Dare to Bare

Body confidence is about the ability to proudly accept each flaw and imperfection. While many would baulk at donning a swimsuit for our cameras, these four women show what it means to celebrate body positivity.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Ming wears bracelets from Pandora; and bikini bottom from H&M. 

“My body doesn’t define my happiness” 

– Ming Bridges, Musician & Founder, Rentadella 

As a public figure, Ming’s body is under constant scrutiny and her fluctuating weight has been well documented in the media. Instead of distancing herself from the touchy subject of body image, the Singapore-based singer is using her position to empower other women to be comfortable in their own skin. The 26-year-old reveals, “I still have days when I look at myself and I see my stretch marks or saggy boobs and feel unhappy but then, I’ll also make a conscious choice not to have these thoughts, and remind myself that my body doesn’t define my happiness.”

Did you have past struggles with how your body looked?

“It began after I joined the entertainment industry and I was told to lose weight for the very first time in 2012. I was slim growing up so I never really thought much about my body, but I became more and more body conscious after that comment. I had also joined social media around that time and all the pictures where I looked skinny got more likes. So, my self-worth was linked to my body. I quickly became anorexic without my parents or even myself realising. Then my body started to rebel and I started binge eating. Within a year, I became severely overweight. I actually left Singapore and went to London for a while because I was so ashamed of my body.” 

How did you overcome your eating disorder?

“The second I stopped focusing on my body and turning my focus to ‘recovering’, I actually started to get more comfortable with my weight. I took brisk walks in the morning and after a few years I just naturally lost the weight that I gained and was back to the size that I was meant to be. It took some trial and error to find out what works for my body. I’ve found that I benefit from low-impact exercises and eating more carbs as opposed to eating less and exercising more.”

What advice do you have for people suffering from low body confidence?

“I think a lot of people are very cruel to themselves. I’ve met girls who have washboard abs and they’re stick thin but they’ll tell me that they hate their arms or they want to hide their stomach. We’re born with the bodies that we have so you can either spend the rest of your life trying to change it or accept it for what it is. When I look back on my life, I want to be able to tell my grandkids about the languages I learnt, or the places I went to and the businesses I built. Not that I spent 10 years trying to fit into a certain size of jeans.”

My body is… “just a vessel I move through life in, it doesn’t define me.” 

"You don’t need others to love you if you love yourself first” 

– Cheryl Tay, Founder, Rock The Naked Truth 

My Reading Room

Cheryl wears earrings from Pandora. 

After a decade of suffering from body image issues, Cheryl decided enough was enough. She dealt with her inner demons by starting a body positivity movement called Rock The Naked Truth, an online portal where people can discuss their struggles with body image. By sharing her story, the 32-year-old hopes to inspire others to step forward and embrace their inner beauty. “I rate my body an 11 out of 10! It was a long journey to get to 11 but I’ve accepted my body for what it is and I’ve embraced what I’ve learnt about it. Nobody’s perfect, nobody, but being body confident is knowing you have a big butt and being comfortable with it anyway.”

Why did you struggle with your weight?

“I’ve suffered from anorexia and it got so bad that at one point I actually started self-harming. The height of my struggle was when I was 18. I was obsessed with getting the digits on the scale to go down. I kept telling myself that skinny is beautiful and I would punish myself if I felt hungry by scratching my arms and my face. Then obviously I couldn’t keep the weight off and I was miserable.”

How did you overcome this battle?

“I found my confidence through fitness when I saw what my body could do for me. Someone introduced me to weightlifting and I was like, ‘Wow! I never thought I could lift 50, 60 or even 80 kg more than my body weight’. I started to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle after that.”

Why do you want to help others with their body issues?

“I started Rock The Naked Truth in 2016 to encourage others to be comfortable in their own skin and to learn that there is more to life than just being a slave to the numbers on your scale. Truly, life has more meaning than just forcing yourself to look good; it’s more important to be happy and feel good about yourself. You only have one body to live in for the whole of your life, so it’s your responsibility to take care of it. Society can be harsh but you don’t need others to love you if you love yourself first.”

