In Anthropology 285 class, we discussed various standards of beauty among different cultures. We shook our heads at how lotus feet made ancient Chinese women radiant, ready for marriage, dependent on their spouses and possess tightened vaginal muscles for their husbands' pleasure. My heart still cries over the African girls who had neck braces and/or female genitalia mutilation at such a young age for dowry. And there's lip plates being done in Africa and Brazil, among others. Back then, I often exchanged gasps and concerned looks with my usual seatmate, Jo-anne Domingo. We were, and still, grateful we never had to endure any of those excruciating pain. However, we are aware that, with our body size, we are also in the battlefield in terms of self-acceptance and worldwide standards of beauty. We never really tackled our personal journeys about it until now.
Lornadahl: Which celebrities serve as your style icons?
Jo-anne: Actually, I really don’t follow celebrities’ fashion sense. For me, in order to get that look, you have to spend a lot!
Lornadahl: How would you describe the role of Mercedes Jones?
Jo-anne: To describe Amber Riley's character, Mercedes, she's got the talent, yet she's too hesitant to grab the limelight. Which is kind of my attitude sometimes. For that, I look up to her. I would give up the limelight for someone who's already a star. I'd rather be in the background than be up front, or maybe failing in the end.
Lornadahl: Tell me more! I might be the only person on earth who hasn't watched Glee. Pathetic, no?
Jo-anne: Well, she was represented as the Diva, who has the highest voice and can belt out anything. There was this one episode where she had the chance to join the Cheerios (cheerleading team) where Sue, their head, forces her to lose weight. In the end, she surpassed it, and even sang the song, "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera at their pep rally.
Men pursued her. One was with Puck, the womanizing bad boy in the group. She pursued her only because she's getting more popular than him, and he needs a way to get back in the limelight. Recently, there came Sam, the newbie-Justin Bieber-look-a-like who developed feelings for her after their prom and the finale.
Her relationships with other people involved her best friend, Kurt, the openly gay character in the group. Their relationship started as a crush, since Mercedes thought Kurt was straight. She even was jealous of Rachel, whom she taught was Kurt's love, but unfortunately, it was Finn pala, who turned out later to be his half-brother, since their parents got married. When Kurt admitted to Mercedes that he was gay, their friendship started.
While her relationship with Rachel, the star, wasn't really good at the start. They were really fighting over who's supposed to get the limelight. Sue even attempted to make them fight at a sing-off, but eventually, they had fun, and were laughing and praising each other in the end. So far, those were the only close relationships she had with other people in the group.
Lornadahl: Do you find her character realistic or well-written? Would you want her written in other way?
Jo-anne: Yeah, I find her character realistic naman. Syempre she has to be the "good" guy, although, no one in the club has given any comment on how she looked. It's only Rachel who got all those pangungutya from her club members.
Lornadahl: How hard is it to get clothes that fit you? Any particular body part that makes shopping extra challenging?
Jo-anne: I really have problems fitting into some shirts. Sometimes, the L for women’s sizes don’t fit me. And of course the jeans. Sometimes I get the right waist size, but it doesn’t fit my thighs.
Lornadahl: Where do you usually buy your jeans, then?
Jo-anne: Usually in stores or tiangge, but it takes me a long time to find the size that fits me.
Lornadahl: What's the best fashion accessory for big women?
Jo-anne: I prefer nice long necklaces with pendants and big chandelier earrings. And maybe couple it up with bangles and big rings as well.
Lornadahl: If you were to endorse a local clothing for big women, what would it be and why?
Jo-anne: Maybe it could be a store wherein there’s all the latest styles of clothing, in their big sizes. Stores are only limited in L or XL only, specially in formal dresses.
Lornadahl: Stores or boutiques such as?
Jo-anne: Mostly department stores and tiangges.
Lornadahl: When you pick up a magazine or watch T.V., do you see bodies that look like yours that aren’t being desexualized, or used to signify laziness, ignorance, or lack of self-control?
Jo-anne: Yes, of course. I’m actually happy nga that there are celebrities who are bigger than me and they managed to make it through the big screen with no qualms.
Lornadahl: How do you deal with I'm-so-fat-and/or-ugly days?
Jo-anne: Sometimes I wear big blouses that can hide my bulges.
Lornadahl: Do you think a great number of Pinoy men appreciate big girls?
Jo-anne: Sad to say, there are only a handful of Pinoy men who are into big girls. It’s a pity, really.
Lornadahl: If you were to appear on a billboard or magazine cover, how would you look like?
