By NASA MARIA ENTABAN
EVERY woman, at some point in her life, experiences body image issues.
Whether it’s obsessing over our weight, height, skin or the way our hair looks, let’s face it – we all have our hang-ups, and sometimes they last for ages.
It took Lorraine Kwek years to feel comfortable with her body, and many more years to dress up and feel confident about herself.
The 30-year-old copy editor has always been plus-sized, but only recently began feeling comfortable with her body.
“Choices (of clothes) were so limited when I was a teenager. It was difficult to find clothes for plus-sized girls, and most of the brands catered to older women,” says Kwek from Klang, Selangor.
“It was always disappointing that there was nothing in my size because I’ve always liked to dress up.”
Back then, Kwek had to have a lot of her clothes tailor-made.
“If there was a dress that I liked, I’d sketch it out and ask my mum to take me to the tailor but it never really came out exactly the way I wanted it.
“I actually bought my first classic dress from Ms Read, it was the only store that really catered for plus-sized ladies,” says Kwek. “The cut is perfect for anyone (that wears) size 12 and over, and there’s quite a bit of variety. Apart from dresses, there are jumpsuits, work clothes, and body hugging dresses I never thought I would be able to wear at my size.”
As she went through college and started working, Kwek thought about her looks less and less, and one day while surfing the Ms Read website, she made a brave decision.
“I wrote to them and asked if I could model for them,” she explains. “They called me in for casting and even though I was really nervous and shy they took me on, and in the past year I’ve done three shoots for Ms Read campaigns.”
Becoming a model for her favourite store has definitely given Kwek a huge boost of confidence, which was really all she ever needed to feel beautiful in her own skin.
That kind of confidence is something which brand executive Manpreet Rai, can relate to.
Rai, 23, has been skinny all her life, and has had her own set of issues to deal with.
“I used to get teased in school with names like coconut tree, penyapu lidi, and many more,” says Rai.
“People also like to say things like you will ‘fly away’ when it’s windy. It made me feel there was something wrong with me, and I had very low self confidence when I had to be in front of people or do any presentations because of the way I looked.”
For years, Rai struggled with her lack of self confidence, and although it was never difficult for her to dress up or find clothes in her size, she would always stick to jeans and t-shirts, avoiding clothes that showed too much skin.
“I didn’t want to show skin because people always commented on how skinny my arms and legs were. I felt people commented less if I showed less skin.
“It was more on lack of self confidence, I felt judged for the way I looked. Fact remains I didn’t choose to be thin. I’m not anorexic or anything. I’m just thin,” says Rai.
It was only when she was in university and started hanging out with a group of supportive friends who said positive things about her looks and personality that she began getting over her hang-ups.
“They would marvel over how I could pretty much buy anything without having to try them on beforehand, at flea markets and so on,” says Rai. “I became more confident then.”
“My mum always taught me to dress for yourself and not for others, and I’ve learned not to care about what other people think. Being thin is fine as long as you’re healthy, and we need to learn to love ourselves the way we are,” she adds.
The worst is over for Rai and Kwek, and they hope young girls everywhere realise that as long as they’re confident and focused on their good features, the body image issues will diminish and go away.
“Young women need to realise that being confident and comfortable in your own skin is more important than anything else,” says Kwek. “I finally stopped being judgemental about myself, or wishing I was smaller, and now I love my curves.”