Sunday, May 11, 2014

Up close with: Fat is Fab

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On the 27th April 2014, I had the chance to cover an awesome event, the FIF (Fat is Fab) Plus Bazaar at SS Two Mall. It was a 2-day event that was organized to celebrate beautiful plus size women everywhere.

I've been to various types of bazaars, and to be honest, shopping for clothes there isn't easy because most of the available sizes are "free size". Sometimes I wonder, what is so "free" about it, when it is only made for really thin girls. But at the Plus Bazaar, I realized that the plus size range boutiques are growing, and I am happy for plus size girls because of the available choices. I was surprised to see BLOOK + there with their plus size range too! *thumbs up!

I met Tantiyana, one of the Fat is Fab committee on Facebook one day; we chatted and she told me all about FIF Plus Bazaar, and after getting to know in depth about the event, I volunteered to feature them on the blog as part of my support them.

I myself do not have a skinny or thin figure. I have my own personal experience on getting remarks about my weight, whether it is by my own relatives or friends. I didn't support the event because I have grudges against slim girls; I supported the event because I wanted to let my female readers, all around the world, all ages and races, all body sizes, that you don't need to have a perfect pin-up model figure to be a true woman. Being a woman is about embracing your inner strength, inner creativity and the female within you that makes you, YOU!

Read on to know more about the plus size community, on how you can show your support and learn how these 3 beautiful witty women stand in the forefront to empower men and women all sizes. Let's hear what they have to say:

·        Hi girls! Congrats on your first event, the FIF (Fat is Fab) Plus Bazaar 2014. Share with us how you feel about it:
     Merl: I am just so happy that our first event was not only successful but our vendors made good money! hahahah... and seeing the smiles on the faces of our vendors and their customers is just priceless. And having all these girls coming up to us thanking us, congratulating us and wanting to take picture with us... it’s just WOW! I don’t know about Yana and Viv, but I felt like a Rock Star!
     Yana: Ya... Oh My God! To say I am extremely happy is an understatement. Honestly, I am in shock! I didn’t expect this overwhelming response. I am also humbled by the response and feedback from not only the vendors but the customers as well. The level of appreciation and admiration from them was like none other. I have no idea the effect was that deep! I am extremely happy we get to do this for them. We already have people buzzing us asking when our next bazaar is! Hahaha...
     Vivien:  It’s a WOW factor for me.  Being able to kick start for the first time just simply ROCKs. The vendors were all awesome with their good collections of clothes.  Most importantly, they are there not just to make money but being able to ‘feel’ the needs of the community and being very cooperative to each other.  That is just exhilarating.

·         It was definitely a remarkable experience at the event. Any life lessons learned in the midst of planning and execution?
     Merl: The three of us learn a valuable lesson: We can’t do it all. We need extra hands in the future so that we can actually have the time to mingle around and getting to know not only the vendors but also visitors that came to our event.
     Yana: We also learn and embrace not only our own strength and weaknesses, but each other’s. And we notice that even though we are three very different women personality wise, but we complement each other well. I think that’s the main reason why the event went extremely well.

·         Tell us more about Fat is Fab and the story on how it was founded:
     Yana: Well Shia, FIF started by 2 gentlemen that was outraged by how society and the media's definition of beauty. They are Aaron Foo and Zeldon... They started by giving free photoshoot and open it to plus size people of all background, race and religion. From there, they realize that the photoshoot combined with the gathering of likeminded individuals, made those beautiful people's self-esteem and confidence increased tremendously and are happier! Including myself! Then we start to realise we can’t stop at just taking photos. We have to help other that’s still struggling with body image issues.

·         What is Fat is Fab’s objective and how do you plan to bring it to a higher level?
     Vivien: The objective of FIF is to create awareness and acceptance to the public that the plus size community should not be labeled as a second class group. The angle that we are trying to approach is first on the individual itself.
     Yana: Ya, that’s right, Viv. Plus size people have feelings too, you know. Hahaha... Like everybody else, we too do not liked to be judged or discriminated by just our size. And we want to expand our focus to not only plus size problems but all body image issues as well.

