It’s officially Yumi Nu season. She recently became the first plus-sized Asian cover star to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit; she joined the likes of Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, Anok Yai, Ariel Nicholson, Lola Leon, and Sherry Shi on the cover of American Vogue’s September issue; and she was one of Teen Vogue’s May cover stars, alongside her sister Natalie.
Although the response to Nu’s success has been overwhelmingly positive, some have used the opportunity to body shame her, particularly after Nu's SI Swimsuit cover. Jordan Peterson, a right-wing Canadian psychologist-turned-Youtuber, tweeted a negative response to Nu’s SI Swimsuit cover, writing, “Sorry. Not beautiful. And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.” He received a near-instant flood of backlash, and subsequently left Twitter.
In response, Nu posted a TikTok lipsyncing to “Itty Bitty Piggy” by Nicki Minaj in front of the hateful tweet. “I don’t even know why you girls bother at this point. Give up. It’s me. I win. You lose,” she mouthed. And, she is indeed winning.
Teen Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief Versha Sharma caught up with 25-year-old Nu on Instagram Live on Thursday and asked her about the hateful comment. “I don’t want to get into it too much and give him more than he’s already taken…I’m just happy right now and I know that this cover means so much to so many people including myself and I’m not going to let anyone take that away from me.”
Seeing someone like her on the SI Swimsuit cover when she was a teenager would've changed how she thought about beauty, Nu told People after the cover release.
“I think my 13 year old self had already been tainted by societal beliefs of what you need to look like to be on a cover. If she would've saw it before she saw anything else, I think she would have lived a different life with a different head space," she said. "That's why this is important now and has always been needed.”
This moment has been a culmination of years of work, with the world’s select pool of plus-sized models like Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser quickly going from idols to peers. “The industry wasn’t really ready when I was signed [as a curve model], and I feel like in the past few years it’s been a slow snowball because we were kind of just waiting for the industry to move with us,” she tells Teen Vogue.
Nu wants to see both media and fashion to reflect more diverse experiences. She’s been working on an ethically-made plus-sized fashion line for the past several years, after dealing with the frustration of the lack of clothing options for plus-sized consumers. “It’s just heartbreaking the lack of resources that the plus-sized community has in terms of fashion and what we can wear,” she says. “I just want people to care, I want people to show up beyond using a plus-sized person in their campaign.”
Watch the full interview here:
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