This week’s StyleCrush is Wear Your Voice contributor and plus size blogger Aarti Olivia. Aarti is a Southeast Asian blogger based in Singapore. She represents an under-served group of women and femmes who do not often see themselves in media and fashion. Being that voice has helped propel her into internet fame and onto the computer screens of fashion lovers everywhere.
Aarti’s eclectic style pulls from many walks of life, including boho, goth and sporty chic. You never know what to expect from this style siren.
WYV: How long have you been blogging? What inspired it?
Aarti Olivia: I have been blogging for seven years — my first three years for a blog Indigo Violet that spanned plus-size body positivity, poetry, short stories and politics, among other things, and then I carved out Curves Become Her as a solely plus-size fashion and body-positive blog for the next four years. What inspired CBH was wanting to see more representation for curvy plus-size Asians and South Asians. There were so few of us to begin with, and I decided If you don’t see the representation, then you must be the representation and hopefully see the demographic grow, which it has!
WYV: How do you describe your personal style?
AO: It’s eclectic; there is no specific style I ascribe to. It can be really feminine for some days, sporty chic on others, goth-inspired (I was really into that scene for a while as a teen), alternative fashion.
WYV: Who are the people close to you that have shaped your style?
AO: This is going to be so corny, but my Mom has definitely inspired some of my style. She was so fashionable during the ’70s and that’s why I have a penchant for the era! I have been inspired by a few people in my social circles who owned their sense of style (whatever it is) and made it look so effortless.
WYV: What message do you try to send your audience through blogging? How do you think the media can convey that message to broader audiences?
AO: I Always remind my audience that fashion is fun; it is not something worth stressing over to look cool or accepted. I’ve taken so many leaps of faith, fashion-wise, so I encourage them to do that as well. In terms of body positivity, I really try to drive in the importance of intersectionality — this is not solely for a few kinds of body types; it is so much more than that. I do my best to drive home the fact that empathy and kindness are so underrated, and it starts with being empathetic and kinder to yourself. I hope that my audience reaffirms my message through how they regard themselves and by encouraging people in their midst to be a little more understanding. I also remind them not to condone the body shaming that occurs around them — they have an important a part to play in encouraging body positivity.
WYV: Who are your top three celebrity StyleCrushes?
AO: My top three celebrity Style Crushes would have to be Dascha Polanco, Amber Riley and Beyoncé. All of three of them exude a sense of feeling comfortable with their bodies. You can tell they have a lot of fun dressing up. Dascha is not afraid of showing off her figure, Amber loves bright prints and colors, Beyoncé is adventurous with her fashion sense. They inspire fierceness!
WYV: Which stores/brands/designers are your faves? What draws you to each of them?
AO: I love Smart Glamour, Chubby Cartwheels and Eloquii for their inclusive representation of larger sizes! What I love about Smart Glamour is that each outfit is customizable to your body and it makes such a difference in how well an outfit fits you. Chubby Cartwheels, a company I will be shopping with in the coming year, is just so cool with their alternative styles. Their latest collection gives me life! Eloquii does not unfortunately ship to Singapore, but if they did, I would purchase their stylish outfits in a heartbeat! Society+ is another store that I adore. I love that they have regular blogger collaborations and they also feature plus-size models beyond the smaller end of plus size, like the rest of these awesome companies do.
WYV: Which big name designers would you like to see move into the plus-size market?
AO: I would love to see Diane Von Furstenburg, Prabal Gurung and Valentino move into the market. DVF has been a personal favorite, Her wrap dresses are everything. Prabal is a wonderful South Asian designer who hits it on the nail every single fashion week and Valentino just knows how to dress a woman’s silhouette — he just needs to expand upon that (pun intended).
WYV: How do you feel the body positivity and fat liberation movements in South East Asia differ from the Western movements? What do you feel both places need to work on more?
AO: I believe the difference lies in the stigma of supporting body positivity and especially fat liberation. SE Asia and the rest of Asia is obsessed with “clean eating,” fitness fads, slimming teas and regimen. We even have initiatives here that basically shame fat people. The BMI is God and anyone over a size 10 is considered plus-size and therefore fat. There needs to be a reality check here, a consideration for all bodies and less harmful notions of plus-size people’s lifestyles. Body positivity per se is beginning to get celebrated and is respected; curvier women are not looked at with disdain.
However, fat liberation has still quite some way to go here. I don’t know when the latter will ever be accepted or respected here. It’s a topic that divides a lot of us here. With the west, I feel body positivity still needs work to understand intersectionality. We need more black fat activists. We need more people of color. It cannot be a one-dimensional movement. Fat liberation still has room to grow. Visibly fat bodies are still shamed, in both covert and obvious ways. The fat liberation movement has been around for much longer, but it’s still not appreciated. I really hope to see that change.
WYV: If you could give teenage Aarti body-positive advice, what would it be?
AO: Oh my, where do I even begin? I would tell her not to starve herself, not to tire herself excessively with exercise because of the opinions of her parents and her peers. I would tell her that her curves are an inherent part of her, they are nothing to be ashamed of. I would also tell her to stop trying to make everyone else laugh and poke fun at herself; she is worth so much more than that.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
AO: I wear my voice like I wear my heart: on my sleeve. It saves me from myself a lot of times, and it lends a hand with taking a stand. My voice does not waver even if my soul gets weary. It is such an important part of who I am and what I do.