·         Is Fat is Fab only targeted to women? How do you think this community can benefit plus size individuals?
     Yana: Oh no, definitely not. FIF is open to all individuals.
     Vivien: Ya, we are looking to equalize the participation of gender in FIF, but at the moment, we receive mostly response from women.  Of course we are planning to attract the male gender to participate in.  Definitely there are many benefits that can be attained from FIF group community and it’s mainly from personal aspect, i.e. acceptance of themselves by instilling or increasing their self-confidence. Aspects to address are dressing well for your body type, to look good, to smell good & etc. In short, look great and at the same time comfortable in your own skin. This would indirectly, eliminate a person's psychological and emotional disturbances. This would be a tough and an ongoing journey for many. Hence, FIF is ready to help and support on how to overcome the challenges.

·         After the first FIF Plus Bazaar 2014, I can tell it has received tremendous feedbacks! For your future events, what sort of support, collaboration or sponsorship you are looking for to kick start the next awesome event? How do you think the creative community (arts, crafts, fashion, food, lifestyle, etc.) can contribute their part in Fat is Fab?
     Yana: Oh yes, the feedback was beyond my expectations! It’s a humbling feeling to know that you can have that much effect on someone's life. Well, we definitely need to ensure that these events are continuous for a long time. Therefore, we need sponsors and volunteers to help us expand and reach more people. Example of sponsors needed such as sponsorship of clothes and accessories for our Miss Phab contestants from let’s say, an established fashion house or mogul. Or even a caring generous company or individual that’s willing to support our marketing and promotions campaign costs so that it is able to reach to a bigger audience. We also welcome any interested parties from any field to join us to add dimensions and variety to our events.

·         During the FIF Plus Bazaar 2014, there was also a Miss Phab 2014 pageantry. Do share how can the pageantry helped individuals and what sort of message can it deliver to individuals of all sizes?
     Vivien: Miss Phab is not a beauty pageant. It is a personality competition which the focus is to enhance the participants own personalities and uplift their confidence level. These two aspects may be simple yet it is fundamental to promote the beauty within. Most importantly, we want the girls to have fun!

·         As individuals, we all have our own fair share of experiences, good or bad. What are the challenges that you have faced as beautiful plus size women?
     Vivien: There would be series of occasions, but I would remember only the good ones JThere would not be any bad ones, once I have accepted the fact that I am big. We can’t please everyone.
     Yana: Ya, I realize for quite some time that you can never please anyone but yourself. And that’s most important. Of course I do get teased and been given lectures on 'being healthy' (for them is totally based on size, instead of actual health!) from family members and acquaintances, but to quote my late father: 'Everyone has an opinion about everything! If you start listening to everyone, how do form your own?’  Oh and one more thing. I was a little frustrated in the past finding cool and nice clothes in my size! Well, don’t have that problem now because of Plus Bazaar! Hahaha... 

·         How did you overcome these challenges?
     Vivien:  I see the challenges faced by most of the plus community in a positive manner.  If I have accepted myself as a plus community. I don’t treat this as challenges.
     Yana: For me, I just surround myself with people that knows and loves me for who I am, not how I look like. Even though the numbers maybe small, but they are quality ones.  And that’s all that matters.

·         In your opinion, what sort of knowledge do you think society’s lacks about plus sizes, and why do you think society behave the way they do towards plus size individuals?
Yana: To me it’s not about knowledge per say, its more about embracing diversity. It’s respecting each other’s differences, its empathizing challenges faced and accepting all flaws and imperfections. There is no one standard mould to define beauty, as what media tends to promote, over and over again. Hence, the society takes the lead from the media and start to judge and act nastily towards those who do not fit that mould. So to me, conditioning and mind set is the root of the problem. That’s why FIF plan to break that mould and open the eyes of the society, media included.

·         In your opinion what can Malaysians do to advocate our own nation to stop plus size discrimination? What are the activities or actions should be taken to spread this awareness or support this movement?
  Yana: In my opinion, there are so many ways for us to do to advocate against discrimination, not     only among plus sizers but in general. And because there are many, many ways, no one dare or       have the resources to do anything. That’s why FIF decided to get the ball rolling with plus size       discrimination issue. We are hoping that with our awareness campaign, the community would take   heed and take this issue and body image issues in general, more seriously. And in time, we hope       the numbers of voices would be enough to have the attention of the relevant authorities. For us, a   great start would be to reach to our impressionable children. That is the stage where characters       and view of life is being formed. Well, that is the goal, we hope and will definitely do our best to     achieve that.

