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Influencer changes tack to take on bullies

By ZHANG YANGFEI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-06-22 09:05
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Chang Jingyue

Last year, Chang Jingyue, a well-known travel and fashion influencer on social media, abruptly changed her career trajectory.

She began producing content to fight "body shaming", the practice of posting comments online that seek to deride or mock a person's physical appearance.

The 25-year-old's change of heart was prompted by the COVID-19 epidemic, which restricted travel.

During her previous journeys, she often told her followers that she had developed a more open attitude toward all body types. Last year, she decided to focus on the topic and started advocating "body love".

To reach her 920,000 followers on Weibo and also 850,000 on Xiaohongshu, the Shanghai resident posted photos of herself in beautiful clothes accompanied by inspiring words.

Weighing 65 kilograms and standing 165 centimeters, Chang said she had been subjected to mean comments since her university days.

"Many said things like 'Chang is pretty, but what a pity she's fat'. My boyfriend even asked: 'Why are your legs so thick? Look how good the other girls' figures are'," she said.

In the early stages of her career as an influencer, she digitally enhanced photos to make herself look "lean and perfect".

At one point, she and a fashion influencer were invited to visit a wedding dress brand, and were asked to wear the dresses to promote the company. Chang was unable to fit any of the dresses in the store, so a potential business opportunity fell through. What really broke her heart, though, was the response of the other influencer.

"She said: 'How could you become an influencer with a body like that? How could you choose this career when you can't even manage your own body? You see, you failed this opportunity because you are fat, so you should feel pretty bad about yourself," Chang recalled.

"I didn't give any reaction at the time, but when I arrived home I started crying out loud. I wondered if it really was my problem, and if someone like me really shouldn't be in this industry."

She tried a few extreme diets, but constant hunger caused depression and anxiety. "I lost the happiness of enjoying good food, and I started to feel that this was not the way I wanted to live," she said.

Her change of heart started when she took part in an exchange program in Southern Europe during her second year at university. She was surprised to find that women in Spain were not afraid to wear bikinis on the beach and display different body shapes.

"That was the first time I had felt that the body is a personal thing. Other people have no right to judge," she said.

When she started to shift her focus to combating body shaming, she was deeply apprehensive.

"As an internet celebrity, we all want to present a good side. No one likes sharing their biggest downside," she said.

However, she was deeply touched by the support of her followers. A large number sent messages, some of them thousands of words long, telling her about their anxiety regarding their body image and how she had inspired them.

"It made me realize that instead of sharing travel tips, I should actually be doing something meaningful. That made me determined to advocate a different aesthetic," she said.

"A woman's beauty is not simply defined by a good appearance. It is not a mathematical problem-there is no standard answer."

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