Growing up, Deng Deng’s chubby figure was always a source of agony for her. She spent 10 years trying to slim down, but she never was able to hit her goal weight. Last year she became a plus size model in Hangzhou, and the 24-year-old is embracing her body shape for the first time in her life.
News headlines in Chinese media always include the fact that this girl from Wenzhou is reportedly taking in an enviable monthly income of 50,000 yuan. This is partly thanks to the advertising power she wields over her almost 200,000 followers on social media.
Deng Deng works for a clothing store on the e-commerce site Taobao. The brand is based in Hangzhou and has the English name of Be Yourself. Its specializes in plus size fashion for young women. Looking at a modestly priced long sleeve red summer dress on its Taobao page, sizes range from XL to 5XL.
Be Yourself says its revenue exceed 100 million last year, and the goal is to reach 150 million yuan this year. The growth of the plus size clothing industry generates demand for plus size models, which also includes male models. Now, models like Deng Deng who are beautiful and positive in turn help promote the products.
The growing presence of plus size models in China since 2017 is seen as expanding the definition of beauty, but many restrictions still apply.
Having a pretty face is a must for plus size models. They also need to be curvy and well proportioned. In fact, Deng Deng didn’t meet the standard the first time she auditioned. Her calves were too wide even for plus size models. She managed to cut carbs from her diet and passed the interview 2 months later.
Almost all models start as live streaming anchors on Taobao. Trying on different clothes that in order to promote them, then the models talk to viewers about sizes and the clothes in general. The process is similar to the one of a TV shopping channel, but with constant interaction between the anchor and viewers who can pose questions that appear on screen in real time. Links to the product pages appear on the screen as well, making purchase easy for tempted customers. Deng Deng also uses other social platforms such as TikTok to record short videos that are more entertaining than sales pitches. Fans who appreciate her personality might be curious enough to eventually check out the Taobao store. Deng Deng says her viewers have purchased over 10 thousand pieces of items from the store.
While some models refer to themselves strictly as plus size models, Deng Deng calls herself a chubby model, a term that is more colloquial. She has become a lot more confident about her body since she started this job. She and her colleagues all weigh around 75kg (160 pounds); they make each other feel normal and at home. The store owner buys carts of snacks for the models. He wants to keep the girls happy and heavy.
Despite all the attention and glamour, the job entails, mean and nasty comments are also a fixture. Deng Deng says she can handle the criticism because it’s nothing new for her. She had a sister who is very slim, and everyone always compared her with her sister, saying the sister is better looking. Her father once called her a pig, and her mother offered her money rewards if she could lose weight.
“I don’t want people to tell me that ‘oh you must be a beautiful girl if you lose the weight,’” Deng Deng said in an interview. “I want them to just say ‘oh you’re so pretty.’”
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily