Yumi Nu recently made history as the first Asian curve model in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Yes, she grew up feeling insecure about her weight. Yes, it means something in terms of body positivity and inclusivity that she’s breaking through barriers in her industry.
But when chatting about these news, she also used the opportunity to speak out about profound issues people are struggling with right now, offering a refreshing take on topics ranging from social media burnout to Anti-Asian racism.
Using her voice to inspire change
In an interview with People magazine, Nu touched on her relationship with social media, and how she’s had to deal with the negativity often found online, but how at the same time, social media can be an amazing teacher and so useful.
“I’ll always have my hard days with it,” Nu shared, “It’s an incredible tool and teacher in some ways, but can also be extremely draining.”
How did she learn to love herself when it’s so easy to find reasons not to by logging onto Instagram? In 2016, she went to Hawaii to visit her family, and she had a turning point and decided to enjoy the getaway — and her life moving forward– instead of worrying about not being stick thin and feeling ashamed.
“I had this moment where I decided I didn’t want to look back and hate myself because I didn’t go in the ocean. I was so embarrassed. I never lived life fully. I never wore what I wanted to wear. I never actually felt free because I thought, ‘I’ll just wear bathing suits when I’m a certain size.” Or, “I’ll go in the water without insecurities when I’m a certain weight.’ There were all these thresholds that I could never reach.”– Yumi Nu told L’Officiel
Nu also spoke about the fact that, in the era of the pandemic, people are sensitive to the kind of energy they are exposed to and the content they consume. “If I start comparing myself to others too much or I’m just feeling low from being on my phone 24/7, I like to take a break to do guided meditations or go on a nice walk. It’s so important to connect with our body, mind and spirit,” Nu said.
The conversation turned to the terrible rise in Anti-Asian violence, and what Nu is feeling right now about the crisis. She didn’t shy away from sharing her opinions. “The Asian community isn’t always a loud one,” said Nu. “Our society’s view of Asians in the model minority myth lens has silenced us for many years,” she said.
This is why Nu believes that it’s extra important now, and always was important, for Asian people to be heard and supported. “The division and racism in our world has gotten so bad; we’ve grown so far from love and connection. I want to create a space for people to feel heard and safe. That’s my purpose on this earth,” said Nu.
Using her platform to educate and encourage others
Nu shared that she is “heavy-hearted” to see the terrible rise in violence against Asian people “who look like they could be my family members,” but she saw some positivity in the sadness –hope in seeing so many people coming together to support.
“I encourage people to donate to AAPI funds and volunteer where they can, but the best thing they can do is listen. People want to be heard. Ask your Asian friends how you can show up for them,” she said.
It’s refreshing to see Nu use her newfound spot in the limelight to tackle hard, current topics head-on while also sharing a message of hope and unity for the future.
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