Every person I met during my adulthood admired the way I carried and presented myself to others. Some said, “You are so confident in your own skin; I love it!” Others were like, “I have never been as brave as you are ever!”
Why did those people talk like that, you might ask? That’s because I worked as a size-16 model for some of the biggest brands that showcased plus-sized beauties. Lingerie, dresses, formal wear – I had modeled them all for prints and ads. I had also gotten used to seeing my face and body on massive billboards from time to time, and people started to recognize me on the streets.
Did the attention make me happy? Ha, I would be a hypocrite if I said no. Everyone loved the attention – even the ones who were adamant about saying that they did not. That’s especially true for me now that I got plenty of positive attention wherever I would go.
Many people did not know, though, that things did not always look bright for me.
The Back Story
I had always been a big girl since childhood. There was never a time when Mom and I would ask for a small size for my clothes because I often ranged between large to extra large.
This reality did not make me think twice about myself or my appearance before going to primary school. My mother always called me the “most beautiful girl in the world,” after all. Most kids at pre-school did not have a concept of beauty either, so I had no reason not to believe Mom.
But then, I had to go and enter first grade. My classmates were pretty lovely and hardly talked about my weight, but I was like a fair game outside the classroom. On my first week, I heard someone say, “We have a new fatty in town.”
Although it did not bother me too much, I realized that I was bigger than many kids at school. I did not know what to do, so I kept the bullying incident a secret from my mother. And even if I was very young, I assumed that the teasing would go away soon enough.
Unfortunately, I endured the weight-related talks for years, causing me to become too conscious about my size. I stopped wearing clothes that would emphasize my arms or thighs; I no longer wore sandals because someone joked about my feet looking like plump doughs. If you looked inside my closet, you would only see pullovers, track pants, and other baggy clothes.
As much as I tried to keep my self-consciousness under the wraps, my mother was not born yesterday. She was already suspicious when I asked her to take all my sleeveless tops. When she saw my new clothing of choice, it confirmed that I was changing myself based on my weight.
Mom sat me down before dinner and practically told me that I was like a pearl trying to hide in a shell. I was surprised by how spot-on her description was of me, and so I ended up revealing the bullying I experienced for years. She was already crying before I could even finish my last sentence, possibly feeling too sorry for me.
When my mother calmed down, she said, “This is not okay. We will go to a therapist tomorrow so that you can raise your confidence that those bullies broke down.”
I had no words at that moment. I did not fathom that my issues warranted therapy. While it happened in the 90s, the only people I heard to receive this treatment were those with mental disorders. However, Mom assured me that therapy was helpful for everyone, regardless of whether you had a condition or not.
The Life Changes
My therapist made it clear from the beginning that she could not solve my problems. “My role is to teach you how to harness the tools you already possess to fix your issues. No one can fight your battles when you become an adult, so you need to start learning how to tackle the problems as early as now.”
With the therapist’s help, I understood that my self-worth did not hinge on my weight. Would it be fun to try wearing a size 6 someday? Sure. But would I deserve love and respect less than the next person if I decided to stay in my size-16 body? No way!
Keeping this mindset did not come easy to me, especially after hearing people tell me that I was a joke for being a big girl. Luckily, I had a therapist and a mother who never gave up on me.
It had been years since I graduated from therapy. After that, it was like I developed a protective shield against the bullies. I walked everywhere with my head held high; I wore whatever clothes I wanted. Then, a modeling agent scouted me at the mall, and the rest, as people said, was history.