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I’m Not a Skinny Asian Girl
I was born in Sydney, Australia and stayed there until I was nine years old. After that, I moved to California, which until recently I called home. My mother is a Chinese woman from Singapore and my father is a Chinese man from Myanmar, so I am an oriental who grew up with a western ideal.
Living so close to Hollywood, I do feel the effects of trying to get the perfect body. When I was very young, magazines, TV, and movies told me that being thin was beautiful; anything else was disgusting.
As a kid and a teenager, I was skinny, eating tons of pizza, chips, and candy while staying lean. I never weighed, never dieted, and never thought about my weight. By the time I was 17, I was 5’6″ and 120 pounds. People would always say, “You’re so skinny! It must be because you’re Asian.” My biggest body issue at the time was dissatisfaction with my small boobs.
After high school, in my mid-twenties, I put on about 15 pounds. I ate the same as before, so I knew it wasn’t the dreaded “Freshman 15” that people ate in college. My metabolism is just getting started. My friend is on the Atkins diet so I jumped on the bandwagon myself. It works well. I lost weight and got down to my high school height.
When I was 21, I tried acting. Every time I audition, I notice that the girls there are slender, they look much smaller than me, and even the non-Asians look thinner. I lost weight after Atkins, so being in the “business” put me on a diet again. I try not to eat too much and go for a jog. This worked too, I regained my “skinny” figure, but I was starving. I feel hungry all the time, and I get headaches all the time.
I eventually gave up acting for spiritual reasons, not because it was hard, but because I felt like it was taking me away from God. So after I restricted my diet, I went crazy. I overeat all things fat and sugar. I ballooned to about 155 lbs, the heaviest I’ve ever been. I stopped hearing that I was skinny and had fewer and fewer good-looking strangers looking at me. I’m not fat, but I’m definitely heavier. One of my closest boyfriends at the time told me I was “not as attractive as I used to be”. Needless to say, we’re not that close anymore, but what he said got me thinking about my weight. My dad would comment on how fat I was getting, and that hurt me the most. Once I went to a friend’s house and he went out to talk to his girlfriend for a few minutes. He left me alone with his brother and friends whom I had known for years but not close. They started making fun of my appearance, asking if I was “stocking up for the winter”. This is the lowest feeling in my life. I find it ugly.
I ended up losing 10 lbs so now I weigh 145. Sometimes, I can go down to 141, sometimes I can go up to 148, but I pretty much stay in that range, and have been like that for about five years now. I no longer get commented on my weight, I think my body is a pretty average size for an American.
The only Asian countries I’ve been to are Singapore and Malaysia, which is where I’m currently living temporarily. When I first visited these places as an adult, I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb. I’m taller and fatter than most of the girls out there. When I try on clothes, I’m a queen size or a king size. I have thighs and a big ass. While this J.Lo figure might be popular in America, it’s not here. Chinese girls are expected to be petite and slim. Well, you might say, “Jackie, how do you know it’s not just in your head?” I know, because almost every relative I have here (about 12 uncles and aunts and 14 cousins) has told me I am “too big”. Too big for Asia, the land of “skinny Asian girls”. I’ve seen some older girls here, but they’re rare.
Last night, I was advised to lose weight in order to “fit in” and be more successful in my TV production job here. This is quite an insult to me, I was down to 141 before I got here and stayed there and I’m very happy about it. Also, what does my weight have to do with job performance? I was told that if I was thinner, I would look more like them and be more accepted and respected. I gladly took the advice I was given, but said I was happy with my body. If I lose weight, that’s fine, and if I don’t, I don’t cry myself to sleep.
I may come across as confident in my body, but there are many times when I look in the mirror and feel repelled myself.
A friend of mine in Australia, whom I managed to keep in touch with for over 16 years, threw a tantrum at me for my poor body image when I went there last year. I have a saying that many of my female peers in America have said; “I’m fat!” Say it casually while trying on clothes, or while eating a handful of greasy chips. I didn’t even realize how often I used this phrase. It’s just something I say, it doesn’t mean I think I’m fat, maybe, subconsciously, I feel that if I say it to myself, I don’t have to listen to it. My friend told me about magazines in Australia trying to recreate women’s body images. They have women of all shapes and sizes on their covers. Even my friend, a happy buxom Australian, was photographed in the pages of Vogue Australia in lingerie. I’m so proud that she takes pride in how she looks.
I really wanted to write about this issue, not just as an Asian woman, but as a woman in general. We are constantly bombarded with images that tell us we need to look this way or that. We all buy it. As a larger Asian woman, I feel that other larger Asian women (meaning those who are not a minus 14) feel more pressure to lose weight than the average woman. Every race has its stereotypes. White people can’t dance. White people can’t dance. Black people are thugs. All blacks are basketball players. Asians can’t drive. All Asians are skinny. Well, I beg to differ, and I’m sure many of you disagree too. Justin Timberlake is a white guy with extraordinary dancing ability. Larry Bird is a white guy who can dance. Barack Obama (’08 US Presidential Candidate) was a black man far from the mob. And I, Jackqueline Lou, am not a skinny Asian.
I am fine.
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