The model and content creator is of the opinion that style and confidence come from being comfortable in your own skin

The first time I saw Nalisa Amin was at the KL Fashion Week 2018 in Pavilion KL when she opened the show in Min Luna’s collection, dressed in a rust-coloured jumpsuit that flattered her curves. The crowd went wild at the sight of her, as well as the rest of the models of different shapes, ages and skin colours who walked out after her. The show was a resounding success as it showcased model diversity representing real people, with Nalisa herself being the first plus-size model to open KL Fashion Week.

It was her debut in professional modelling, although you couldn’t tell as she looked so confident and sexy. She let out a burst of laughter. “Of course I was so nervous because I never walked a runway before especially in such a big event as KL Fashion Week where all the important fashion people in Malaysia are there. On top of being nervous, Min Luna told me backstage, ‘Oh you’re opening the show.’ I was like, excuse me? ‘Yes. I want my show to have an impact.’ And I’m like, okay fine, you want impact? I’ll give you impact. At the time I was just an up-and-coming model, so it was very nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time.”

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She’s known Min Luna since the stylist’s days working at a fashion magazine, and they’ve kept in touch since then. Out of the blue, Nalisa received a text from her: “Hey, I’m doing a fashion collaboration with FashionValet and I want you to be in my campaign.” Nalisa agreed and during the shoot, Min Luna dropped a bombshell, “Oh, I also want you to walk for my show.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, Nalisa’s done fashion campaigns with local and international brands, such as Zalora, FashionValet, Xixili, Levi’s, Syomirizwa Gupta, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Fred Perry, Summer&Peach, Sometime By Asian Designers, Handmade Heroes and most recently, Wanderlust + Co, the Malaysian high-street jewellery label inspired by intuition and individuality— characteristics which Nalisa seem to have in abundance.

Scroll through her Instagram feed and you’ll see snapshots of her day-to-day, practising what she preaches about self-love as well as body confidence and acceptance—a far cry from the shy girl who used to be insecure about herself that she would cover up with loose outfits. After a devastating debacle involving a picture of her in a swimsuit that went viral, she made a decision not to let others’ view of herself affect her anymore. Her decision to finally be happy and comfortable with herself was the turning point she needed to let go of past insecurities, and she just blossomed.

See also: 8 Size-Inclusive Designers & Fashion Brands That Are All About Body Positivity

Perhaps without intending to, the 32-year-old became the poster girl and role model for body positivity, because her personal experiences are relatable to a lot of people. In a past interview with The Sun newspaper, she shared a compliment that came from a random stranger who told her that ever since his sister began following her social media accounts, she developed more confidence in herself. Seeing Nalisa express her style through her distinctive way of mixing and matching clothes, and not being afraid to be seen in bodycons and bandeau tops, is a game-changer for anyone who has issues with their own body types.

Nalisa also loves to style herself from different eras, with the Nineties being her favourite. “I grew in the ’90s era so it’s very familiar to me. I love its aesthetics, I like listening to hip hop and R&B, so I resonate more with that. The next would be the Seventies—bell bottoms, disco, Woodstock!”

Prior to modelling, Nalisa was an online writer for Elle and Female before moving to digital marketing for an online beauty portal. Her entry into the competitive world of modelling couldn’t have come at a better time. As beauty standards and body ideals evolved from the typical model ‘look’ to embracing models of all sizes, shapes and types, it brought a more positive change to the fashion and beauty industry in general. After all, the word ‘model’ is defined as a ‘thing used as an example to follow or imitate’, so it’s a good thing models today reflect a more accurate representation of people everywhere.

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While it’s encouraging to see fashion brands including plus sizes in their campaigns, in truth, there is still a skewed understanding of the term. There also seems to be a grey area between what is classified as plus-size or curvy, with ‘plus-size’ being categorised as size 12 and above, while ‘curvy’ refers to body proportions, specifically the differential between the size of the waist and hips. Moreover, most people prefer not to use the term ‘plus-size’ as it sounds more intimidating. But as ‘curvy’ applies to women of all sizes, the misuse of the term is confusing to most people especially young girls.

Plus-size model slash body activist Ashley Graham and musician Queen Latifah, who designs her own line of apparel for HSN, are calling out for getting rid of the plus-size label entirely. Graham believes the term is outdated while Queen Latifah says that all women are beautiful regardless of size. 

See also: 6 Fashion-Savvy Females Get Real About Body Positivity & Loving Their Unique Sizes

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Above Dress by Khoon Hooi

While Nalisa agrees to getting rid of the prefix, she also understands why it is still necessary. She herself wears between UK12-14 for tops and dresses depending on the cut, but for women who are bigger than her, most people wouldn’t believe them if they say they’re models because when they look at them, all they see is a fat person. “So I feel that a lot of bigger models still prefer to stick to the label because they want the term ‘plus-size’ to be broader,” Nalisa explains. “A lot of fashion shows, even though they request for plus-size, they meant only a certain size, maybe 3XL max, but they don’t expand to the fact that there are bigger-size bodies in real life.” 

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Above Outfit and clutch by Gucci

Shopping for clothes to fit a plus-size body is also a challenge because apart from the lack of sizes offered, they’re not fashionable or trendy enough nor do they have flattering cuts—plus there’s a vast difference in price point. If physical stores are not able to bring them in, it isn’t any wonder then that a lot of plus-size women resort to online shopping because it caters to their needs. “We plus-size girls still want to look sexy, we want to look fashionable, so that’s why we go to Shein, Asos or Fashion Nova,” Nalisa says with a laugh.

Having said that, shopping online also means that one can’t try the clothes to see if they fit and judge its quality at the same time. Therefore, Nalisa thinks that fast fashion and bigger brands should set the trend and expand more because they have the capital and the resources.

“If I go to H&M in America, I can find sizes that are four times bigger than me. But here they stop at, say, size 30! So I feel that bigger brands should expand more so plus-size people have the option to shop in-store. Also, sustainable brands are mostly more expensive and don’t cater to plus sizes, therefore it’s not friendly to the masses. What’s friendly to the masses is fast fashion, so for me, they should set the standards, see the market and diversify in all sizes, then maybe smaller brands and high-end brands would follow suit.”

Locally, there are brands that cater to plus sizes, such as Miss Read, Mis Claire, and Lebar by Oh Sebenar. While Nalisa would get her pieces from Zalora, H&M and Monki, she says her go-to is always bundle stores because they offer good quality clothes at good prices. “A lot of my clothes that I love, that I wear most of the time, are from bundle shops because they cater to plus sizes. And I can always get the clothes altered if they’re too big or if the cut doesn’t flatter me.”

Like others in her profession, work has remained stagnant throughout the lockdown, but she used the time to nurture her inner self, watching videos and listening to podcasts about self-worth, wellbeing as well as psychology.

She even took up meditation, which is something she never thought she’d find herself doing as she is not one to sit still! “When I meditate, I feel like it’s a vacation for my mind,” she says of her ever-present morning ritual. “I think and worry a lot, and I’m always on my social media because that’s my job so I can’t escape it. And I just feel that meditation is a few minutes of me not thinking anything, just being in the moment, breathing, and after that I just feel like [lets out a relieved exhale] I had a short vacay.”

Once things start going back to normal, what does she want to do next? She promptly replies, “I would like to go for a beach vacation! I want to do more test shoots with my friends. I miss doing shoots especially conceptual creative shoots. As much as I love doing editorial and commercial shoots, the conceptual shoots are when you get crazy with ideas, and I miss doing that. I also want to hang out with friends. Go out without any worry about Covid and social distancing. I just want to go back to the simple things in life.”

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