BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT
Model and content creator Nalisa Amin proves that style and confidence comes from being comfortable in your own skin
By Elizabeth Soong. Photography by Chee Wei Creative Direction and Styling by Colin Sim
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 that 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 maiden 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 to impact? I’ll give you an impact. At the time I was just an up-and-coming model, so it was very nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time.”
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 jewellery label inspired by individuality and finding beauty around us— 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.
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 many. In a past interview with The Sun, 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 bodycon 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 model today reflect a more accurate representation of people everywhere.
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.
“Prince is my style hero. I’m a tomboy at heart and no matter how ‘feminine’ I dress, I will always tap back to my ‘masculine’ side and Prince embodies androgynous and glamour perfectly in his style”—NALISA AMIN
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.
While Nalisa agrees to get 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.”
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.
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