Plus-Sized Inclusive Beauty Ambassador Talks About Her Struggles with Weight, Bullying and PCOS

Thirsty for JUICE content? Quench your cravings on our Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp

Beauty comes in all shapes and forms, but do we actually believe that?

In this day and age, social media has become such a ubiquitous entity in our lives – permeating our day to day and feeding us with that hit of dopamine we have become accustomed to crave.

But tell me honestly, how many of us actually see beauty represented in all forms?

The term “inclusivity” nowadays has been transformed into a marketing buzzword, which takes away its gravity and power to uplift those who feel marginalised.

Seen through meretricious ads that provide no context for a person’s struggle with their body image, it seems that the praise falls short when it comes from a place that only wants to benefit from these people, and not benefit the people themselves.

With this new joint collaboration between SAYS, Seismik, JUICE Malaysia and Mashable SEA, our Inclusive Beauty campaign aims to make sure the masses know the struggle of being deemed “unconventional” and how that changes a person, especially during their early years.

We hope to nurture empathy, understanding and admiration for those who are brave enough to embrace themselves despite the odds.

In this article, JUICE chats with Inclusive Beauty ambassador, Liyana Lee, who has struggled with her body image for years due to her Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This is her story…

Walk me through your childhood of being a plus-sized girl. How did you feel when you were surrounded by other girls who were considered smaller than you? Did it affect your social life?

When Liyana hit puberty, she was diagnosed with PCOS. For those unaware, PCOS affects a woman’s hormones. Some women with PCOS may not ovulate, have high levels of androgens, and have many small cysts on the ovaries, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

PCOS can cause missed or irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth, acne, infertility, and weight gain.

For Liyana, weight gain was the most visible effect of her PCOS, and in school, she was one of the very few girls who was considered “plus size.” As a teenager, this affected her, as she could not see herself reflected in anything, especially the media.

“There was always a lot sympathy coming from the people around me.”

While other girls would thrive in sports and physical extracurricular activities, peers and teachers would look at Liyana and condescendingly say,

“Can you even do that? Wouldn’t it be too tiring for you? Maybe you can join the team, but you don’t have to play.”

Her social life took a turn when she realised that people were walking on eggshells around her. Because of this, forming real relationships with people at school became a difficult task.

Was there ever a time when being plus-sized deterred you from seizing certain opportunities in your life? Tell us about that.

“Being plus sized means you can’t do certain things, and I don’t think that’s true.” 

Discrimination when it came to size would not only come from students, but teachers as well and Liyana recounts a specific time where she wanted to play Badminton but she was rejected in-front of the whole class when a sports teacher said,

“Are you sure you can do it? It takes a lot of energy to do it.”

As a young girl, Liyana felt defeated and she still thinks about it to this day. “Maybe I could’ve been a great Badminton player, who knows?”

But it didn’t stop there. Even as an adult, Liyana was told by her boss,

“No company will hire you if you’re plus-sized.”

She was shocked, since her job was in content creation which has nothing to do with her body, but it proves that the discrimination is so prevalent, it permeates all job scopes.

Growing up with a body that is not seen as the “beauty standard” can be difficult and painful. What steps did you take to rise above that insecurity and reclaim your beauty?

In our chat, Liyana says that the most powerful thing she’s ever done is “to never compare [herself] with anyone else.”

“Everyone has their own journey and their own path.”

Someone’s reason for being a certain way is none of anyone’s business and everyone is struggling with something in their lives. For her, it was her PCOS, making it difficult for her to lose weight.

People may think that exercising a lot and eating healthy food will solve the problem, but for some people, it’s not that easy.

“Growing up with a body that is not the beauty standard is really hard. So I learned to never compare myself.”

Beauty is said to come in all shapes and forms but as a society, it seems that we’re all talk but no considerable action. What can society do to actually prove that there is no set mould when it comes to beauty?

“Society needs to be more empathetic.”

Society is judgmental and unforgiving when it comes to people’s struggles. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes should be a more common practice than it is.

Liyana’s platform talks about all the things that you might be going through when you have PCOS or when you’re plus-sized and considered not the “typical beauty standard”. It’s aimed at making people feel beautiful and acknowledged regardless of what society may say.

“Who’s to say that having long legs or being skinny is the only beauty standard? Just because society says so, doesn’t mean it is right.”

Living in an Asian country, we’re sadly accustomed to certain microaggressions when it comes to being “outside of the beauty standard”. Tell us how we can stand up for each other when a person points out another person’s insecurities.

“This is something that a lot of people need to learn. I think it’s to never be a bystander.”

Growing up bullied because of her size, Liyana wishes that more people would speak up when they see situations where a person is degrading another person for their appearance.

Be respectful and tell them, “Hey, that’s not cool. You can have your opinions but your opinion shouldn’t hurt someone else. Your opinion could lead them to do something that they might regret.”

Can you describe the first time you felt beautiful and how that impacted your overall perception of yourself?

There was a trend where people were taking certain selfies and posting them on Instagram and Liyana wanted to jump in as well. Being a photographer, she took a lot of other people’s photos, so angles and lighting were not foreign to her. However, she never took photos of herself.

So, she made herself up, put on cute clothes, posed in-front of the camera and acted like she was a model.

“I took a really nice photo that I posted on my Instagram and when I posted it, everyone said, ‘OMG you look so beautiful. You look like a model!’ and there was so much support. That really made my day and it made me think, yeah I am beautiful and it doesn’t matter if I’m plus-sized.

I’m beautiful in my own way and nothing can take that away from me. I have that photo to remind myself of that.”

After that incident, it really boosted Liyana’s overall self-image.

“If people can see my beauty that way, why can’t I see it for myself?” 

What would you like to say to all the young women and men out there who are struggling with their body image?

“It’s okay if you don’t feel beautiful now, but you have to remember that society does not put a mould or setting on who is beautiful. You are beautiful and it doesn’t matter what someone says.”

Your struggle with your body image is valid and many people feel the way you do.

“Who cares? If I love myself, I will have the confidence to do whatever it is that I wanna do.”

Liyana wants to emphasise that she does not support being unhealthy, and that is not the message here. Everyone has their own journey with their health and body image and that is really difficult to navigate on its own without the scrutiny of society.

The true takeaway is that despite your appearance, nobody has the right to bring you down and make things even harder.

Work on yourself at your own time, and remember that at any size, you deserve to feel good about yourself.

For additional information about the Inclusive Beauty movement, visit and prepare to witness the winds of change sweep across the realm of beauty.

Juice WhatsApp banner