By Josh Saunders
A student cruelly called ‘elephant legs’ by her schoolteacher has become a fitness model since embracing her ‘curves’ and ‘little booty’
Yi Chen, 21, from San Diego in California, USA, is now inspiring others to love themselves after wearing shorts and dresses for the first time in nearly ten-years.
She was ten-years-old when she was mocked for her muscular physique by her teacher, leading classmates to nickname her ‘King Kong Barbie’ and even her family declaring her ‘too big’.
The negative reinforcement, while living in Taiwan, led her to quit sports and drastically cut back her food intake, even skipping meals entirely, until at 50lb (3st 7) lighter she looked ‘thin’.
But after moving to the USA at 15, people started complimenting her athletic physique, which eventually gave her the confidence to wear dresses and shorts two-years-ago.
Now she loves her ‘thighs, curves and little booty’ and shares her experiences online to empower others by getting them to celebrate their figures too.
Yi, a business management student, said: “When I was called ‘elephant legs’ in front of the whole class it was like giving approval for all my peers to make comments about my legs too.
“It was very wrong and horrible, from there the kids would call me other names like ‘King Kong Barbie’, ‘big thighs’ and a lot of cruel things behind my back.
“The everyday negative comments weren’t just from other people but my family and then myself because I started to believe I should be petite too.
“It got to the point where I gave up all sports and was purposely starving myself because of pressures I felt from bullying and my family, in their eyes Asian women are supposed to be skinny.
“I would avoid food completely, I had to be at the dinner table during meals but I would lie by saying I was ‘full’ from very tiny portions.
“Some days I would avoid eating dinner completely and just sleep in my room to avoid the whole thing, or I would tell my family I already had eaten.
“Over time I lost 50lb but I wasn’t happy, it got to a point where I was accepted but I wasn’t doing any of the things I enjoyed anymore.
“When I moved to America it gave me a whole different attitude to my physique, people would complement my body and legs all the time.
“Eventually I realised that spending your life trying to please people does not help anyone and makes no sense, I’m glad I’m not like that anymore and am accepting of myself.
“I learned to love my legs, I see them as a positive now and while people do compliment me I normally ignore them because now I realise the only things that matters is how I feel about myself.
“I used to be terrified of wearing skirts, shorts and dresses as it would show off my legs, but now I love to show off my physique and am proud of who I am.”
Yi developed a muscular physique during childhood, while participating in track and field events, even qualifying for regional competitions.
She says her body shape was disapproved of by her family from the age of eight due to ‘cultural differences’.
Yi said: “All my life I was told to be skinny, it was imprinted on me from my family and culture.
“Asian women are supposed to be like a little bird, petite and not muscular.
“I was completely the opposite, I was athletic in build, so while they were skinny and lean, I was on the thicker side.
“Growing up my family would constant quiz me about why I was so muscular and big, for them there was no in between, there was only skinny or fat.
”After cruel comments from her teacher and classmates two years later, she stopped all sporting activity and stopped eating.
Yi said: “Even my school teacher commented on my appearance in class, one day in front of everyone he said ‘Why do you have such large, elephant legs’.
“That was the point where it hit me and I decided to quit track and field, I was competing in regionals for my age but I gave it up because of that moment.
“I would look at food and think if I eat this it will feed into my muscles and enhance my physique so I didn’t and cut back a lot.
“After that, you could tell that I wasn’t a toothpick but my body was a straight line from the front and side, I had no curves.
“I thought I was happy because I didn’t have curves and my family would be happy, but the longer I deprived myself of what I enjoyed the worse I felt.”
After Yi moved to America, she started to redefine her perception of ‘body shape normality’ and began to embrace her figure.
She started to reveal her legs in clothing for the first time two-years-ago since adopting a healthy diet combined with exercise and at a health 154lb (11 stone)
Now she preaches body positivity to her 50,000 Instagram followers and encourages them to be proud of who they are.
Yi said: “I decided that no matter of the positive or negative comments I would ignore them and learn acceptance from myself.
“I started wearing dresses about two years ago, before I would cover my legs so you wouldn’t realise how curvy they are but now I like my physique.
“I’ve learned to love my legs, I see them as something positive, before they always seemed like a bad thing, but now I think it’s great having curves and little booty.”
Yi Chen is managed by Minnesota Records, who chose her based open her candid nature on the social media site.
Ejiro Newton, from Minnesota Records, said: “We’re going to develop strategies for her to reach other guys and girls out there.
“Yi is a fighter, she is a very hopeful person and I love that positive, optimistic mindset.
“She’s a hard and resilient worker, she got to a point where she stopped listening to what anyone else was saying, she got what she wanted and the results she wanted.
“I like her confidence, she’s comfortable in her body and wants to tell her story to girls all over the world and people like her to encourage them to be healthy too.”
You can follow her online: @yichinks925