emotional and psychological well-being of an individual too.
CL: I’ve heard,”You have a pretty face, just a bit fat.” and “You should lose some weight. Men will queue from Singapore to KL (Kuala Lumpur).”
Maya when she was a contestant in The Biggest Loser Asia Season 2 in their promotional video
MK: I’ve been to gyms where the trainers and consultants think that I know nothing about fitness and try to lecture me about diets, keeping fit etc. But when I open my mouth and drop some fitness lingo on them, they can’t answer me. Sometimes, I think I know better than so many of these “skinny-steroid-pumped-up” trainers. But because of my size, people do not take me seriously. Until they see me workout. Then their eyes open, and they take me seriously. I’ve done numerous 10k marathons, fight stronger than skinnier people and even lift heavier than some guys in the gym! I’m just sick and tired of the fitness industry here where you have to be of a certain size to be considered fit/ healthy.
Also, people are quick to jump that I am not working out hard enough. I’ve got PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome), which makes losing weight so much harder. When I found out about my PCOS, that explained so much about how I can be training and eating so much better than my friends but getting dismal results in comparison to them. I’ve come to learn that we each have our own journey, our bodies work differently, and you need to find out what works for you.
PB: I’ve heard, “You must really eat a lot.” and “Why don’t you just stop eating carbs and start this ‘AMAZING’ diet plan?” I also hate it that people keep pushing extra food to me and watch me like a caged animal as I eat.
Q: We have talked about some issues that plus sized models face. What kind of issues have you seen or experienced that you’d like to share with our readers?
FT: Photographing plus sized models aren’t really the same: the angles, the poses are also different from mainstream models. People tend to react with “You’re a model?” with surprise and shock until you say “plus sized”.
JC: Hmm, to be honest, I’m not sure what specific problems plus sized models face. On a personal level, during a photoshoot, I find it challenging to sashay or stand in those high heels! I don’t know how the rest do it but
then, this probably isn’t a size specific challenge, probably just my own? Haha!
Probably another issue would be for people to judge and offer opinions about whether to photoshop the pictures or not. Its a darn if you do, darn if you don’t situation. To me, you can’t please everyone so do what makes you feel comfortable!
CL: Asia is still very conservative when comes to plus size models. A size UK 14 or 16 is more acceptable as compared to UK 18 and onwards. The definition of one’s beauty standards are constantly being questioned but what we’re facing here is more of a body image problem.
Priscilla walking on the runway at the Malaysia Fashion Week 2015.
MK: People have told me,”You’ve such a pretty face! But your body? So wasted!” and “If you lose weight, you can become Miss Universe!”
Even as a plus-sized model, it always boils down to losing weight. Some people think that being a plus-sized model means you’re unhealthy, just fat and lazy, wrapping yourself in yards of cloth, or sometimes, the lack of material on your body. I’ve been told fat people need to cover up and not wear figure-hugging clothes etc. Not to wear horizontal stripes. The standard things every plus sized woman hears. But I work out, I lift weights, I feel good and I love to bare my shoulders and rock my red carpet in bodycon dresses! And so should you! When you feel good, you’re blazing in confidence and you’ll look good even in a potato sack!
PB: People think I am advocating obesity or unhealthy eating, however I never promote either of these. I just want to advocate self love and that you can look amazing at any age or size.
Q: What would you say to people who feel that their size is affecting their careers?
FT: Unless it’s affecting your health, the makeover you need is not with your clothes but with your mindset. You are who you brand yourself to be. We all have a place in this world – if everyone is the same size, that would be too boring wouldn’t it? We were made the way we are for a reason so appreciate your assets and surround yourself with the great support of positive girlfriends.
JC: That it should not. As long as we are doing our best, we know how far we can go. Also, not everyone is fat prejudiced! I have had good bosses who appreciate me for my strengths, offering me equal opportunities rather than focus on how heavy I weigh.
CL: Our intelligence, efforts, diligence and competitiveness are affecting our career. Never our size.
MK: Firstly, you have to ask yourself: why and how does my size affect my career? Am I happy about it? How will things be better if I were of a different size? If you feel stuck, tired, depressed about your size, trust me…hit the gym. Try leading a more active lifestyle. Nourish your body with real food and feed your soul with fresh air from nature. If you’ve never been active, start. You’ll start to notice that bounce in your step, and people will notice a change in your energy. You’ll notice a change in your outlook of life too. If you can’t hit the gym, just go into nature. MacRitchie Reservoir is a wonderful training ground. Or come join my plus size fitness workout sessions (coming soon).
PB: Be aware that we are all different and recognise that. Identify your own strengths in your workplace and amplify. Create a professional and respectful environment for yourself through your strength.
June modelling an outfit from her fashion line Junoesque.
Q: All of you lead such amazing careers in various fields! We’d like a peek into your personal lives – what do you like to do to unwind? Any particular hobby?
FT: I love travelling, I travel almost every 2 months! I also enjoy singing karaoke, hosting a home party with food I’ve prepared in great company. I love reading magazines under a beach brolly.
JC: My favourite activity is mahjong – 3P mahjong to be specific. Aside from that, I also very much enjoy blogging but time has always been a constraint. I also enjoy editing my pictures before sharing them on social media. To me, blogging and pictures are a great way of capturing memories.
CL: “Me time” is very important to me. It’s the time where I shut everything and everybody out except myself. I do whatever I feel like doing, from simply doing nothing to whatever goes with my heart. There is one thing I do pretty often: people watching. I would just sit in a café with my favourite tea or ice cream and just watch people.
MK: After completing my Communication Studies at NTU, I went on to join Dell as a Technical Writer and left because I got tired working with computers. I craved working with humans and ended up training to be a School Counsellor, where I enjoyed counselling young girls. I recently left that to pursue my dream – to be Singapore’s first plus size fitness trainer. I’m working towards it and hope to bring the joy of fitness to plus size ladies who, once like me, know nothing about fitness.
But to unwind, I love escaping in nature – either at MacRitchie Reservoir or Sentosa beach. Just lying on the sand with the sea breeze in your face is an instant recharge. I also enjoy travelling. I’ve recently started reading a lot of self-help books that have tweaked my outlook on life. I actually want to take up some form of mixed-martial arts but I’ve been putting it off as I don’t want to disfigure my face! I actually find applying mascara to be very therapeutic! Fitness and fashion are my passion! I’m carving my body in the gym and rocking the red carpet!!
PB: I love to play the Ukulele, bake and play with make up!
We wish all the best to these ladies and we’re excited to see what they will accomplish in the years to come.
Photo credits: Fiona Tan, Priscilla Boh, June Chan, Juneoesque, Maya Korrs,Catherine Lim and DIVA Universal Asia.