·         Most people don’t realize that the things that we do in life, or how we go about our lives, have a lot to do with the idea of cause & effect.  Perhaps society’s lack of knowledge in showing their care & support, has led them to behave inappropriately towards the plus size community. There are also violent and abusive cases, such as indecent remarks, bullying, etc. In your opinion, how do you think these acts can affect plus size individuals, or what sort of damages it can do to them?
     Merl: I am thankful that growing up I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. I won’t lie that some of my distant relative do sneer and make fun of my size but I couldn’t care less because I don’t see them all the time. hahahah... But I've seen the damages it does to them, they will have low self-esteem, they are depressed all the time and they have no confidence at all up to the point they hate to socialize and ended up being a loner.

·         What sort of effects, “ideas” or perceptions do you think media has conveyed to society about plus size individuals? And what do you think media can do to change this?
      Merl: Malaysian media likes to put pretty normal faces on TV (no discrimination here) but I think it’s about time we add more variety to the faces/sizes on TV. For example REBEL WILSON is the star of the sitcom Super Fun Night and she is a plus size, but in Malaysia the plus size actress will always act as the funny friend of the main actress. Even in the movies stars like Melissa McCarthy, Rosie O'Donell, Queen Latifah are given the leading role. But in Malaysia??? NO, and it’s so sad. Malaysia should have me on TV because I don’t look so bad and I know i can do so much better than the ones they have now... Hahahah...

·         Unfortunately, there will still always be that percentage group of people that will still make remarks or stereotypes such as “She shouldn’t be wearing that, look at her!” or “This job/profession doesn’t welcome people in that size” or “Why is that guy with her?! He’s good looking and she is the opposite of him!”; In your opinion, do you think plus size individuals should miss out on any goodness in life just because of their diverse body size/weight? Share your views on women of diverse body size is no different from any other women.
Yana: Oh dear God, no! In fact i strongly suggest that not just plus sizers, but everyone to embrace and accept their so called 'flaws' or 'shortcomings' and strut them proudly for everyone to see. Just to prove a point that the society may have their opinions, and no doubt they are entitled to it, but we too have the right to be ourselves and entitled to our own opinions and taste, like everybody else. I know this is hard to do, but my advice is to take small steps, one day at a time. Example, start by a makeover! Go shopping, redo your hair style! Something that you want to do all these while but had reservations due to it being 'inappropriate' in society’s eyes. Do what you want to do. And trust me, after doing that, you will feel a great sense of relief, of at last being free. Yes, free. There's no words that could do justice to describe that feeling. So, stop hesitating, and seize the day! hehe.. 

·         We have often heard all kinds of personal stories from individuals, majority females young and older, that they have to endure challenges. What sort of advice do you have for women, especially the younger generation who are currently going through puberty or finding their individual selves?
Yana: Well, to be absolutely happy in your own skin, able to truly be yourself, you have to know and accept who you are and be confident about it. But trust me, the journey to self-confidence and self-realization is a treacherous one. Just stay strong, surround yourself with people that sincerely loves and supports you and wants nothing but the best for you.

·         Finally, what can plus size men and women do to love themselves, besides resorting to matter?
     Merl: For me before others can love and accept you, you must first love and accept yourselves. It’s not going to be easy but you must give it a try. List down things that make you feel good about yourself and focus on it and surround yourself with loving and supportive people.
     Yana: That’s so true, Merl. Chill, enjoy life as it comes. Just remember, you can’t control anything in this world, except yourself. You can control how you feel, react and who you surround yourself with. In time you would be able to see that there are bigger and more important things to think and do. Life is too short to waste time by caring what others think, especially those who do not matter. 'Do and say what you want cause those who mind don’t matter and those that matter won’t mind' to quote my darling husband.  

Thank you very much Tantiyana, Merl and Vivien for your time in sharing your thoughts and enlightening message with us! You girls are amazing! As I have said this before, you are all true earth goddesses and an inspiration to all women.

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