(Photo courtesy of Joyce Cheng Yan-yee)
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Say no to body-shaming. How is the city embracing body positivity?

By Kassandra Lai

The daughter of the late Hong Kong comedian Lydia Sun, Joyce Cheng Yan-yee is the best person to tell the city to stop fat-shaming and embrace body confidence.

From TV drama featuring skinny artists to advertisement selling slimming pills, thinness is overwhelmingly idolised in the media. Cheng thinks that the media has a strong negative influence on body image. 

“The way that people use models, actors and entertainers in the media is still very cookie-cutter. There is still a certain image that you must fit. If a person is constantly bombarded by this certain type of body, it is easy to feel bad with your own flaws,” the singer says.  

Under enormous social pressure, the now 33-year-old singer-actress, who possesses a considerably larger figure, went through a time in her life that she tried to lose weight to conform to the social norm. 

“It felt really crappy because no matter what I did, even though I had lost, at that time, close to 100 pounds, my calves were still too big. My torso was still too long.  My thighs were still too muscular… like I could never fit that ideal body type, that ideal look,” Cheung recalls. 

“Whenever I lose weight, my face slims down first. And people would say I look like an alien and my nose looks even bigger. It got to a point that I only see my own flaws and I wasn’t appreciating the accomplishment that I had already made,” she says. 

In 2014, Cheng published a post on her Facebook account, announcing that she would no longer lose weight, but to start leading a healthy life instead. The post went viral on the internet and she received many positive comments and support. 

Cheng’s beloved friends’ support helped her overcome fat shaming.

“I am very loved and supported by friends who don’t care about how I look and what I do. We just never put each other down. Because of them, I know that even though I am fat, I am actually a pretty good human being,”  she says. 

“If you hold on to these negative comments, hold on to these critiques, you are unable to live your life fully and be the bright person you’re meant to be.”

Throughout the years, Cheng has also learnt how to deal with criticisms.

“I have been in the game since the very early on in my life. And I have learnt that if you hold on to these negative comments, hold on to these critiques, you are unable to live your life fully and be the bright person you’re meant to be,” she says. 

With the hope to empower women and create a positive impact in  society, Cheng released two Canto pop songs, Slim Enough?! (《你瘦夠了嗎?》) and Goddess (《女神》) in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Both songs are considered as inspiration for encouraging self-love and body positivity. 

“I would never allow someone to speak poorly of my best friends, so why would I allow myself to say mean things to myself in the mirror?” she says.

“I always believe that we are our own harshest critics. I personally need to hear  messages in these songs as much as I want to put these messages out to the world,” she adds.  

(Photo courtesy of Joyce Cheng Yan-yee)

“Confidence should not come from anyone else, but from yourself. “

Apart from creating songs, Joyce has also started a YouTube channel, Joyce is Moist, where she  shares videos about fashion, beauty and sports. 

“Through this channel I want to deliver a message that it is okay to be not okay. Personally, doing makeup, styling my hair, putting a cute outfit together make me feel good about myself. Confidence should not come from anyone else, but from yourself. I think there are ways to make yourself feel more confident, to trick yourself into feeling more confident, until you have achieved that self-assurance,” she says.

Cheng’s mission to  promote body positivity in the city is shared by Makayla Ng, who founded a plus-size fashion brand, Fashion Corner Plus (FCPlus) in 2014, aiming to provide comfortable clothes for girls of every size.

“I started FCPlus because I couldn’t find any best fit or stylish clothes when I was a teenager,” Ng recalls.

“Most stores in the city only sell items with limited choice of size. The society seems to have deprived plus-size girls of the right to be fashionable,” she says. 

Wearing size 3XL herself, the shop owner sells clothing ranging from size L to 8XL. As the designer of the brand, Ng says her design aims to break all restrictions.

“There is no ‘should or shouldn’t’. Just choose what you love or hate!” To me, being confident and loving yourself is the key to beauty,” she says.

Plus size fashion (Photo courtesy of Makayla Ng)

Ng recalls one of the unforgettable moments she had with her customers. 

“A customer who looked very shy at first chose some clothes at my store and tried them on in a fitting room. She was totally amazed when came out from a fitting room exclaiming:, ‘Wow! I never knew I could carry these types of clothes and styles. I look so good and different in them!’” Ng says.  

The founder of the shop says she feels happy and fulfilled when she sees her customers being confident wearing her designs. 

To those who are still struggling with their body shape or think they are ‘imperfect’, the shop owner would like to tell them: “There are different kinds of beauty standards around the world. We don’t have to change ourselves for others. Our faces and body shapes do not define who we are. Most importantly, I think true beauty comes from within.” 

Echoing Ng’s thoughts, Cheng thinks beauty is a quality that everyone has.

“We are beautiful in our own way. And if we are able to recognise the unique beauty in ourselves and others, the world becomes a more beautiful place,” she says.

To Cheng, self-love is an endless journey.

“Taking the time to love yourself and to accept yourself is a lifelong homework and project that you must continuously put in the time and effort to do. But trust me, if you are willing to work on it, you’ll thank me later hahaha,” the singer says with a hearty laugh. 

Edited by Lasley Lui & Regina Chen