This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Back in October of last year, I had the privilege of guest speaking for a workshop hosted by HuffPost Japan and MASHING UP. “Body image” and “body positivity” are both topics that are important to me and things that I have struggled with since I went head-first into the entertainment industry in Japan. The article recapping the workshop is now on CafeGlobe but because it is in Japanese, I decided to do my own summary of the event in English.

What is “body positivity?”

Arisa Ido, former HuffPost Japan blog editor (now working as community producer for FORBES Japan), began the workshop by asking the audience if they know what body positivity is or have heard of it before. Very few people raised their hands. Arisa proceeded to explain the meaning behind body positivity – to have a more positive outlook on your own body image, to embrace the fact that you are unique and different from everybody else around you, to love yourself more for who you are. In the entertainment industry, especially prominent in the modeling industry, models are expected to all be stick-thin, have beautiful skin and be a certain height. In recent years, countries like France have banned the hiring of overly-skinny models, and we’ve seen a steady increase of plus-size models, models of color, LGBT models and models with disabilities.

My story

Even before I started modeling in Tokyo, I was told that it would be best if I changed my look to fit what was considered popular or ideal within the modeling industry in Japan. The “half” look (half-Japanese, half-caucasian) was very sought after, so I dyed my long hair a lighter shade of brown and did my makeup a certain way. Looking back, it didn’t make sense for me to change myself to fit a certain standard because 1) I am already half-Japanese and 2) it didn’t set me apart from other models in Japan. On top of that, I also felt I was not skinny enough compared to other models (even though I was skinny enough at the time), and suffered from extreme cases of acne that affected my chances at auditions.

The first big change that occurred for me was when my father passed away unexpectedly. As a way to cope and to reflect how I was feeling within, I chopped off my bangs and dyed my hair jet black without my agency’s permission. Since I didn’t have any auditions or jobs lined up anyways, I decided for once I wanted to do something for me.  As my look and style evolved over the years, I realized I should have done this much earlier. By standing out and creating a look that suited me, people started to remember me and the jobs kept coming in slowly but surely. And in terms of my body image, I began to appreciate my womanly curves and decided to maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise for a happier version of myself.

Spreading the message

Towards the end of the workshop, Arisa mentioned several ways that body positivity can be more wide-spread. One way is to change the way parents raise their children. Children soak up everything around them like a sponge, and even something that was said as an afterthought by an adult can have lasting effects on the child. If an adult says, “That girl is so skinny! Look how pretty she is,” then the child that hears that will automatically associate “skinny” with “pretty” or “good-looking.”

Arisa also had an activity prepared for all the audience members. After showing the YouTube video “Best Friends Get Brutally Honest About Their Bodies | Iris,” Arisa had audience members pair up and share what they believe are their flaws. In the end, there was a general conclusion that what we perceive as our own flaws, most people don’t notice as much or barely notice at all. I think the guests realized that they don’t need to think such hurtful thoughts towards their own selves. I could tell some of them seemed a bit more light-hearted after the activity.

The last thing I told the audience was how important it is to love and take care of yourself more. When you can love yourself, you can share the love to others. Arisa closed off the workshop by stating that the modeling and entertainment industry is starting to shift their views on body image into something that is healthier and inclusive. I personally hope more people around the world and not just Japan are more aware of body positivity.

What are your thoughts on body image and body positivity? Let me know in the comments!

 

Thank you so much to Huffpost Japan and MASHING UP for having me at the workshop!! It was an honor and privilege to share my story and thoughts on the subject. And thank you for reading this blog post!

このワークショップの日本語記事はこちらで読めます。

15 comments

Reply

This is powerful and inspiring! True beauty comes from within. It’s important to take care of ourselves and remain positive. Keep it up girl!

Xo
Candace
http://www.thebeautybeau.com

Reply

This sounds amazing and I’m glad the message is reaching! But I think it is important to note that body positivity was started by fat black women, primarily for fat women as the least accepted body types! A lot of movements now look at self love but still manage to push out these body types which is really sad <3

The Quirky Queer

Reply

We definitely need to spread more awareness about body positivity. I hope I can teach my daughter to be comfortable with her body love it the way God created. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring post. All girls need to see this!!!

Reply

Oh this is empowering. So many women need to be at workshops like this. Just reading this has motivated me to continue to love myself and the unique features I was born with. I’m proud of you girl! Thanks for sharing this!

Reply

Body positivity and self-love is a near and dear topic to me, and something that I’ve been working on. I’ve always loved my body but of course there are some days I wish I could improve in some areas. I think that’s pretty normal but as long as you’re doing things for yourself and your own happiness, that’s what matters. There’s no need to change yourself to please others 🙂 Starting out in the modeling industry I am TOTALLY familiar with your experience though. I feel like the mixed looking Asians actually have a tougher time booking sometimes (or so it was the case for me) and I would also get frustrated for not getting jobs I wanted even though I was getting called in for castings a lot. Eventually I found it was a waste of time and transitioned into something else that worked for me and something that allowed me to fully embrace my body, dye my hair whatever color I wanted, etc. LOL! Best thing I’ve done for myself 🙂 xx

Reply

Yes, I totally feel you Sharon! It took me a couple of years to realize that myself, but I think those kinds of things take time. For mixed people like us, identity can be a real issue but it’s also rewarding when you begin to learn more about yourself in the process. Thank you for leaving such a thorough comment <3333

Reply

Very inspiring speech. Really impressed.

Reply

What a great workshop!
I hope that these messages of body positivity and confidence in all representations of self will spread more in mainstream Japan to help young girls not succumb to fads like the Cinderella Diet etc.
Personally, I think the new wave of half sports stars like Naomi Osaka and variety starts like Naomi Watanabe are helping to create a more positive shift in perspective here that isn’t part of the “cookie-cutter mold” which is so refreshing! I hope Ariana Miyamoto will find some renewed opportunities again within Japan and also internationally since I think she had the hardest time when she debuted as Miss Japan.

Xx
Siree
http://www.thehiddenthimble.com

Reply

Agreed! I’m also happy these kinds of talents, stars, athletes, etc are also rising to prominence in the Japanese entertainment industry. We need more variety, not just in Japan but everywhere! Thank you for the thoughtful comment <3

Reply

Such a lovely read. This is super amazing and inspiring dear. Thanks for sharing!
Jessica | notjessfashion.com

Reply

What an awesome workshop! You were such a great voice for it too, given your story and how inspiring your work is now too. Thank you for sharing it with us!
xx Jenelle | http://www.inspiringwit.com

Reply

To be beautiful is a state of mind. Thanks for sharing dear!
Have a lovely day! xx

La ilusión de Nina – http://lailusiondenina.blogspot.com/

Reply

What a beautiful message and oh so true! Love how inspiring this in and thank you so much for sharing!

xx, mel
http://melinspired.com/bedroom-transformation-part-2-final-reveal/

Reply

What an amazing workshop! So inspiring 🙂

X Merel
http://www.andathousandwords.com1

Reply

What a beautiful message and oh so true! Love how inspiring this in and thank you so much for sharing!
beautiful!
Like your blog.
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