Beauty “challenges” have long been circulating on Chinese social media, which dare women to go to extreme lengths to be considered “beautiful”. Remember the A4 waist size? How about the iPhone 6 knee? Have you seen the makeup removal challenge yet?
These bizarre trends in China come at a time when many in the fashion industry are trying to break with preconceived notions about beauty and health. In the UK, for example, there are fashion shows and magazine covers that have featured plus-size models.
This concept of celebrating diversity in beauty is about to be celebrated in Beijing, in the form of Miss Plus Size Global, taking place on the weekend of November 9-10 (Friday and Saturday). We caught up with the pageant founder, Samantha Sibanda, to learn more about their preparations for the big event.
beijingkids: We understand that this is the fourth edition of Miss Plus Size Global. Could you tell us more about what’s new and different in this year’s pageant?
Sibanda: Miss Plus Size Global is a competition where plus size women and their admirers can come together to celebrate the beauty of size in a non-judgmental environment, and show that some of us do actually appreciate our curves! The pageant aims to evoke and foster confidence, self-love, and presence to those women with low self-esteem due to their weight and societal standards of beauty.
Since 2015, we have been having only a day event, but this year we decided to break it up into two events, bringing the first-ever Plus Size Concert, showcasing the talent of our plus-size ladies. All performers will be plus-size, even including contestants from our previous competitions. In addition to that, we’ve invited 4ThirtyTwo, a Curvy Girl dance squad from North Carolina, to perform in both events. They are a plus-size dance group.
What’s the big story behind the pageant?
Back in my country, I used to get invited to speak in women’s conferences about fashion/beauty and self-love and most of the time, I realized there was a group of women who will always feel they were not good enough or they could not follow any fashion trends because they were plus size. Some of them would dress in baggy clothes just to cover their curves and ridges; others will dress like men. Some even went on to say or believe it was hard to even go on a date. I then started to have an interest in helping this group of ladies, so I created a group called Big Sisters Club where we would have meetings and share beauty tips.
Then one day, we thought of designing our own clothes, since most shops didn’t have our sizes. We actually had our first batch of clothes manufactured here in China. When the clothes came, my hairdresser was the one who then suggested: “Why not do a pageant, then have the ladies wear these clothes?” I wasn’t sure we could do it, as none of them was a model, so I joined in as well as a contestant, and that was the first plus-size pageant I organized and held. I called it Miss Big Is Beautiful, held in 2003 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
When I moved to China in 2009, I saw the same trend and decided to continue, but I struggled to get women who were willing to do it because of how a plus size is viewed here in China. Each year I advertised, but never got any women. I only managed to get interested women in 2015, and I hosted the first Miss Plus Size International Beijing at the Landmark Hotel; and each year since 2015, Miss Plus Size has become a yearly event.
We heard that there are 12 curvy candidates! Where are they from and why did they join this competition?
The contestants come from Botswana, Cameroon, China, Georgia, Namibia, the Philippines, Samoa, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. Most of them joined to celebrate the beauty of being a plus-size woman, and they want to show how confident and proud they are of being plus size. During the concert on November 9, some of them will sing, dance, and recite poetry.
Beauty pageants and the fashion industry have long centered around certain standards or requirements. And that’s even more the case in China, because of recent social media trends that promote extreme skinniness. So what message does Miss Plus Size International want to send to the international community in Beijing?
There are lots of stereotypes that people have about plus-size women. Some think being plus-size means you eat a lot, that you’re very lazy, unhealthy, and ugly. We, as Miss Plus Size Global, want to let the world know that it is possible to be plus size, intelligent, beautiful, and you can rock any outfit and look amazing in it.
What’s the plan for future editions of the pageant?
As you can see from the name Miss Plus Size Global, the plan is to actually spread it first in cities in China, then winners from different cities will come together for a national competition. After the national competition, we go to Miss Plus Size Global Asia, then we do Miss Plus Size Global which will be the world competition of all Miss Plus Size editions. We already have Miss Plus Size Africa in place. So we would like to take this time to solicit for partnerships from different stakeholders to make this happen.
Ms. Plus Size International Beijing: Plus-Size Concert and Pageant, Nov 9-10
Adults. RMB 500 (concert and pageant), RMB 220 (concert only), RMB 380 (pageant). 7.30pm. Beijing Marriott Hotel Northeast. (151 0151 7496)
Photos: Courtesy of Samantha Sibanda and Miss Plus Size Global