Ashley Graham, Iskra Lawrence and Barbie Ferreira are redefining the definition of beauty within the entertainment industry, but when was the last time you’ve seen an Asian plus-size model with similar levels of media exposure or popularity?
There seems to be a general lack of diversity within the plus-size modeling industry and Asian models are still especially hard to come by but this certainly doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
The modern body positivity movement kicked off in mainstream media within the past decade and transformed the discourse on plus-size bodies from fat acceptance to self-love. Today, models like Ashley Graham are making their marks in history by joining the list of the world’s highest paid models. However, year after year, as magazines publish their choice of top plus-size models or the highest-earning plus-size models, Asian women take the back seat.
When Marie Claire released their 2018 list of the most famous plus-size models in the world, only one woman of Asian descent was included — Nadia Aboulhosn, who is half Lebanese. But even more surprisingly, this list still featured more Asian models than most other magazines.
Although lack of Asian representation is not new, the lack of plus-size Asian models could be attributed to the lower percentage of plus-size Asian women. The 2015-2016 CDC reports on obesity rates among adults in the U.S. show that Asian American women had the lowest rate of obesity at just 14.8% compared to 38% of white women and 54.8% of African American women. Although this provides some insight into the reason for the lack of representation, it doesn’t actually provide any answers. Most plus-size models wear sizes ranging from 6 to 12, while the average American wears a size 14 and up — so in reality, many of these models aren’t even considered medically obese.
Plus-size Asian models experience trouble finding jobs even in Asia. A model explained to Asian Boss that in Korea, there are currently no agencies targeting larger models. Meanwhile, the existing plus-size Korean celebrities are generally not portrayed as attractive but instead, made fun of for their size.
By what we see in advertisements or on television, it would appear that plus-size Asian models simply do not exist. But thanks to social media, we know that what we see in mainstream media is far from the truth. The reality is, there are plenty of gorgeous and qualified plus-size models and influencers across the world, they are just given less opportunities than their white counterparts.
In a society that glamorizes weight loss and promotes stick thin K-pop idols, it’s important to show young Asian girls that they don’t need to be a size 2 to be considered beautiful or healthy. However, to send that message across, we need to see more Asian plus-size models that they can relate to.
Representation always matters.
Plus size models of all ethnicities are beautiful, so let’s put more of them out there.