I’ve been trying to search for this young lady’s name, a contestant of the reality show Nescafe Kick Start Season 1 I think, but I just can’t seem to find it. This photo is so arresting, a lovely young woman clutching at her dream of becoming a Plus size model. I remember seeing her on TV during the show but didn’t quite catch her name. She was eliminated in the earlier rounds. I wonder whatever became of her? I do hope that one way or another she did get her dream. I like the fact that she dared to even think about a modelling career in an industry that clearly favours stick thin pre-aneroxic girls strutting their stuff on the catwalk. A face as lovely as hers would be sure to captivate whether on the runway or a magazine cover any day.
The United States is where BIG is certainly a Plus when it comes to modelling. Due to genes, lifestyle or metabolism, American men and women are BIG in size and it’s no big deal. It’s only the fashion and beauty industry that seems to think less of them. Not lately though. The doyene of America’s Next Top Model, the gorgeous and curvy Tyra Banks has even come up with her own show called “Thick and Sexy Top Model” to prove you don’t have to starve yourself to be a model. The contestants were at least 200lbs and the winner got the coveted photo layout in the new magazine Bombshell and the one-year modeling contract. The winner, as Tyra announced in the YouTube video is Ms Maggie Brown.
I’m sure there are many more like these two young ladies I just blogged about, aspiring to go beyond expectation, to break free from society’s perception of BIG girls. Wanting to model is one thing but trying to find fashion designers who understand where these two girls are coming from is something else. One Malaysian fashion designer that understands what being BIG feels like is Tom Abang Saufi. A Plus size herself, this remarkable Malaysian designs clothes that women of any age or size could carry with elegance to any of those gala dinner or soirees the privileged few indulge in. See a sample of her collection here. She even has a fan, Evenstar Africa who blogged about her here. Like this African blogger, I too salute Tom Abang Saufi and wish her even greater fame and good fortune at home and abroad.
For those of us who, like me, can’t afford designer togs or may not have any need for them as we just need to look well put together and presentable for unglamourous stuff like a quick dash to the supermarket, or a high tea with old friends and maybe for an official function or meeting with a client. In Malaysia we are lucky to be able to get clothes tailored to fit from the neighbourhood dressmakers but these days even they have become expensive. I am so glad that many department stores carry their own plus size clothing line these days. Like Jaya Jusco’s “Passion” and “Plush” that I get off-the-rack whenever I feel an urge to get something new to wear. You can understand if that urge does not come often these days. Probably because I hate to try the clothes on. Just seeing my bloated self in the dressing room mirror gets me depressed. The middle age spread can really do damage to your self-esteem.
Another big favourite is Ms Read, whose owner Ms Helen Read tells an inspiring story of how her Plus sized fashion empire began with sewing buttons as a stay-at-home mum wanting to keep busy in between minding her three kids. But somewhere in the stars Ms Read fate was written that she would one day emerge from her domestic cocoon to become a true monarch butterfly. An awesome entreprenuer with twelve Ms Read boutiques for the plus sized women, an article here says she even owns a chain of cafes called Delicious, what else? Her story is so inspirational that I feel guilty about feeling sorry for myself. A single mom, like me, she came out of her divorce intact and poured all her energies, heart and soul into the business empire that has grown beyond her wildest dreams. Now she is giving back to society by doing volunteer work to help the less fortunate. What a lady!
I wonder when the Malaysian fashion industry will wise up and catch on the BIG trend as more youngsters in Malaysia seem to grow bigger in proportion compared to the previous generation. Even my own daughter is taller and has a bigger build than me. But fearing hereditary fat cells, she tries hard to keep her weight down so she won’t look like a dumpling (like mum that is!). As she outgrew her slimmer tween years and is now in full bloom of young womanhood and a size 12 – 14, I know she often despairs about finding those really funky fashionable clothes fashionistas of her generation crave to wear. Not in Malaysia at least! I know in UK there is this online store called Big Girls Wardrobe that offers a trendy clothing range such as tops, jeans, combats, dresses, work wear, lingerie and even accessories in sizes from 16-30. In the US, there is Torrid, a specialty retailer that offers apparel and accessories for young women from sizes 12-26, “centered around the various lifestyles of young women today”. With more than 100 stores in the US, Torrid has plans to expand, overseas maybe? Will the Malaysian fashion industry feel the need for these type of stores one day? Maybe my daughter and that young aspiring plus size model could give us a clue.