I am sorry for the radio silence but I have a good reason for it that I will be detailing in this post 🙂
I don’t know if some of you recall a mention about yours truly going for a plus size model casting call by local magazine B.I.G (Big is Gorgeous) back in September. My plus size model friend Priscilla Boh called me up the night before and nudged me to go for the casting. The casting was where I finally met Sharmilah Begum, the mastermind behind the magazine.
Well you never know until you try.
That’s how I got here with CBH. So I went with that thought. It wasn’t half as scary as anticipated..I had my picture taken, they contacted me sometime later to inform me of the rehearsals for the fashion show I was casted for.
The fab thing about this was, modelling experience was Not a prerequisite. I met the other girls during the second ‘catwalk 101’ rehearsal. There were a few familiar faces like my plus model friend Priscilla Boh, Rani Dhaschainey who runs an online blog shop for us zaftig ladies called The Curve Cult and Regina Cornelius whom I first met at the casting call.
When you throw people from all walks of life who have never met before into a situation where they have to work together cohesively, it does not always pan out as expected. It can get chaotic, egos can get hurt and it can get downright ugly.Nothing of that sort happened here.
We were excited, tentative and curious to see what BIG had in store for us. There was a buzz in the air, everyone was in good spirits. I was pleasantly surprised with the camaraderie of the group.
In walks Hanis Hussey, a local former supermodel who once graced the runways in Milan and Paris, who was once the face of YSL no less. She was our model catwalk trainer and to say I was fangirling was putting it mildly!!
We came away with the basics and I knew there was plenty of practice to get done at home. I am ‘directionally challenged’ and these injured feet have agendas of their own (as always).
We also met with Danial, the creative fashion editor of Big is Gorgeous magazine. He spoke to us at length about the looks he was going for – makeup, outfits, hair – and there started a chat group on Whatsapp to organise the fittings for each model.
What started out as a medium to plan for appointments on a chat group evolved into a proper chat group among friends. By the time rehearsal number two came along, we were at such ease with each other, joking around and plenty of booty shaking ensued! Where there are nice booties, there will be booty shaking! We were a noisy, boisterous lot who worked hard and had fun while at it.
I have been conditioned over the years to see women as being catty with one another, mean spirited or two-faced that I never really gave friendship a proper chance beyond my gang of usual suspects. Another place where I feel just as welcome and that I come away feeling like part of a genuinely well meaning group of ladies has got to be at Aware. This has Got to be the year of mingling with more women folk than I have in years! Cheers to more such years 🙂
The Saturday before last was when rehearsals began to get really serious, what with the date of the show looming near. Outfit fittings were done, I practiced my walk with the help of Priscilla the night before rehearsal to make sure I got the basics down pat. I have a newfound respect for models Im tellin ya! It is No walk in the park!
Practicing the different sequences keeping in mind the super quick outfit changes, strutting confidently on stage, making sure you don’t miss a step and know your cues, remembering the order by which you head onto stage…it is a curious mix of uniformity and spontaneity.
For me at least, the biggest challenge was facing the mirror for so many hours in a day while practicing the catwalk. I had to stop obsessing over my body and focus on the task at hand. There was also the issue of facing an immense fear: of parading myself in front of a crowd of people without hyperventilating! More importantly, I needed to make sure my stubborn feet cooperated with me the whole time.
I used to be beckoned to model in my early 20s and I turned it down every single time. I didn’t think I was model material. I was an academic, an athlete, a dancer. Not a model.
I love my immediate family of friends to bits. They encourage and support me all the way. Interestingly enough, before meeting Priscilla I hadn’t even one plus sized friend in my circle. So there really wasn’t anyone I could let off steam with about the unique issues that plague a plus sized body.
The girls I modelled with made me feel like part of a community I belonged to. I don’t think I’d felt that way in a long time. We were passing each other snacks (you don’t need to diet if you’re a plus size model hehehe), giving tips on walking the runway, laughing our asses off at each other’s antics. I was a total clown and Not many people see that side of me. Well I suppose you lot have at times haha 😉
If Saturday’s practice was exhausting, Monday and Tuesday were gruelling. But it was a necessary evil. We had to get the sequences, walking and outfit changes prepared to perfection. That’s just how it is for fashion shows. Naturally, our body parts were screaming bloody murder by Tuesday night but there was excitement over Finally walking the runway on Wednesday morning!
