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Interview with GLAPOCHA plus-size model Elly

TSS had the chance to interview many GLAPOCHA Plus Size Models!

Today, let us introduce you to ELLY, one of the women who wants to share plus-size fashion in Japan with the world. Artist in the soul, she writes her own music when it comes to how she should live her life as a plus-size women!

1. First of all, could you introduce yourself ?

My name is Katayama Eri but my English name is Elly. I am an actress, composer and also recently a plus-size model. In college, I studied something completely different from art but which I had a lot of interest in like gender sexuality. Since this company [GLAPOCHA] is very respectful of body positivity, and we are a minority, I thought it would be very interesting to work in this environment as a model!

2. How would you define being plus-size in Japan ?

Before, plus-size people were present as actors and on stage but in the clichéd roles of the “fat” person. Their roles were only defined by that: for example it was a person who had gained weight, or the role of the stay-at-home mom who also gained weight. And even when it came to talking about what they like to eat, because that’s all they do anyway, they are always people who eat large quantities and/or very quickly, people who just snack. In short, they will always be the ones to be made fun of. And it’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself.

Personally, as an actress and comedian, these are the kinds of roles that will be offered to me first before others. Being plus-size, I don’t know if I should be happy about it or embarrassed about it. Even being plus-size, my roles and skills go far beyond this type of character. At my old agency, even though I made it clear that I liked to play lively characters or even the opposite, a little dark, I was told “you’re fat anyway, so take this role”. Since I’ve been here at GLAPOCHA, even being plus-size, I have the freedom to accept roles that fit me, there’s a really nice atmosphere of respect where everyone gets around the table to decide together while listening to each person individually. I really want to create this world where, even if you have a little extra weight, you’re never limited to that kind of cliched character.

3. What does body positive means for you ?

For me, body positive evokes a story. I was surrounded for a long time by people who had a negative opinion about my body as I mentioned earlier, whether it was my friends or people at work. Like many plus-size people, I have a rather painful past and I grew up with a damaged self-esteem several times. On the contrary, people may have hurt other people unconsciously, and unfortunately for people like us, it’s not enough to just avoid those kinds of people and thoughts. 

I got remarks first when I was in college and even before as our values were not the same: “Elly-chan, you are round!”, “Elly-chan, you need to lose weight!”. You must not let yourself be affected by others, whether you are curvy or have crooked teeth. You have to see in the notion of body positive the fact of finding your body wonderful and try to evolve in a society more open to everyone and where everyone would find their body beautiful. 

In Japan, we are not complimented for our weight or our moles, but we are complimented for our white skin. After a while, we don’t know what is good or bad for society, and we don’t know what to be proud of. You have to love yourself! For example, as a model, I have to wear foundation, and I used to hide my moles with concealer, but now I let them show as they are a part of me.

4. How do you feel the influence of plus-size people from abroad?

Thanks to the world becoming closer and closer, we have a good influence of body standards from abroad. More and more plus-size people are asserting themselves here, and more and more plus-size people are being hired in companies.

We’re looking more and more at people in the US, Europe, the rest of Asia and many other places who are in the minority and suffering from it, and are becoming more and more assertive. I often wonder how I can act as a Japanese model born in Japan.

5. Do you think social media has played a part in the way people view models of different sizes and races?

 I think there are positive and negative sides to social networks. As Kurisu said, SNSs can be very useful for searching for information. For example, as a plus-size model, we can help others see how to wear a garment well, or what brand we recommend, and that’s what I used to do before I became a model myself.

What’s also nice about SNS is that unlike TV or newspaper, you can choose what you’re going to see, it’s not forced on you. SNS also reflects our personality more, because we can choose to show what kind of person we are, and what we think. On TV, we will admire someone more for the way they act.

It’s certainly a different story when you become known on social media *laughs*

6. Do you have any role models or inspirations?

I think a lot of people who can be considered as inspiration are emerging in Japan, like Momoka Ai, the founder of GLAPOCHA.

On a global level, the reference is surely Ashley Graham, who puts a lot of emphasis on different body types. The fact that more and more models are of various sizes really leaves a good impression.

I also remember the musical Hairspray [Tracy Turnblad, a chubby girl living in Baltimore, has only one dream: to be on the Corny Collins Show. She soon realizes that her weight is a hindrance to her career, but as she finally achieves her dream, she decides to use her fame to fight against the segregation that is rampant. I participated in] in high school. As a result of this very famous musical, many curvy girls wanted to be on TV and wear cute clothes while not losing weight to look like Tracy *laughs*

7. Do you have a message for people abroad who are plus-size, who are interested or don't know about this category?

Whether it’s in the modeling world or in music, there are a lot of body types represented. We should be proud of this diversity thanks to body positive!