My body is… “mine to discover and I believe that the only limits are those that I set for myself.” 

“There’s so much more to me than what you see physically”

– Vanessa Fernandez, Artist-Producer 

My Reading Room

Vanessa wears earrings and rings from Thomas Sabo; bracelets from Pandora; bikini top from Eres; and bikini bottom from H&M. 

For someone who used to think taking care of herself was selfish, Vanessa has wholly embraced the art of self-care over the past several years by going vegetarian and quitting both smoking and drinking. She talks about her journey towards body confidence and why her physical changes had more to do with her mind than anything else. The 36-year-old shares, “I feel that I have a pretty strong body, and I’m in good shape.”

What did you think of your body when you were growing up?

“As a kid, I was very nerdy, awkward and a little bit chubby. So, I feel like I had a lot of self-loathing when I was younger. I was good at singing and I was creative, but I always felt like I wasn’t as pretty as some of the other girls. When I was a teenager, I felt like my cousins would get a lot of attention from guys because they were beautiful, but I was the shy, quiet, crush-from-afar type. I think that contributed to this sense that I wasn’t good enough in a physical way.”

How did you learn to take care of yourself properly?

“I was a smoker for over 20 years and drinking was something I used to do when I was stressed. I had already been aware that these things were absolutely not doing me or my body any justice. I wanted to cut out this feeling of craving something to fulfill my happiness. So began the process of me caring about my mind, caring about my body and taking active steps to practise self-care. I’m okay with the way I look because I know there’s so much more to me than what you see physically.”

What advice do you have for those struggling with body confidence?

“I think you have to do whatever you can to be really in touch with yourself. There are lots of different ways to reach that goal, but really knowing who you are, and knowing what’s important to you, what’s of value to you, and what value you can bring to other people, are good to think about. True confidence begins with awareness. If you truly listen to yourself, to your heart and your mind, you’ll know that you’re not necessarily going to be perfect and it’s okay to be sad about this. The important thing is to try and work towards ridding yourself of feelings or things or people that don’t serve you and your higher purpose.”

My body is… “an extension of my mind.” 

"This is who I am, take it or leave it"

– Bebe Ding, Co-Founder, CruBox & Crucycle 

My Reading Room

Bebe wears earrings and necklace from Thomas Sabo; and bikini from Eres. 

It’s 5 am and while most of Singapore slumbers, Bebe is already breaking out a sweat on her bike at CruCycle where she’s leading training sessions five days a week for a new batch of instructors. The 28-year-old entrepreneur and her rock hard abs are proof that if you take care of your body, it will take care of you. But Bebe says she didn’t always treat her body right and it took her time to reach a place where she feels confident about the way she looks. “I never really look in the mirror and say, ‘I hate this.’ I’m past that now because I feel like I’m in a really good place with my body. But I did work hard to get here.”

What does confidence mean to you?

“In our modern society, it’s really easy to be distracted by what you see everywhere and to start comparing yourself to other people. It’s easy to start calling yourself all these names in your head when you’re really not all those things. It’s just your self-perception. But when you’re confident about the way you look, you execute so much more in life. It’s a lot of goals or ambitions or successes for you because, I believe, in just thinking that you can, you’ve already gone a step further.”

Did you have past struggles with how your body looked?

“When I was in college, I was living in Los Angeles in the US and I did not treat my body very well because I was always out partying. I was just breaking my body down and having all these reactions because I was exhausted and over-exerting myself. Not only did I have the usual body aches and joint pains, but I was also really temperamental and moody. Even my day-to-day interactions with people were suffering because of it.”

How did you heal from this?

“The turning point for me came when I went to see a naturopath and he said my kidneys were really tired because of my lifestyle. That’s when I snapped out of it and thought, ‘This is my body, I have to start treating it well, otherwise it’s going to break.’ It’s really in the last three years that I’ve come to accept my body. As I get older, the more I’m like, ‘This is who I am, take it or leave it’.”

My body is… “continuously, continuously going to change and I’m okay with that.”