Plus-size models want slice of the action

Asanda Mataku is the brains behind the Thick Munchies organisation.

Overweight people, particular women, experience many forms of discrimination and insults which often affect their confidence and self-esteem.

But a group of young budding models from various townships have taken upon themselves the daunting mission of changing this negative perception.

After attending countless modelling auditions and being turned downed simply because she was a plus-size model, Asanda Mataku, then decided to create WhatsApp and Facebook groups called Thick Munchies four months ago.

These groups led to the establishment of an organisation which meets weekly and plans to teach young people about dance, drama and everything related to the arts, among other things.

When she created the groups, she was merely trying to voice her frustration and anger. But little did she know that she was not the only one feeling this way and two weeks later, she was joined by scores of other young women who had faced similar challenges.

The 17-year-old Grade 10 pupil at Zola High School said when she created the groups she wanted to raise awareness about the daily challenges and defamatory remarks that overweight people are forced to deal with. However, she didn’t realise that the group would grow into an organisation that would advocate respect for people regarded as “fat”.

Asanda said at every audition she attended she was told that she was not the ideal slender person that they were looking for and if she lost weight, she might be cast.

This, she said, made her hate her body and nearly destroyed her self confidence.

She said some of the unpleasant remarks made in the community about overweight people fuelled her anger.

She said that some of the stereotypes that people have about overweight people was that they were lazy, unintelligent and lacked self-esteem. She said she realised that these disgusting myths had made plus-sized women uncomfortable to express their feelings, which is why she created this platform-so that they could all come together and confront their fears and challenges head on.

Asanda believes the establishment of this organisation was the first important step to self-acceptance and love.

She said she was done hating her body and the term “fat” no longer bothered her. In fact, it encouraged her to strive for success. Asanda said she wanted overweight people to be given equal opportunities and be considered for modelling. She said they hoped that they could reverse the many myths associated with being overweight but most importantly, they wanted to teach other people to love their bodies and embrace them.

“There is completely nothing wrong with us fat people.

“We have been made to feel like outcasts by the communities that we come from. We are human beings after all. We want to change this notion that fat people can’t be models.

“This thing of having to be a slender to be a model sends a wrong message to the community and in a way makes people hate their bodies,” she said.

Asanda said when she started the group she had five people but now the organisation has 20 members and they were calling others to join in. She said members contributed R250 to cover some of their operational costs. Mmabatho Moteane said she joined the organisation simply because as plus- sized models they were often undermined and people had the incorrect notion that they could not be models.She said the common challenge they faced was having their dignity dragged through the mud.

The 19-year-old Grade 12 pupil at ID Mkhize High School said the aim was to revive their dignity and called on the community to change the negative perception towards them. “It’s a slow process of people learning to stand up for themselves, and demand respect,” she said.

Asanda can be contacted on 074388 4583.