This plus-size model has the confidence to match her critics


Asanda Mataku dreamed of becoming a model, but in an industry where skinny is the norm, she didn’t quite fit. That didn’t put her off. Thick, with a tummy and rolls, Mataku was proud of her body. She entered a local competition where she won over the judges, taking second place. But still, people laughed at her weight. So she laughed back. “I was born with beauty and with confidence and I won’t let anyone take it away,” she says. In a society of unachievable and ever-changing beauty standards, where women are constantly shamed by others or each other, Mataku’s confidence is rare and refreshing.

The student from Khayelitsha may have been sure of her value, but she knew that many young women continued to struggle with their self-esteem because of their weight. Initially, she created a Whatsapp group for a few plus-size women to communicate and share their experiences. This soon grew to be a space of positivity where they could confront their struggles together and encourage each other. Mataku then started Thick Munchies, a group on Facebook, to connect with a wider range of women and raise the self-esteem of those who felt they weren’t skinny enough to model or feel proud of their bodies.

Mataku isn’t trying to redefine the idea of beauty, or show that one body type is superior. Rather, she wants people to focus on nurturing a healthy body and acknowledging that people naturally come in all sizes. “Every time we have meetings I tell them, ‘Look at you guys. You are beautiful, even with the rolls and big tummies, you are beautiful’,” she says. The group of women have since organised their own photoshoots to show off their beauty and Mataku is working towards recognition in this industry and representation from magazines and fashion designers. “No matter what, I’ll always feel beautiful,” Mataku says. This teenager knows her worth and is dedicated to developing a platform that encourages others to celebrate theirs.