With a few hours of sleep under our belt, we met up at the Hilton at 7am to get started with hair and makeup. Everyone was on tenterhooks but we stayed jovial throughout the morning.
This was us prepping before the show 🙂
Then, it was Showtime
Backstage was abuzz with anxiety.
We reminded one another to give it all we’ve got on the runway. The spotlight was on us. We were each here for a different reason and yet, there was a unified thread of thought : I want to show them that Big can be Beautiful. That I have nothing to be embarrassed about, nothing to hide. We will be represented. We stand loud and proud. You will not ignore us. You will not belittle us. I will not apologise for my body. I am a plus size model. I am part of this community who know my struggles, understand my journey and take me as I am..stretch marks, cellulite, flappy arms, double chin and all.
That was me nervous as hell before strutting the runway!
How fabulous do my ladies look!!
Naturally, we set fierceness as a standard and set fire to the stage!
We did a Fantastic job 😀
Of course we had to snap a shot with Hanis Hussey before she left for her flight to the States.
And we were photo-gaga before and after the show 😀
There are more post-fashion show details but I will not cram them all in one post. I now want you to hear from the people involved; what their thoughts were of this experience and of their plus size journey.
Sharmilah Begum Mehmood,
BIG Magazine’s Head Honcho (sorry Sharm I couldn’t find a pic of you solo! Annie, not that I mind you in this shot hokay!) :
“For the BIG team we are happy to be able to create this platform for the local plus size community to showcase their body positive message to empower others to take charge and give the image that Plus girls do have an active lifestyle. The local plus size community today has changed their mindset to be more positive and stylish.”
Fashion and Styling Editor, Samsul Danial Saring (with Agnes the adorable in the background!)
“Style and fashion are synonymous to a size zero or mannequin figure. To me, anyone deserves to be in style, no exclusion of the plus sizes ladies.
Bringing plus sizes ladies to the runway is rare in our urban jungle of singapore. Why ? As we can see, in the industries, not many promote on plus sizes clothing and that is a pity .
‘Evolution’ was brought to the audience by Big Is Gorgeous as an eye opener to start the gears in motion for a plus size fashion show in the coming future. The message through this is to educate all curvy ladies out there to start putting on some colour that accentuate their curves. Getting the right style for any occasion and not just covering yourself with in dark shades to look slimmer which don’t work anymore. Love your curves! If you’ve got it, you flaunt it…be proud of it.
Same goes for the 15 models on the runway. These ladies are not professionally trained models. But under the guidance of Hanis Hussey and myself, along with their perseverance and commitment, the girls produced a flawless show with confidence. They nailed the stage with the style i imagined as well as
The choreography set for the individual girls. They listened and executed professionally.”
Regina Cornelius, first time model, fierce sassy friend and mother of 1
“I grew up super slim and wearing sizes below 4 but bloomed to a now size 14/16 after giving birth to my son 15 years ago. I put on nearly 38kg during the entire pregnancy and most of the weight was mine.
Over the years I have had my ups and downs with weight issues ie losing and gaining it back again. It can be disheartening but I have learnt to love myself and my curves.
Being on the runway and with people who have the same issues, fears and what-have-you along for the ride gave me strength and through this I now know that I am not alone. All of these ladies are heros in their own right!”
Suharti Surani , first time model and girl with a zest for life (pictured here with Zaini, another member of the BIG team the show couldn’t have been possible without) :
“I’ve always wanted to walk runways. However, there has been a stereotype in my mind that runways were only meant for skinny girls. Although I used to be way slimmer then I am now, I’ve never fit into the “skinny girl” type. And then bam!!! I was given this amazing opportunity to walk a runway, being myself! In my own current self!! There is no reason for me not to and I am glad I did it. It was an amazing first time experience for me and the girls around me made it so much easier. We are comfortable with who and what we are and we support each other and ensured we rocked the runway! And we really did it!! We showed the audience what walking on runways mean – if we have it, we flaunt it! :)”
Priscilla Boh Rui Yee, plus size model and good friend:
“The plus size industry locally has been inching into main stream media and fashion. With fashion options opening up in the local market, How else should we be celebrated but by having a plus size fashion show to feature local plus size fashion!
