It’s impossible to not fall head-over-heels for 25-year-old Asian model, entrepreneur, and body positivity advocate, Clara Tan. The Indonesian Asia’s Next Top Model cycle 5 contestant has decided that one competition she won’t be in is for her own self-worth, and she’s made this new relationship with her body Instagram official.
“In this picture, I want to tell you guys that I’m not ‘perfect’ anymore, the body changes as you grow up. But it’s okay. I’m human as well,” Clara Tan shared on her social media account. “Do I feel insecure bout my body? For sure, yes! But I learnt to love it, because when you accept your flaws, no one can use them against you.”
Vogue Singapore spoke to a thriving Tan, on vulnerability, what it means to take agency over your body, and bravely loving yourself, as you are.
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As someone who has been dieting since the age of 18, what does it feel like to really take ownership of your body?
I feel liberated and in control. It feels gratifying to finally be able to accept my flaws and indulge in the food that I have been missing out on since I was 18. You only live once, y’all. Don’t make it more complicated than it should be.
At what point did you think, ‘Forget this. I’m just going to be me, exactly as I am.’
It actually happened when my friends were all worried about me because I got fatter. They were scared that I wouldn’t be able to get jobs as a model. But I realised that beauty is not only skin-deep and I have more to offer than just my appearance. That’s when I decided that I am more than happy to just be myself.
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Let’s talk about the pressure you felt everytime you were told that your body was ‘perfect’. What is your relationship with your body like now?
The perfect body that everybody kept praising was actually obtained from me following a very strict diet. It was torture as I had to eat plain food and exercise rigorously everyday. I remember crying so much, because it was really awful, but I had no choice due to my field of work. Now, I feel so much more in control of my body and my life after I accepted the fact that nothing is perfect and the flaws that you have actually makes you more beautiful as long as you embrace it. Love yourself, girls and boys!
What are some of the unhealthy attitudes to weight and diets that you’ve had to let go of?
The unhealthy mindset that gaining weight means the end of the world, having to throw up the food that I devoured just to maintain the ‘ideal’ body weight, and the unbalanced diet that doesn’t really cover the daily nutrition intake.
You’ve talked about the pressure of presenting the ‘perfect life, perfect body’ on Instagram. Why is social media a breeding ground for insecurity?
I think we need to first acknowledge that we inherently care about the social narratives of ourselves. Social media creates a false body image due to the fact that many celebrities and influencers use Photoshop or other editing apps for their posts, giving a body standard that isn’t humanely achievable. Many social media influencers also utilise social media to make them look like they’re living the dream. It is very easy to get trapped in a bubble where you constantly compare yourself against the ‘ideal’ standard set by influencers. Therefore, breeds insecurities for people who did not know any better.
You said ‘once you learn to love your flaws, no one can use them against you’. How should people respond to trolls on social media and IRL?
I have been criticised, ostracised, and cried more often than I can remember. But there have always been people who stood by my side through all the highs and lows and accepted me for who I am. This made me realise that the real ones will always stand by you, and those are the ones that you have to hold on to. The experiences that I had also made me realise that, no matter what you do, people will talk; you have to own your flaws and love yourself enough until no one would be able to use it against you. Believe that you, yourself, are enough and beautiful. And if there are trolls out there, be the bigger person and know that, they themselves do not love themselves enough—to the point of letting their insecurities get the best of them and bash on someone else.
How does one transcend their ‘flaws’?
I believe your flaws are actually your power. It’s what makes you different from the others. In this world where conformity is the norm, being different is power, no? The only flaw that you can really have is believing that your ‘flaws’ are the ones that’s holding you back. Never doubt yourself.
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What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty means freedom, confidence, and fulfilment. It is a true expression of yourself and ability to look at yourself in the mirror and feel nothing but contentment. True beauty radiates and transcends beyond any social construct.
How are you confident of your body now?
First of all when, I look at my recent pictures I look more human, and I just realised my boobs and ass got bigger because of gaining weight. Slim thick y’all.
You frequently use the hashtag #showyourflaws? What advice would you give to people who want to be brave and show their flaws?
For me to #showyourflaws is to love and accept the wholeness of your being. My advice is that you are completely perfect the way you are. What seems flawed to you may be seen as a diamond in another’s eye. I’ve been criticised for my height, skinny body, long neck and many more throughout junior high. But hey! That’s exactly what a model needs.
How do you look after your mental health?
I do a lot of skincare like masks as my self-care rituals. In order to get over a bad day, I like to put myself in places and environments that smell good, so I usually take a warm bath and put a lot of perfume everywhere (my body, my room, my living room, my pillow) to make everything smell good. I drink and party and hang out with my friends to de-stress.
Here are a few of some of Clara’s beauty essentials:
1 / 5
Louis Vuitton Cœur Battant eau de parfum
“It smells so good, love the flowery smell,” says Clara on the scent by master perfumer, Jacques Cavallier Belletrud. It’s a passionate, voluptuous scent calling forth radiant Egyptian jasmine, opulent ylang-ylang, with fresh pear and sensual patchouli.
Louis Vuitton Cœur Battant, $410 for 100ml eau de parfum; available at Louis Vuitton
2 / 5
Dr. Jart+ V7 Pink Toning Cream
“Every time I use it, I don’t need any concealer or any other make-up product. It makes my skin look amazing,” says Clara on the cream which promises naturally radiant, hydrated skin.
Dr. Jart+ V7 Pink Toning Cream, $80; available at Sephora
3 / 5
Senscience Inner Restore Intensif Deep Repairing Masque
“It makes my hair so soft and healthy, and my hair was so damaged and fragile from my modelling days since they used so much colouring and hot tools.”
Senscience Inner Restore Intensif Deep Repairing Masque, $51.37; available at Shopee
4 / 5
I'm Meme Mystery Flash Tint in Lychee Soda
“Currently my favorite lip tint ever, the colour is so pretty, doesn’t make my lips dry, and you can use it as a blush on too.”
I’m Meme Mystery Flash Tint in Lychee Soda, $12; available at Amazon
5 / 5
Tyme Glow Pill
“Other than the usual modeling gigs and appearances, I’m currently building my own business selling handcrafted beauty products to Indonesian consumers,” says Tan, who describes herself as an “aspiring, young entrepreneur with the vision of empowering young women to believe in themselves and live a meaningful and joyful life.
“This is my own product. I made it with love and the best quality ingredients to absorb all the oil and impurities in your skin. It’s like a clay mask without being drying at all.”
Tyme Glow Pill, RP 120,000; available at Shopee