Clara Dao Talks Body Positivity, Embracing Her Skinny Body and The BodCon 2022

Body positivity is about so much more than accepting bigger bodies.

23-year-old Clara Dao knows this well. All her life, Clara was shamed for being skinny and having a small chest. After years of trying to change her body, she accepted the skin she was in, and decided to become an influencer focused on body positivity and encouraging women to celebrate themselves, no matter their size and shape. Today, she has 1.4 million followers on TikTok, so it's clear her message resonated.

And on Feb. 27, Clara will appear at The BodCon 2022, a virtual conference on body confidence and self-acceptance. The conference will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with panelists including Bri Scalesse, Alexandra Stewart,  Lisa Schoenberger, Michele Selene Ang and so many more. Clara will be speaking on the  Growing up Body Confident: The Gen Z Panel, and ahead of the event, we got the chance to chat with Clara about her own body confidence journey, and what it means to her to represent skinny girls.

Sweety High: When people think of "body positivity," they often think of embracing bigger bodies, and often don't see someone your size as part of the body positivity movement. Why is that bias harmful, and why is it so important to include skinny and small-chested girls in that movement?

Clara Dao: I think that bias can be harmful because when someone says things like, "Oh, body positivity is not for skinny people," it feels like we are not even allowed to feel insecure or imply that we don't have any struggles with body image or confidence whatsoever. In fact, skinny and small-chested girls deal with body-shaming regularly, and we have our own set of insecurities and struggles that may not be openly discussed in mainstream media. Skinny shaming is real, and it leads to a lot of our insecurities regarding our lack of curves, not feeling womanly enough, having to hear people telling us we're "underweight," or we have to "eat more" all the time, some people may even question if we have an eating disorder (?!). Most people are not aware of the negative impact that their words can have on other people. Over time, I feel like people have been a lot more considerate with the words they use around heavier people—which is amazing. You hardly ever hear someone saying, "You look so fat," to a bigger person in real life, but a lot of people still say things like, "You look so skinny," to a thin person (they may even think it's a compliment) with no regards to how the person hearing it may feel. So I'm here to spread more awareness on the struggles that skinny and small-chested girls face and help spread more body positivity for this particular body type.

Clara Dao Black Dress and glases

(Photo credit: Clara Dao)

 

SH: What was your own journey to accepting your body? What advice do you have for others to accept their bodies, no matter what size and shape?

CD: I've been naturally skinny my whole life, and I've experienced lots of skinny shaming growing up, and even until now. Family and friends would constantly point out how thin I am and tell me that I should eat more or gain weight. Growing up in a Southeast Asian family, body shaming is ingrained in our culture, and I've developed a lot of insecurities because of that. I spent the first 19 years of my life hating how my body looked, wishing I could look different or would one day wake up with a flawless face and body. I would even print out pictures of "the perfect bodies" that I saw on social media and stick them on my mirror with the hope that one day I could "manifest" my body into that version. The rise of social media and the "slim-thick" body trend had definitely made my insecurities even more profound. I was extremely self-conscious about my flat chest and tried to hide it ever since I was 10. I'd always wear padded or push-up bras whenever I went out. At some point in my teenage years, I even wore butt pads to make my butt look bigger.

I was like this until I was 19—when I hit the lowest point in my self-confidence and self-worth. I even contemplated getting breast implants. However, as I did more research, I realized that it's not worth it for me (considering all the risks, breast implant illnesses and the need to have a replacement surgery every five to 10 years). After that, I decided that if I didn't want to get the surgery, my only option would be to learn to accept and love my body for what it is. Having also just gotten out of a bad breakup, I really wanted a fresh start and transformed into a better version of myself. That's when I went through a mental "glow up." I cleaned up my social media following, focused on myself instead of comparing myself to others and reflected deeply on what led to my insecurities and what I could do to improve my relationship with my body. Then came the point that I decided to create content and put myself out there. In a way, I've gone on a self-love journey with my audience. I learned to accept myself and love my body with my audience. I don't feel 100% confident all the time; there are still days that I feel down or insecure or compare myself to others. Still, in those moments, I find comfort in having a community that shares many things in common with me. They inspire and encourage me just as much as I'm able to inspire and help them through the content I create.

My advice to help others accept their bodies, no matter what size and shape:

Follow social media accounts that you can relate to or represent your body type in a positive way.

Unfollow accounts that make you feel insecure or that you often compare yourself to.

Consume content with a body-positive message (social media posts and videos, books or podcasts, etc.).

Practice saying positive affirmations about your body.

Journal about your progress and feelings (this will be great to look back at later on—you would feel really proud of yourself and see how far you have come).

Remind yourself that we are all equally beautiful and worthy. The person you compare yourself to may have struggles of their own that you don't know about. Nobody is better or more deserving than you. You are enough.

Clara Dao crop top

(Photo credit: Clara Dao)

 

SH: What's the most important lesson you've learned over the course of putting yourself out there and sharing your message with the world?

CD: The most important lesson that I learned over the course of putting myself out there and sharing my message with the world is to believe in myself—to believe that I deserve a platform, to believe that my message can help (a lot of) people, and to believe that I deserve to be happy. I find that when I doubt myself, I get insecure, then I don't feel like putting myself out there as much; I just want to be in my little box and feel like I have nothing valuable to share with the world. But when I believe in myself and tell myself that I have something valuable to share, that this is the right path for me, that I am capable of doing everything I put my mind to, then I have the confidence to create and put out more content, and in turn, potentially have my message reach more people and make a difference in their lives.

 

SH: What type of audience do you hope to reach with your content, and what do you hope they learn from it?

CD: I hope to reach the audience that may see themselves in me, either because they have a similar body type or because they've also experienced body shaming or struggle with their body image in some ways. When I was younger, I didn't see that much representation of my body in the media, and nobody was really talking about body positivity for skinny and flat-chested girls. So, in a way, I'm making the type of content that a younger me would love to see. I hope I could be that representation on social media that my audience can relate to, to show them that it's okay to have a flat chest, it's okay to not have a big butt, it's okay to be skinny and not have many curves, and that despite their insecurities, they are still beautiful, womanly, worthy and uniquely gorgeous in their own way. I also hope that my content could get more people in the general public to acknowledge the negative impact of skinny shaming and be more considerate with their words and actions towards thin people.

Clara Dao My Body Not Yours Top

(Photo credit: Clara Dao)

 

SH: How excited are you to be invited to be involved with The BodCon 2022? What perspective do you hope to bring to the table?

CD: I'm super excited to join The BodCon 2022! I hope to bring a new voice to the table and discuss body positivity from a skinny person perspective, as well as spread more awareness on skinny shaming and the struggles that skinny and flat-chested girls face. I hope my effort will help make the body positivity conversations at The BodCon more inclusive to all body types. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to join this incredible event.

 

Curious about the conversation about body positivity? Click HERE to read our interview with Lisa Schoenberger, a plus size model and fashion inclusivity advocate also speaking at The BodCon this year.