The Women of No Body Is Nobody 2.0
March 12, 2021
NEIWAI recently launched the second part of our ongoing No Body Is Nobody campaign in which we share the perspectives of real women on their bodies, their beauty, and their struggles with society’s beauty standards.
No Body Is Nobody has received critical acclaim for its strong emphasis on body positivity. Our goal: to show that all women are beautiful, not just in spite of their flaws but because of them. To be unique is to be beautiful.
These are their stories.
The name Vidya means ‘knowledge’ & ‘awareness’ in Sanskrit.
In the 1980’s, Vidya attended university in Sichuan. She was young, pretty, and independent; but most of all, she was open minded - even willing to be a nude model for artists at the school. “I’ve always loved and always been happy with my body.”
Later, she endured two difficult pregnancies. This taught her an even deeper appreciation for her body.
In 2009, Vidya gave up her life in Germany and came back home with her two children. She described it as “spinning out of the social machine.” Coming back, she refused to abide by traditional beauty standards, and her children grew up in a free-spirited environment because of that.
Now at age 55, she maintains a healthy & active lifestyle. “I still fully accept every part of my body and appearance.” We asked Vidya when she was happiest in life. She responded “Right now is paradise.”
The process of accepting one’s body isn’t easy. Sam confessed to us that her features, size among them, were a source of stress during adolescence.
Throughout her school years, others sometimes told Sam that she wasn’t beautiful. She often believed them. Her curves were always more pronounced than girls of the same age, and she knew she was different. When she told her mother about it, she laughed at first and said “You’ll be thanking me later.” She didn’t fully understand at the time, but her mother’s words were a relief.
Today, Sam loves to read, run, and spend time with friends. Now, her friends describe her as “sunny, positive, charming, and sexy.”
When asked how she feels about her body now, Sam said “I’m my own kind of woman.”
Ashamed? Shirley not.
As a professional dancer, Shirley (whose birth name means ‘Snow Lotus’) has an intimate understanding of her body and its aesthetics. In addition to her dance career, she’s helped to popularize both ballroom and voguing in China as the founder of VoguingShanghai.
People unaware of her story have remarked that her legs are “too thick and strong,” or tell her that she looks “like a bullfrog.” To them, only thin legs are attractive; Shirley takes these rude comments in stride, because she knows the strength she has and what she can do with it.
“I was born with a severe asymmetry between the left and right sides of my body. It’s much better now, and I can only tell if I look closely.” Since birth, Shirley’s relationship with her body has been put to the test. It’s been a long process of corrections, adjustments, and discipline, but her efforts have paid off. Now, she has masterful control over her body - and those who know her know just how strong she is, in body and spirit.
Nice to meet you, Shreni.
As a child in India, Shreni's elders encouraged her to eat more. They told her that her thin figure "would make others think she was from a poor family." Later in the United States, the script was flipped - lean was good, yet no one could compete with what they saw in fashion magazines.
These two influences contradicted each other, but both sought to pressure her & define what she should look like. Naturally, she felt lost.
Pregnancy is a new journey for the body, and the coexistence with another life has helped Shreni get in touch with herself and her body. "This may be the time when I love my body the most. I no longer care so much about how I look, just how I feel."
Since moving to Shanghai, Shreni's met many other amazing women who accept her as she is. "Their kindness & acceptance makes me feel at peace, more tolerant - I've never had friends like these, they make me feel like I'm part of something special."
It's Aki's game now!
Natural freckles. Fresh, un-styled hair. Aki has her own neutral style and has never really cared much about what others think... but that doesn't mean she likes it when classmates make fun of her appearance.
Joining the women’s basketball team in junior high changed everything. The daily physical activity helped her know herself better than ever before, and understand the joy of dedication and rewards of her own blood, sweat, and tears. It's really helped her come out of her shell and boosted her confidence.
"I feel powerful when I exercise. I do what I love and work hard for it. It has nothing to do with gender."
Though she was interested in sports before - basketball, track and field, tennis - Aki never really got to play. Now, she's worked hard to make sports a part of her life and has even become a sports blogger, fully immersing herself in the subject.
"On the women's basketball team, we train together, cry together, laugh together, and work toward a common goal: winning the game. Our energy and passion come together, and that's our collective strength."
We asked her if she thought it was somehow different from men's basketball teams. "It's exactly the same."
Wen Chu's approach.
Wen Chu has been living and studying abroad for years, and feels that she's always given two obvious labels: "Asian" and "female."
She's been working hard to fight it, but her goal isn't to get rid of that identity. "I'm an Asian woman, but I'm also an individual. I'm more than those two labels, and I don't want that to be all that people see."
Wen Chu has a super short haircut - it has nothing to do with being a Buddhist, her sexual orientation or gender identity. It's just a new idea she wanted to try, after so many other hairstyles. It's not complicated. Her current appearance sometimes leads people to mistake her as "male."
But Wen Chu feels very "female," and feels strongly that she doesn't need to explain to everyone she meets that there's more than one image of "female". "Being myself, being comfortable in my body; that's its own challenge to stereotypes. My body is my manifesto."
In addition to her short hair, Wen Chu keeps her natural armpit hair. Her legs have had growth lines since adolescence. "These are parts of my body, and I fully accept my body. Everything is natural."
Grezomao stands her ground.
Grezomao stands out in a crowd, no doubt about that. She was quick to develop a sense of self-awareness and independence as a teenager. "I like myself, and don't care about the others' opinions (except my parents)." Today, it's easier to say "be yourself," but at the time she caught a lot of flack from classmates for daring to stand out.
In 2017, Grezomao appeared in photographer Luo Yang's project "Girls," which featured Tibetan women wearing traditional clothes with their natural composures, showing they were rebellious, indifferent, or fearless. The series is very famous, and she's received a lot of recognition for it; some negative comments about showing her thighs, or even harsh comments from people calling her "Tibetan scum" - but she's had people say pleasant things too. "Many people have complimented my appearance, and realized that other Tibetan girls should be proud too."
In Grezomao's mind, "be yourself" isn't an empty statement, it's the most basic yet most difficult thing we can do. "Sometimes it's really hard, there's all these pressures and it feels like you can't be yourself. But it's one of the most important things. My faith in myself comes from my people and from within."
Grezomao grew up and went to school in Qinghai Yushu, Tibet. She came to Shanghai two years ago and now works as a fashion designer. She looks different from the people around her, and some of her fashion choices are undoubtedly "rebellious" to Shanghai's norms, like wearing a nose ring or less conservative clothing. But her attitude toward it is simple: "I like it; it's my choice, so I insist."
Last but certainly not least, Liana!
Liana's mother is Chinese, her father German. People have told her that she's beautiful since she was a child, but for her, beauty is complicated. "When people only see your figure and appearance, they form an idea of you without getting to know the real you."
As an actor, she's expected to be skinny to look good on camera. As a yoga practitioner, Liana believes that she has a healthy body and lifestyle - and that doesn't skinny doesn't always mean healthy.
"I can make changes for a role if necessary, but I also believe that the actor should be able to be the weight they are and actually look like a normal person."
Personal identity has always been a struggle for Liana, and the pressures of work are only half of it. "I've grown up in German, Chinese, Indian, and American cultures, but I consider to be Chinese in nature - the way I eat, the way I think, the way I live." She wants to feel at home in China, but her appearance often causes her to stand out.
"I just try to allow myself to be what I am, without trying to be a certain way. It sounds easy, natural, but it takes work. But that's how we show who we are. We are born to be infinite."