Walking down the runway alongside with some of the key players in the local plus size bloggersphere, it was empowering and I am humbled by the experience. It was an honour to be mentored by singapore international model hannis hussey.”
Rani Dhaschainey, owner of online plus size store The Curve Cult, first time model and good friend:
“You’re enough. You don’t need to lose weight to be enough. You don’t need to wear makeup to be enough. You don’t need to give up wearing lovely clothes because you have a tummy. And no you don’t need to hide the tummy because it’s your body. It’s been with you, carrying your weight all these years. Love it and be proud of it. Respect it and dont constantly put it down.
So that’s why meeting all those plus sized ladies at the fashion show was so refreshing because they didn’t worry about their tummy bulging, they don’t go on about how they need to stop eating or how their bodies could be smaller. They were strutting on the runway (and everywhere else) with so much confidence and positivity.”
Rafidah Osman Alkhatib, first time model
“I was always big, from my childhood to present age and it affected my self esteem.
I hate it when i go to clothes or shoe shops and the sales people give these looks as if to say “there’s nothing in Your size in my shop!” I am so fed up with narrow minded ppl.
Men like to take advantage of fat girls since in their opinion ‘fat ppl have no worth’ and they keep wanting to take advantage of us, as if we are hard up for men. The men who treat us like a fetish…aargh!!!”
Annie Chan, relationship coach and model
“I signed up for the runway show as a show of support for the e-magazine BIG. I contribute articles for the magazine so I wanted to support it. Little did I know I would be cast as a model!
I remember being told during rehearsal that I slouch and need to walk tall. Although I have lost 10kg, I am still not quite confident of my body. But when I saw the rest of you… visibly I look smaller but gosh the confidence you displayed was definitely larger than mine.
At that point, I told myself, if these ladies are so positive and confident, why the hell am I still so “unhappy” with my body!
The biggest take away for me was really learning how to walk properly and confidently. And learning to embrace the real me and what truly makes me happy.
And what truly makes me happy …. i have realised and now am not afraid to admit… I enjoy the limelight! So bring them on … more runway shows, fashion shoot, commercials, whatever! I am ready to embrace them .. even if I am starting out late in my 40s!”
Asri Riyanti, first time model
“I am so proud to be a plus size girl and to show people what I am capable of and I now have the confidence to step up to the next level..shame no more!”
Last but not least,
Aarti Olivia Dubey (ahem oui, c’est moi). First time model, psychotherapist by profession and plus size fashion, lifestyle blogger and body positive advocate.
So you’ve seen the pictures above and read the accounts of the people involved. They range in different sizes among the in-Betweenie size and plus size spectrum. They have been subject to discrimination and they still suffer from it. But they took that leap to shine a spotlight on themselves.
Like I always, always quote :
“Our greatest fear is not that we inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure”
You know how the internet trolls can be. You’ve read my stories. You know my journey. I have been lost and alone at times in my advocacy for size acceptance. Time and Time again, I have brought myself back up from the ground and walked the good walk. I have shed blood, sweat and tears to come to the realisation that being Fat is NOT an offence. You guys, my social media family across the globe, my immediate family of friends (much love to the Usual Suspects), my hubster (my love, my rock), have reminded me to fight the good fight. To push myself beyond what I assume I am capable of to see just how much farther I can go. I love you guys beyond measure.
Community is Solidarity.
Solidarity is strength.
And with strength, courage and wisdom in your path..you have everything to accomplish and attain.
EFF YOUR BEAUTY STANDARDS.
Onwards. I hope that wherever you are in your life, you will come to the realisation that You and I are bigger than the vessels that shape us. They are mere instruments. Manoeuvre them in the fluidity and flexibility of water if you will. It really Is that simple.
All my love,
Aarti Olivia xxxo
P.S: there is a part 2 to this post so stay tuned for it tomorrow!