Style & Beauty

This Photo Shoot Featuring Asian Women Is Stunningly Diverse

"All Asians aren’t the stereotype of being small and petite," Michelle Elman said. "Being Asian is not one look."

For years, Michelle Elman, an activist and body confidence coach in London, has waited for the mainstream fashion industry to feature Asian curve models in campaigns and on runways.

Tired of waiting, she recently took matters into her own hands, creating her own damn photo shoot with the help of some friends.

On Sunday, Elman and photographer Linda Blacker released the photos, which show Asian women of all sizes, colors and ages. Now the pics are getting coverage on sites like BuzzFeed and Glamour UK.

“I thought this was the perfect way to show the fashion industry what they are missing and demonstrate that Asian women are just as beautiful and fashionable as any other race and we deserve to be included,” Elman told HuffPost.

Elman, who’s half Chinese and half white, said she’s often the token Asian at body-positive events and photo shoots. While she’s happy to be there, she knows there’s room for more diversity.

By gathering a group of women who represent a wide range of Asian countries, Elman and Blacker wanted to show that Asians are not a monolith: You can’t just cast the same Asian model in every show and act like you have the whole continent covered.

“Asian is a very broad category, obviously,” Elman said. “We all don’t look the same.”

And in spite of what’s perpetuated in fashion magazines and on runways, Asian women are not always rail-thin, either.

“Asians deserve to be represented. Asians deserve to be seen,” Elman wrote in a photo caption. “And all Asians aren’t the stereotype of being small and petite. Being Asian is not one look. Being Asian is not one culture.”

The photo shoot, produced by model Michelle Elman and photographer Linda Blacker, took place on Friday.
The photo shoot, produced by model Michelle Elman and photographer Linda Blacker, took place on Friday.

Of course, in many Asian cultures and communities, having limiting, unrealistic beauty standards is an internal problem, too.

Growing up in the U.K., Sim Sandhu, a British-Indian editorial assistant who is featured in this shoot, often felt marginalized because of her weight.

“I got criticism from every side of my life for my size ― family, friends, teachers, other students,” Sandhu told HuffPost. “And not once did I ever have someone to point to and say, ‘She’s like me and she’s living her best life. I can, too.’”

Though it’s only one photo shoot, Sandhu hopes this project starts a conversation, and that it’s seen by young Asian girls who crave true representation.

“I’m hoping that these pictures help other people feel seen and that some other kid doesn’t spend as long as I did figuring out they’re beautiful and powerful just as they are,” she said.

Blacker said she’ll continue to push for more body-positive, racially diverse fashion campaigns. She’s waiting for the day others in the U.K. and U.S. do too.

“These women all looked incredible on camera,” she said. “There is just no reason for them to not be equally represented in the media!”

Scroll down to see some of the models featured in the series.

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