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These plus-size Asian women posed in ball gowns for a breathtaking viral photo shoot to make a statement about representation

Amanda Krause , Business Insider US
 Aug 07, 2019, 11:27 AM
A photograph created by Michelle Elman and Linda Blacker.
  • Michelle Elman an author and body-confidence coach, teamed up with photographer Linda Blacker to create a set of images that showcase the diversity of Asian women.
  • The body-positive portraits show Asian women of varying ages, sizes, and skin tones dressed in stunning gowns.
  • Speaking to INSIDER, Elman said she wanted to create the photos with Blacker to "show the fashion industry what they're missing."
  • Elman also said she hoped to "demonstrate that Asian women are just as beautiful and fashionable as any other race."
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

A set of body-positive photos depicting Asian women dressed in stunning ball gowns has gone viral.

Michelle Elman, an author and body-confidence coach, teamed up with photographer Linda Blacker to create photos that would show "a small sample of the diversity within Asia," according to Elman's Instagram page. The two shared the images on July 28, and have since received more than 34,000 likes collectively on Instagram.

INSIDER recently spoke with Elman about the photos, as well as the importance of representing diverse groups of people in the media. See the striking portraits below.

Michelle Elman and Linda Blacker worked together to create the body-positive images

Speaking to INSIDER, Elman said Blacker reached out to her after she spoke about "plus-size Asian representation" online in March.

"We had previously worked together, and she said she would love to work on something to bring awareness to the issue," Elman said of Blacker.

The two then created the concept for their photos. On Instagram, Blacker said the images were meant to show that "plus-size Asians exist and deserve representation," though they are "so often excluded from mainstream media."

All six models, not including Elman, were discovered on social media.

Elman agrees, telling INSIDER that the photos are the "perfect way to show the fashion industry what they're missing." She also said the images can "practically demonstrate that Asian women are just as beautiful and fashionable as any other race."

"We deserve to be included," Elman said, speaking of herself and other Asian women.

Each model seen in the photos was found on social media

Rather than working with a modeling agency, Elman says she found all six models on Instagram and Twitter.

"Bishamber and Kat are both plus-size bloggers in the community who I've been following for a while," Elman said of two models.

"Everyone else followed me, and I found them via Instagram and Twitter," she said. "I included everyone who reached out, and it was just a matter of logistics - who was free on the day that the studio was booked."

Models were specifically chosen to be diverse.

From left to right, the models standing up are: Vanessa Sison, Mina Kumari, Michelle Elman, Kat Henry, and Bishamber Das. Sha-La-Knee is sitting on the left, and Sim is sitting on the right.

"We tried to make sure the models were as inclusive as possible," Elman said. "We wanted there to be a diverse range of sizes, ages, and also in terms of skin colour."

Everything from the models' dresses to their makeup were carefully considered

According to Elman, she knew she wanted the models to wear "high-end, formal maxi dresses," but "the rest was all Linda's styling."

Elman also made sure that the photoshoot was diverse both on camera and behind the scenes - her and Blacker hired makeup artists Hannah Shaikh and Umber Ghauri for the event.

"Hannah and Umber are both so talented," Elman said. "I think it's really important to also highlight that most sets, behind the scenes, are also not diverse."

Elman reiterated her statement in her original Instagram post.

"Thank you also to Umber Ghauri and Hannah Shaikh for the incredible makeup!" Elman said on Instagram. "It felt so complete to have the makeup artists also be Asian. We need just as much diversity behind the scenes on shoots as well!"

Elman told INSIDER that she's received an 'overwhelmingly positive' reaction in response to the photos

"We've had a lot of people say that while this was something they've never noticed, they've since realised that most diverse photoshoots don't include Asian people at all," Elman told INSIDER.

"I think we need to broaden diversity so that tokenism isn't taking place," she continued. "We need to be actively noticing when an entire continent is not represented."

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