Body positivity, confidence, self-acceptance — if any of those words pique your interest, then it’s time to get The BodCon on your radar. It’s the only one-day virtual conference that focuses on body confidence and self-acceptance for the way we look, no matter our body type. This year it’s being held on Sunday, February 27 (get tickets here) from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET for a day full of thought-provoking interviews, inspiring conversations, and networking. It’ll bring together over 25 body confidence movers and shakers to discuss the intersection of body image and dating, having a disability, beauty, style, and more. In celebration of this event, Sunday Edit introduces a three-part interview series featuring some of the panelists. We’re kicking things off with Clara Dao, a 23-year-old content creator that promotes body confidence for small-chested and skinny women. She shares a bit about her journey below.
What inspired you to put yourself on social media and tell the world your story?
Clara Dao: I didn’t start making content about body positivity right away. At first, I was making videos about general lifestyle topics. But, about four or five months into it, I posted a video about having a flat chest and how I learned to embrace it and be confident with it. It went viral, and that’s when I realized that this is a topic that not many people were talking about. If they were, it would be a single video or post here and there — not a whole channel dedicated to it. So, I felt like there was this unique opportunity for me to speak my opinion and inspire young girls and women to love their bodies.
When people think of body positivity, it’s often about advocating for those with larger figures. How do you validate your experiences and struggles as a thinner person? Some people may not think that being thin is a “problem.”
Dao: Everything you just said is completely on point. It’s true that when people think about body positivity, they often think about larger bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I think that we need more positivity for larger bodies because they have been oppressed in our society for a long time, and they face a lot of struggles and discrimination because of their size. There are a lot of people who look like me who are going through a similar experience, too. Though it’s ‘easier’ to be accepted by society when you’re thin, there’s ‘skinny shaming and unique insecurities as a skinny person. I wouldn’t say that skinny people face the same amount of struggles [as larger people], but there are definitely insecurities when you don’t have any curves [and that’s considered the societal ideal].
So we know there’s this Western ideal of curviness as being attractive — what’s your take on Asian standards of beauty? Has your Vietnamese background played a role in some of the insecurities you’ve had about your body growing up?
Dao: I think that I am considered super skinny even by Vietnamese beauty standards. I think that in Vietnam, their perfect beauty standard is someone who’s slim but still has some curves. We call it the ‘90-60-90’ measurement [the ‘perfect’ bust/waist/hip measurements in centimeters]. My chest is completely flat, and I don’t have a butt. Growing up — and even to this day — my family and relatives are always telling me I’m too skinny and I would look so much better if I gained weight. These are instances of skinny shaming.
What effect did mainstream media have on your confidence?
Dao: When I was younger, there wasn’t much representation of my body type on the internet or in the media. I want to be that representation for people.
How did you get to a mindset of self-love? What experiences contributed to the confidence you have now?
Dao: When I was 19, I went through a double jaw surgery to fix my underbite. The underbite and the flat chest were my two biggest insecurities at that time. Once I fixed my underbite, I had thoughts about whether I could ‘fix’ my chest and have breast augmentation surgery. I thought maybe my body would look better. My recovery from my double jaw surgery was really hard on me. My face was swollen for a month. So even though I wanted the breast augmentation, my jaw recovery got me thinking about what the complications might be like. For starters, I would need another surgery in five or ten years to replace my implants and get new ones. The more research I did, the more I was convinced it wasn’t worth it for me. My only option was to learn how to be happy with my body. I was also going through a breakup at the time with a partner who never made me feel attractive—going through a breakup, going through jaw surgery, and researching breast augmentation surgery. It was all a turning point for me to learn how to love my body.
You seem like you’re mentally in a really good place now. What gets you through on tough days?
Dao: Sometimes I still feel like I’m not 100% in love with my body, but early last year I went through a spiritual awakening. I read two books: The Mastery of Love and The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz. They made me realize that for so long I’ve believed in lies about my body and I believed in unrealistic beauty standards. There were times that I compared myself a lot to other content creators or influencers and felt like I was not pretty or sexy enough. I had to get to the roots of understanding why I developed insecurities in the first place — a lot of it had to do with those beauty standards. The author helped me understand that I am so much more than just my body or my appearance.
You mentioned that there weren’t other content creators in the same niche as you. Now that you’ve been doing this for a while, do you have any mentors or people who have influenced you in your journey?
Dao: I definitely have made some connections with other body-positive content creators, and I adore their work. I love Danae Mercer, who will also be a speaker at The BodCon. I also follow Sara Puhto and Bree Lenehan. I connected with them on Instagram, and I think social media is amazing in that regard. They may not share exactly the same type of content as me, like about having a flat chest, but I do find them relatable in other content that they share.
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How can people be more conscious not to skinny shame?
Dao: I don’t think most people have bad intentions. A lot of times they think that what they say is a compliment — ‘you look so young because you’re skinny!’ I think that it is important to remind people that comments about someone’s bodies are generally not welcome and can still come off as body shaming. I think we’ve made progress in spreading that awareness to people commenting on larger bodies. We need the same for smaller or skinnier bodies. You never know if someone who has a skinnier body is battling an eating disorder or they are secretly insecure about their features.
I know you’re a big proponent of wearing what you feel comfortable in and what makes you feel good. Are there any specific fashion brands for clothing or lingerie that help you feel like your best self?
Dao: I wear Aritzia for everyday clothing. Their smaller size fits me well, and it’s of great quality. I love Victoria’s Secret for lingerie. [Ed note: Victoria’s Secret Pink also recently hired plus-size TikTok star, Remi Bader, as a size consultant to expand its range.]
How has your style evolved as you’ve become more confident in your body?
Dao: When I was younger, I used to wear a lot of push-ups and padded bras or wear baggy clothes, so it doesn’t really show my flat chest. Now, I want to flaunt it. I’m proud of it; I absolutely love my chest. These days, I usually wear body con dresses or tight-fitting clothes to really show off the body that I have. I no longer wear any bras. It’s been a big shift.
How do you deal with negative comments on social media and not let them get to your head?
Dao: When I first started out and when I was still new to content creation, of course, there were comments that hit me really hard and made me feel bad for days. Sometimes it did go straight through my head. The comments made me feel like I’m not enough. I’ve been in this space for like three years now, and I think I developed a thicker skin. I turn off notifications on my phone so I don’t immediately see negative comments, and that’s helped a lot. But I don’t mind them too much anymore, actually — a lot of the time, they inspire me to create new content.
What are some of the ways you practice self-care?
Dao: This past year, I’ve really focused on my skincare. When I put on a moisturizer or serum, for example, I really take my time with it. I used to do it quickly to get it over with, but now I take the time to feel my skin and the texture of the product. I tell myself positive affirmations like I’m so grateful that I’m able to take care of my skin. I’ve been more mindful and present with my beauty routine.
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