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.
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!