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Naomi Watanabe is Revolutionizing Body Image in Japan


Naomi Watanabe is a star in Japan. She already has six million Instagram followers, and is multi-talented. She’s a comedian, impressionist, and plus-size fashion icon, changing and revolutionizing how body image is talked about in the majority of super thin Japan. She rose to fame for her excellent Beyoncé impressions, earning her the nickname “The Beyoncé of Japan”. She was also awarded Vogue Japan’s Woman of the Year. The average weight for women in Japan is 115lbs, and Naomi is double that, at 220lbs.

“If there’s a 200-pound girl dancing, there’s a wow factor”, Naomi stated before her sold out world tour.

She started a successful trend called “pochakawaii” a body positive movement that translates to “chubby and cute”. It was an important first step toward embracing your body, and Naomi is proud and happy to embrace who she is.

Naomi started her own fashion line in 2014, called PUNYUS, offering plus sizes along with standard sizes, for the first time in Japan. The line offers fun prints, and styles that weren’t previously offered to plus size girls.

“When big people walk down the street in Japan, there are cat calls and people shouting negative things at them. Plus-size girls usually wear a lot of black and cover up,” Watanabe stated in an interview with Fusion.

Her brand, and her representation, encourages girls to wear what they want, to be comfortable, and to be fashion forward.  Offering bright prints, wild colors, and tight, form fitting clothes, she helps people celebrate their figure instead of hiding it. In a country where it’s hard to find sizes above a medium, Naomi offers choices to plus size people that have never had that option before.

She’s helped bring the Japanese plus size magazine La Farfa to the mainstream, as both a spokesperson and a several time cover model. She’s helping to encourage all women to feel comfortable in their bodies, and love who they are, while enjoying fashion and expressing themselves in a positive way. In Japan, 22% of women are underweight, and the body positive revolution helps everyone embrace their weight, in a healthy way.

Her hilarious sense of humor adds a light hearted feel to her activism. On her Instagram she posts silly photos of herself, one included herself floating in the pool with bagels on the breasts of her bathing suit. Another she stands on the scale, and captions it, “Um. . . Did I eat too much pizza? I believe I weighed 45kg before I came to Milan”.  It’s not hard to see why she won ‘most valuable Instagrammer’ in Japan. She loves to make jokes, and doesn’t take herself too seriously, and it’s part of why she’s so loved and valued. When asked what her workout routine involved, she told them it involves lying on her back, eating curry and rice while doing leg lifts.

When asked if she feels that attitudes are changing in Japan, Naomi stated that,“I see more women becoming super-strong and confident, and it helps me grow, too.” Her activism is massively important and she’s done so much to change the stigma against plus size people in Japan, and now that’s expanding outside of Japan, the world. She’s iconic, fun, and has an infectious personality. She’s helping changing body standards in her own way, and it’s amazing.

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