Jo-anne: Model of a clothing line for bigger sizes, with air blowing in my curly hair. Winner!
Lornadahl: What's the secret behind your self-confidence and body acceptance?
Jo-anne: There’s no secret really. I’ve just accepted who I am, and the people around me accepted me as well.
Lornadahl: For most people, including myself, acceptance took a long while. Tell us how your journey went. Any defining moment, any influential person in your life that made it happen?
Jo-anne: None actually, I'm still in the process of accepting myself. I'm not sure if I like what i see in the mirror.
Lornadahl: It's a journey, mare. I sometimes have self-loathing episodes, too. What matters is that we rise above it and face the world with a huge smile. And you always manage to do that!
Lornadahl: What is beautiful about being big?
Jo-anne: Well, I can say that being big can give you curves, and somewhat strength. In our house, would you believe that I can lift and change a 5-gallon water in our dispenser by myself?
Lornadahl: Photos or it didn't happen!
Jo-anne: Naku, nakakahiya! Basta kaya ko sya!
Lornadahl: I'm still not convinced!
Lornadahl: How do you respond to the argument that obesity is unhealthy?
Jo-anne: Technically speaking, yes, I sometimes agree to that, because if you eat healthy food all along, then you cannot be obese.
Lornadahl: And sometimes you disagree. Why?
Jo-anne: Yup, kasi my notion of being unhealthy for obese people are those who are too lazy to walk. I have big friends who are energetic. They move a lot and love to eat!
Lornadahl: Do big people stink? Are you super conscious of how you smell?
Jo-anne: Actually they do. Fortunately for me, even if I don’t put on any perfume or cologne, I’m happy to say that I don’t stink.
Lornadahl: Do you worry that when you talk about feeling of sexual attraction people are repelled or disgusted by the size of your body?
Lornadahl: So you keep your sexual fantasies and anything sex-related stuff to yourself? How sad.
Jo-anne: Yes, sad to say. I don't have anyone to share it with no!
Lornadahl: You can share 'em with me!
Lornadahl: Who's your bet among The Biggest Loser Pinoy Edition contestants? Why?
Jo-anne: Now that I'm watching it, my bet is Eboy! Cute nya kasi and he's the biggest. He needs all the help that he could get.
Lornadahl: Me, too! Read this entry.
Lornadahl: What do you say to people who say you’re addicted to food?
Jo-anne: I just shrug them off. Sometimes I tell them, “Kasi ako, may pambili. Ikaw, wala!” Panalo di ba?
Lornadahl: How do you feel if people stare at you? yell degrading stuff at you? Do you ever experience that?
Jo-anne: Actually I don’t hear them to my face. I know they say things behind my back. Luckily, I have friends who defend me from people like those.
Lornadahl: Do you ever confront people? What happens when you do?
Jo-anne: So far, I haven’t. But I know I should be. It’s just a matter of time, I think.
Lornadahl: What do fat people want to be called?
Jo-anne: Voluptuous and curvy!
Lornadahl: Does a big woman's self-appreciation and self-love root from the culture/environment she's accustomed to? What can you say about Filipinas and their self-appreciation?
Jo-anne: Yes, it contributes a lot. But if Pinays have their own self acceptance and appreciation, then, I applaud them. Only a few really embraces their own bodies, may it be plus size or fit. They are blinded on what “perfection” is as shown by the media, and they always make some modifications. Sadly, they can never be contented.
Lornadahl: You mentioned media. As the chief librarian for Summit Media, do you see any possibility that Cosmopolitan and their other magazines will follow the example of Vogue Italia's June issue that showcased plus size women on their cover?
Jo-anne: Yes, actually, nung August 2009, may article entitled, Cosmo Chicks Love their Bods were 6 women were brave enough to pose naked, and one of them is Coni Tejada, who is a full-figured woman and she loved every bit of it. Maybe this could be a start. Malay mo naman, di ba?
Lornadahl: Some big girls are unaware that they're beautiful and sexy. What would you tell them?
Jo-anne: Actually, I’m one of them. But for the sake of the others, I can tell them to embrace what God has given you, and don’t let anyone put you down. As Christina Aguilera’s song goes, “We are beautiful in every single way, yes, words can’t bring us down”.
But I really don’t give a damn on what others may think of me. I wear clothes that fit me, and I refuse to try hard. I wear make-up that is just right. But most of all, I bask in the compliments I get from friends of my friends telling me that I’m beautiful.