International plus-sized contest in Beijing helps women show that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-26 20:18:01

Sharon Chapepa from Zimbabwe gives a dance performance during the talent section of the Miss Plus Size Beijing competition on Sunday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

The temperature at the Beijing Marriott Hotel Northeast Sunday night rivaled that of Beijing's on its hottest day, when 13 full-figured stunners from different countries, including the US, Russia, China and Zimbabwe showed off their curvaceous shapes.

The ladies strutted their stuff, full of sex appeal, confidence and charm in front of a room filled with a mixed audience of over 500 expats and local Chinese who gave spontaneous and uproarious applause.

"I like the one from India better because she is more elegant. But I think the lady next to her will be the champion tonight because she looks more sexy and knows how to perform better on the stage," said Napoleon Biggs from Spain to his friends, clapping excitedly.

"I've never been to such a unique event where so many big ladies get together. [They] all look gorgeous and confident," he said. 

The occasion was the second staging of the Miss Plus Size International Beijing, a beauty contest that features women who wear size 14 or above clothing. The aim of the event, according to the organizers and participants, is to tell the world that beauty is more than just a number on a scale. It is diversified, and plus-size women are beautiful too.

Na Yuan, the Chinese partner of the event and vice chairwoman of the Commonwealth Society of Beijing, an NGO that works to promote the development of women and children in China, said the competition grew out of a need to provide plus-sized women with positive role models that look like them.

A picture of confidence, Krisia Delgado from Cape Verde struts her stuff on stage at the event on Sunday. Photo: Li Hao/GT


Plus-sized beauties smile for the camera while waiting for their turn on stage. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Ending the stigma

The event is divided in to four segments. The ladies get to show their beauty in evening gowns, casual wear, and business attire, and their intelligence and talent in the talent section.

"As a plus-sized woman myself and according to my years of observation, I saw that many plus-sized ladies around the world, especially in China, were being discriminated against and feel unhappy about themselves. Some even suffer from depression," said Na. 

Na said the first staging of the event was meant to be a wake-up call and that the message was well received, both by the target demographic - the women -  and by the wider society.

"This year, more plus-sized women are motivated and actively want to participate in the pageant," she said. "We received more than 70 requests from plus-sized women compared with 50 last year, and we have more than 500 guests this year compared to 400 last year." 

Speaking to Metropolitan during the show, Biggs said one of the biggest reasons for discrimination against plus-sized women is the notion of the ideal body type promoted in ads.

"Everybody looks so skinny, and people get brainwashed into thinking everyone should look like that, but that's not real and natural," he said. "I believe events like this one will make people realize that people are not built in the same size, and help end the stigma."

Carmenita Solaese from Samoa does a dance during the talent section of the pageant. Photo: Li Hao/GT


Lilian Miyoko from the US shows off her casual wear. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Being plus-sized in China

The reason they decided to stage the pageant in China is because it's even more difficult being plus-sized in China, said Samantha Sibanda, from Zimbabwe, the founder of the event, and the Appreciate Africa Network.

One reason, Sibanda believes, is that compared to foreigners, most Chinese people are relatively small.

Shared some of the uncomfortable experiences she had in Beijing as an example, Sibanda said there is often precious little tolerance for plus-sized people in the metropolis.

"The most embarrassing experience I have had to date was when I went shopping in a [clothing] market in China. The seller took the underwear and stretched it in front of me to show me they had my size."

Jana Li, one of the two Chinese contestants in the event and Miss Plus Size Beijing 2016, has also been treated unfairly because she is plus-sized. The principal of an international dance studio, Li has on more than one occasion been discriminated against both as a teacher and a performer. People automatically assume that she can't dance.

But it has only strengthened her resolve to prove them wrong. When Li heard about the competition, she immediately called the organizers and said she wanted to participate. "I had to be in this event to show that big people are beautiful, and we can be amazing dancers too."   

Most Chinese prefer a slim figure if their recent behavior in social media is anything to go by. One of them, the A4 waist, saw Chinese women taking a photo of themselves showing their waist covered by a sheet of A4 paper. Another, the iPhone6 leg contest, saw women covering their knees with an iPhone6 to show that they have skinny legs.

As for the trends, a Sydney Morning Herald report in March said that although Western countries also has the worrying beauty trends, like the bikini bridge and the thigh gap, the A4 waist trend in China promotes extreme skinniness.

The report said that despite growing obesity rates in China, the average waist circumference of a woman is 71 centimeters. This is in contrast to the average Australian woman's 87.7 centimeters waist measurement. To pass the A4 waist test, a woman should have a waist circumference of 63 centimeters. (The smallest dress size in the US is typically zero, which fits a 64-centimeter waist).

More than appearance

Biggs thinks the event has the potential to delve deeper. He said a greater emphasis should be placed on the women's achievements and the role they play as successful women in society.

"If you look at China, a lot of successful Chinese women have done many things but they don't look like super models; their achievements matter," he said. "I am hoping this event will have more segments that show who the contestants are, what they do and what they plan to do to change the world, instead of just showing their figure and dress like now."

Na said she plans to continue to host the pageant next year and expects the next staging will be bigger.

"Only when our event is no longer considered a novelty by the public and people no longer look at plus-sized people with mixed feelings of admiration and shock, will I be able to say that this event has served its goals."

Newspaper headline: Big ladies rock!

Posted in: Metro Beijing

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