“Regardless of size or appearance, you are beautiful.” These words have resonated with me ever since I heard about Vivien Geeyang Kim (김지양, the first Korean plus-sized model to debut in the United States) back when I was living in Canada. She has made waves and gone viral around the world as the model “too fat for Korea”. For this Throwback Thursday, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my former career as a n00bie professional model. As a Canadian model working primarily in Vancouver, my self-worth came from the photographers, agencies, and casting agents that wanted to work with me, and the types of work for which I was submitted. My least confident shoots were for photography conventions where “professional” photographers would hire me to teach portrait posing and directions to “point and shooters”(ahem… “Guys with Cameras”) in an effort to sell e-books, photography classes, and camera gear.
Usually I’d work in commercial photography (where you’re always told you’re beautiful), or promotional modeling (where you have to approach and talk to total strangers about products on which you’ve just been educated [and are shot down 90% of the time!]).
My most confident times were when I was working with amateur photographers. I’d usually be placed in editorial situations on site where I’d be romping around with a series of advanced photography students (typically those upgrading their skills) in tow and would be paired up with a teeny, tiny, tall, exotic model. I was always left wondering if I was there as the “plus size model”…then, I’d see the proofs. I knew exactly why I was there, and damn…did I ever feel fantastic.
Every so often I’d get a series of shoots that would work out as “sexy” Maxim-style photography keeping me in the game for yet another modeling niche. My weight (and body-temperature – those ocean pictures were taken in Canada in November!) is different in every single one of the above shots. Sometimes I was dieting like crazy in an effort to add something to my portfolio that would entice an executive agent. Other times I was happy to be a University student paying my rent off making funny faces. Regardless, I am beautiful, and on those shoots my size or ethnicity did not make a difference. The fact is that I made the best shots some of those photographers had had in years. 8 years later I still find myself in portfolios all over the web.
#IAmBeautiful is not just a hashtag written by a model that has gone against convention in Korea; it’s a symbol of a movement among global citizens. This new magazine title 66100 (to signify the limitations of the size and style standards of ready to wear, modern-day Asia) encourages us to take a look at the absurd size standards in Korean and global fashion. Certainly there are many naturally thin Asian women, but since the investment in education and the promotion from struggling to first-world nation, Koreans (and other Asian nationals), have developed the same problems as North-America and the Western world: one too many Krispy Kremes is leaving us doughnut-shaped. That doesn’t mean we’re not beautiful, it just means that many of us have developed height and curves not recognized by Korean manufacturers. “We’re been deprived of the pursuit of happiness,” says Kim. With the number of foreigners at 3.4% of the total population of South Korea, and the rising yearly salary of nationals, there is sure to be a growing number of hot foodies who can afford to eat, shop, enjoy life, and show off…and why shouldn’t we?