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2 Malaysian curvy models on their modelling career, inclusivity within the fashion industry, and the term “plus size”

2 Malaysian curvy models on their modelling career, inclusivity within the fashion industry, and the term “plus size”

Model behaviour

Text: Joan Kong

Photoeditor: Calleigh Yap

Image: Zalora
Image: @cashreign
Image: @amandaimani

What does it take to be a model? Let Amanda Imani and Cashreyn Mohd. Azlan give you a better insight

Plus-size fashion has been enjoying the spotlight it deserves in recent years, with more and more brands introducing a wider size range not only to cater to more shoppers, but also to champion the body positivity movement. Accompanying it, are a slew of curvy models who are redefining beauty standards. Ashley Graham, Paloma Elsesser, and Jill Kortleve are some of the top names to know right now, but in Malaysia, there are also a few models who are carving out space for themselves in the local fashion industry. Enter Amanda Imani and Cashreyn Mohd. Azlan—two part-time curvy models who have worked with brands such as Uniqlo, Zalora, and more.

Want to get to know them? Below, Amanda and Cashreyn speak to us about their modelling career, the body positivity movement, and more:

Amanda Imani, 28
content creator, singer-songwriter, and part-time model

How did you get into modelling?

I used to be involved in many photo shoots when I first started out in music. Naturally, I met people who are in fashion and got into some part-time modelling. The very first local designer who was open to having me—a model who’s not a sample size—was Leslie Variyan of Variante.

What are some of the brands that you’ve modelled for?

Zalora, Curvafabulous, Ms Read, Variante, Violetta by Mango, Missguided, and more.

2 Malaysian curvy models on their modelling career, inclusivity within the fashion industry, and the term “plus size” (фото 1)

Photo credit: Zalora

What are your thoughts on the local modelling scene, and inclusivity within the fashion industry in Malaysia?

It’s a pretty small industry and I’m glad to see that over the years we have embraced models with different shapes, sizes, and heights. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced during your modelling career?

Fitting into sample sizes! It’s hard when brands and designers want to work with you but you aren’t a size zero. I’ve experienced that many times. Previously, there weren’t as many plus-size brands available, therefore, modelling jobs were also lesser. But nowadays, I’m glad to see that there are many more brands supporting and catering to curvy women.

Aside from that, plus-size women in the industry would always be labelled oversized, big, bulky, chubby, fat, etc. People would just throw around those words like it’s nothing. To me, that is rude and totally unprofessional.

Have you ever dealt with body shaming, and what advice would you give for others who are experiencing the same thing?

Yes, definitely. Even when I first started out in the industry, I would always get body shamed at photo and music video shoots. At the time I was still a teenager, and it used to really bother me and it has definitely lowered my self confidence.

Over the years, it has sort of become a norm for people to comment on my weight and size, but that hasn’t stopped me from making music and videos or modelling. Instead, it has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin, knowing that there are many women out there who look up to me. Personalities and talents come in all shapes and forms, and that makes the world special!

Many curvy models have mentioned that they’re not a fan of the term “plus size”. What do you think about it?

I think modelling, regardless of size, should just be called modelling. I don’t think we should continue to term size-zero models as models, but models who aren’t size zero as plus-size models. It’s discriminatory and it definitely affects how the public sees us. All sizes matter.

Thoughts on the body positivity movement?

It’s really amazing to see so many influencers and celebrities promote body positivity. I think this year especially, I’ve seen a surge in brands and campaigns that have released edit-free photos and embracing people who are unique. I think that’s really important because the public can now see that models aren’t just the typical tall, lean, and skinny girls. They come in different sizes, colours, shapes, and age.

Is there an influencer or model whom you look up to?

The very first mainstream plus-size model I came across was Ashley Graham. I think she’s really beautiful and confident. I also really like Kate Upton. It’s wonderful to see these women grace fashion magazines like Vogue and Sports Illustrated.

How would you describe your style?

Simple with an edge. I listen to a lot of rock n’ roll so I definitely gravitate towards the colour black. I start out with the basics (i.e. T-shirt and high-waist jeans) before adding an edgy piece such as a leather jacket or a pair of boots. I also love shoes! Dr. Martens is my go-to.

Name your favourite clothing brands.

American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, True Religion, Levi’s. I also shop from online sites such as Nasty Gal and Dolls Kill.

Many luxury fashion houses have started including plus-size models on the runway. What are your thoughts on that, and where would you like to see the modelling world in five years’ time?

I think it gives hope to all the plus-size models around the world. I hope other brands follow in their footsteps and include more curvy models in their shows and campaigns.

In five years’ time, I wish that the term “plus size” would be a thing of the past, and I also hope that everyone will be more open to seeing curvy women take centre stage. It’s time we stop glamourising girls who are extremely underweight.

What advice would you give to curvy girls who’d like to venture into modelling?

