I’m not sure how many times in my life that I have said or heard the phrase “When I lose weight, I will do _____.” I once had a friend that thought that she had to lose weight before starting a YouTube channel.

I have been guilty of using variations of that phrase. But why? Why do we feel that we have to look a certain way to live life?

I started gaining weight in 2014, and in 2017 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a hormonal disorder that is common among women. Weight gain and difficulty losing weight are two of the side effects of PCOS.

I used to believe that I had to hide myself away. I felt like people would judge me, so I didn’t take pictures, didn’t go out with friends, and wasn’t really living my life. I always thought people only thought of me as “the big girl”, until one day, I decide to stop hating myself and started practicing self-love. I grew tired of living my life hiding inside. When I moved to Hawaiʻi, I saw more women that looked like me, and they were beautiful. They didn’t care who was looking or what anyone though of them. Their natural beauty and confidence inspired me.  

In September of 2019, I decided to stop letting my low self-confidence run my life. I went to a casting call for plus-size models. I never modeled before, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I put myself out there and I got chosen. In October, I walked the runway for three designers in the Paradise Island Fashion Week show. That experience changed my life.

I was around so many amazing people of all shapes and sizes. Everyone was so nice and so uplifting, and we all helped each other get through the show. I met other plus-sized women that were not afraid to show the world that they loved their bodies and they aren’t going to hide from anyone.

Before the fashion show, I also signed up to be a delegate in the Miss Hawai‘i Plus pageant. I was doubtful at first. Was I ready to get up on stage in front of hundreds of people, show them my true self, and smile while doing so? Was I confident enough to wear a bathing suit in front of strangers? I almost backed out, but my mother encouraged me to go for it and I am so glad I listened.

From the first pageant practice, I was in awe. There were so many beautiful, confident women. There was no cattiness or tearing each other down. Even though we were in competition, everyone was happy to help each other. We truly became sisters. I began looking forward to the practices. There’s no greater thing than seeing a group of women lifting each other up and fixing each other’s crown.

The Miss Hawai‘i Plus pageant was held Sunday, November 17th. On the day of the pageant, I had horrible anxiety. Once I got to the venue, however, I felt more confident. I was surrounded by all of my amazing sister queens, and we all were helping each other get ready for a wonderful night. 

I can’t describe the feeling of confidence and pride that I felt facing my fears and getting up on that stage. My heart was pounding but I was ready to show the crowd how much I’ve grown.  It is a different feeling having all eyes on you, and hearing the crowd screaming and cheering you on. It was an even better feeling when the crowning ceremony came and I placed as First Runner Up. It was my very first pageant and I went into it expecting just to have fun and make friends, and to have placed as first runner up was an honor.

Thanks to the fashion show and the pageant, I have learned to be confident, and to love myself. I learned that beauty and worth are not defined by a pants size or the number on the scale. I learned to stop hiding and stop putting my life on “pause” until I fit into what society sees as beautiful and worthy.  

Life is short. My advice is to be yourself, put yourself out there, and don’t let anything (including yourself) get in your way.