In a country where only three percent of women her age are classified as obese, 220-pound Japanese comedian Naomi Watanabe is nearly twice the average weight of a Japanese woman her age. Since beginning her rise to fame — making exaggerated Beyoncé impersonations at age 21 launched her career — Watanabe has since become a regular on Japanese TV, started a clothing line, and garnered nearly six million followers on Instagram. Now 29, Japan’s “Most Valued Instagrammer” says that she hopes that her large social media presence can encourage other women to embrace body positivity.
“Japan is not like the U.S. You don’t see many plus-sized women around here,” Watanabe told The Washington Post. “But rather than trying to change other people’s minds, I would like to help change the minds of bigger women, to help them feel good about themselves.”
Watanabe said that she started her clothing line, Punyus, because fashionable clothing stores in Japan rarely catered to larger women.
“Larger-sized women couldn’t wear what they wanted. They couldn’t wear skirts, they would wear only black and would never show any skin,” Watanabe said. “Of course, larger women want to be fashionable, too, but there weren’t any fashionable clothes for us.”
Since launching her career and her brand, Watanabe says she witnessed a transformation in women’s attitudes.
“Japanese women are changing, and there are loads more women who can express themselves and many fewer women who just say yes to everything like before,” she said. “I see more women becoming super-strong and confident, and it helps me grow, too.”
Watch video of Watanabe’s Beyoncé impression below.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.