I think it’s crucial for one to be extremely comfortable with their body if they’re thinking of modelling. Speaking from experience—a camera really does add 10 pounds. You need to be confident enough to wear and promote clothes that may not always flatter your body. Not all clothes will fit perfectly, and the camera angle and lighting won’t always be in your favour, but it’s your job as the model to make them look great. It definitely takes some practice and experience, but remember to always put your best foot forward and own it!

It’s also important to always communicate with your photographer. Models have to take direction well. Always be positive on set and make every shoot a fun experience!

2 Malaysian curvy models on their modelling career, inclusivity within the fashion industry, and the term “plus size” (фото 2)

Cashreyn Mohd. Azlan, 30
risk consultant and part-time model

How did you get into modelling?

Truth be told, I thought I would never stand a chance in Asia until about three years ago when a good friend of mine recommended me at her workplace and I got a call for a casting. The rest is history.

What are some of the brands you’ve modelled for?

Zalora, Uniqlo, Ms Read, CurvaFabulous, Acquire Shop and hopefully more in the future.

What are your thoughts on the local modelling scene, and inclusivity within the fashion industry in Malaysia?

I believe that the industry has shifted tremendously within the last two to three years even though body and size inclusivity as a mindset is still in its infancy here in Malaysia and Asia. Only recently has there been more awareness within the fashion industry, and this is largely driven by trends and a whole new target market that was often overlooked.

I know a lot of women had to go overseas to buy better fitting clothes because they did not fit the average Asian bill. That being said, I’m glad that more brands are starting to be more inclusive with sizing and making their clothes look more trendy and fashionable for the buyer. This is a stark contrast to what the fashion industry was in the early 2000s.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced during your modelling career?

No major challenges so far, thank God—but modelling has been a continuous learning process as I’m still learning many unspoken and general fashion, runway, and posing rules. It can be challenging at times but it just needs a little getting used to.

Have you ever dealt with body shaming, and what advice would you give for others who are experiencing the same thing?

I was teased when I was in school, and my weight was definitely commented on by a few of my close family members. But as I grew older, I learnt to see that my size—and what people say about it—doesn’t define who I am as a person. I knew I had a great character and personality, and I didn’t feel like I should be ashamed of who I was.

For those who are dealing with body shaming, I would say being comfortable and knowing who you are first is most important, the confidence and strength to endure the negativity will then come naturally.

Many curvy models have mentioned that they’re not a fan of the term “plus size”. What do you think about it?

Being in the middle of the size spectrum (larger than the average Asian women but smaller than some), sometimes I get told that I am not a plus-size or I’m not “even that big” by other curvier ladies. While that may be true, I feel that the term “plus size” has created a whole stereotype that you need to be bigger than others to be in this category.

The way I see it, size inclusion and body diversity should be almost undefined. Petite, regular, and plus-size are the three main shapes you hear about today. However, there’s also the muscular, athletic type, for example, that doesn’t belong in any of the categories mentioned.

We’re all different in shapes and sizes, and there are going to be people who don’t fit in any of the three categories. But they all can—and should be—celebrated. This, to me, is the true meaning of body diversity and size inclusivity.

Thoughts on the body positivity movement?

The movement is definitely growing in Malaysia. We’re now more aware when it comes to diversity in sizes. But more importantly, the cause is a great way to celebrate the differences in body types, and to just be happy for those who are comfortable in their own skin. I’m all for it.

Do you have an influencer or model whom you look up to?

Instead of someone famous, it's my mother who has been my role model since day one. As a curvy woman living in Malaysia (where most girls are the typical size), she often spoke out about the unavailability of larger sizes (in clothes and shoes) when we went shopping, not only to me but to shopkeepers. Her tenacity has led me to believe that from very early on, we should celebrate body diversity. Being a curvy model now, I’m very happy and lucky to be a part of this shift.

How would you describe your style?

I love all things classic. As much as I want to keep up with the latest fashion trends, I don’t (laughs). My style is preppy, and I steer towards anything that’s comfortable and easy— the usual sweaters under a spaghetti-strap top, flared trousers, jeans, and more.

Name your favourite clothing brands.

Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, COS and most recently, Uniqlo. If I’m feeling a little risqué, it’ll be Missguided or Pomelo.

Many luxury fashion houses have started including plus-size models on the runway. What are your thoughts on that, and where would you like to see the modelling world in five years’ time?

Where can I sign up? (Laughs). I’m glad that this is changing, and I hope that the brands in Asia would follow suit. We’re often associated with being petite because we’re Asian, but I’m glad even the big fashion houses are breaking the mould, and they’re changing the narrative for what's acceptable in the industry. I believe that this will pave the way for other labels to instil size inclusivity and body diversity.

What advice would you give to curvy girls who’d like to venture into modelling?

As cliché as this is going to sound, just be yourself. Do not be afraid to flaunt your curves and the personality that comes with it. Let it be known that we all have a larger-than-life attitude and that’s OK. Trust that the camera will capture just that. You’ll rock it.

2 Malaysian curvy models on their modelling career, inclusivity within the fashion industry, and the term “plus size” (фото 3)

Photo credit: Zalora

Also read: Plus size shopping: Here’s where curvy Malaysians buy stylish clothes in KL