South Korea isn’t called the plastic surgery capital for nothing. Every year, more than one million procedures are carried out in the country. In Gangnam district alone, you will find over 500 plastic surgery clinics ready to transform you into someone who would pass as a reimigination of a physically perfect anime character.
Nobody knows every country’s beauty standard, but it is safe to say that South Korea’s is one for the books. And it doesn’t stop there. You expect that people will stop caring about your build as long as you have a V-shaped face, double eyelids, and sharp nose. No. Your weight matters too.
Being sexy means being thin, and that’s something most women would have to think about as they take their meal. In South Korea, as it is in the rest of the world, having curves means you’re way too unhealthy. And if you look unhealthy and basically less attractive than what they want a woman to be, you get less opportunities.
But in the middle of a sea of women aiming for the doll-like look, there stands Taylor Tak, the South Korean plus-size model who is breaking her country’s beauty standards.
Taylor Tak: Breaking Beauty Standards with Confidence
A woman who’s confident and comfortable with her curves, Taylor Tak never lets people’s negative opinions on her physique stop her from pursuing what she loves—modeling. Now the young stunner is modeling for Fashion Nova, Curvy Sense, and more.
But being a size 14 in a country that worships the size 4, Taylor Tak didn’t have it easy. In her country, if you’re curvy, that means you’re lazy, Tak tells Cosmopolitan Korea. Oftentimes, it is even seen as “criminal.”
“I see women who are crazily obsessed with diets who quite often think, ‘As long as we are in good shape, we can be treated properly. Only a slim body can ensure our social acceptance,'” Tak shares.
Young as she is, Taylor Tak wanted to be accepted, and before she knew what it really meant to be beautiful, she would do anything to shed some pounds. She would edit her photos just to look smaller.
“I used to refuse to look in the mirror. I kept thinking ‘Why don’t I look same as the women in ads?’ I tried diet pills, I seriously considered liposuction, and I used to waste my time photo shopping all of my pictures,” she recalls.
Another incident she can’t help but dread is when she was told to run against the clock just to prove to her employer that she was sound enough to work at the restaurant. She would also get asked if she thinks she’ll ever get married considering her big size.
“It’s not about curves like boobs or butts. It’s just about being thin. It’s not even just young girls or young men. “It’s middle-aged men and women, old people—grandmas and grandpas. They’re all watching their waistlines,” Tak said.
But when she got noticed by a photographer in London years ago, Taylor Tak’s life took a different turn. At first, she couldn’t believe that someone would be interested in casting her as a mode. Tak even remembers telling the photographer, “Ew, what do you mean? I’m too fat and short—I couldn’t.”
After the encounter, Taylor Tak slowly learned to accept her body. Standing before the camera taught her to grow confident and comfortable in her own skin.
“I have come to learn that I am my own best friend. No one knows more about me than I do… If I don’t love myself, who else will love me?” Tak says.
Although she’s fought her own negative thoughts, Taylor Tak is aware that there are still women out there who are risking their health and self-respect just to meet society’s standards. So for Taylor, the fight isn’t over. In ways she knows, she vows to continue spreading body positivity.
“I want to inspire women and let them know that they are not alone,” Tak said. “I want them to know that you don’t have to hide anymore and you don’t have to feel like you are the worst,” Tak tells Mic.
She admits, it gets really hard sometimes. Tak believes her country is still very far from being open to the fact that beauty does not stop at a certain size.
“Do I see really see a body positivity movement happening in Korea? Not really,” Taylor Tak says. “Sometimes, I wonder: Was this plus-size thing just a trend? And is this trend over? And if this was a trend, was it over before we even got to see plus-sized Asian models?”
That doesn’t mean she will stop, though. Taylor Tak tells Mic that she will continue to spread message about self-love until it reaches all women.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m screaming in this society alone, and all I want us plus-size women in Korea to rise up and dare to say it— dare to say that we accept ourselves.”