Iza Calzado, one of the most beautiful celebrities in the Philippines, grew up battling obesity and she makes no bones about it. “I always look at a woman's body and think: ‘What could my body have looked like if I didn't become big as a child?’ I never saw my body in a form that was not stretched, or from being stretched, losing all that weight,” she confesses. “I just know my body as it is now.” It is a mentality forged from years of struggling with weight issues, all in a bid to mold herself to the perceived standards of beauty that society has lumped on women. “I think, that for Filipinos, it's culturally ingrained: shame is really a big part of our culture. We’re always nitpicking, that's why we're always nahihiya,” Iza observes, “We know we are being judged, kasi we judge.”
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As one of the most prolific faces to grace countless of advertising campaigns, Iza is certainly not a stranger to how media’s portrayal of women reinforce perceptions and stereotypes about what beauty means and she recognizes that she is part of the problem. “The images that people see of me are always perfect. All of those are very Photoshopped,” she reveals. “I think I liked it as well, because I can see myself in them the way I want to see myself in my head.” As a whole, the glossed up, prettified imagery of women in today’s multimedia platforms tend to play tricks with one’s sense of self, where women have gotten into the habit of constantly comparing themselves to others. “How come she doesn't have stretch marks? How come she doesn't have loose skin? How come I have so much?’—you'll start thinking of these things," Iza relates, “You really have to catch yourself, and be aware. You don’t have to dwell on your body not being like theirs.”
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Slowly but surely, through conscious efforts on her part, Iza is making headway with being content in her own skin but she is, admittedly, a work in progress. “There is already a level of comfortability that I have with my body. When I go to the beach, I do wear a two-piece, as long as I know no one's taking my photo, yung walang paparazzi na ganyan na nakatutok sa'kin,” she reveals. “And, I do parade around the beach, pero not yet in Boracay. Maybe one day, we'll see. 'Pag open na. Kasi feeling ko ang daming tao sa Boracay, eh.” True body positivity, she realizes, means people can do whatever they want with their bodies, as long as they do it with love. “Part of loving the body is really just taking loving choices for the body. You're doing what you're supposed to do in terms of self-care,” she shares. “Definitely, I have a long way to go in this journey called ‘self-love.’ It is a daily commitment that I have to take.”
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Photographs from Vyn Radovan and Instagram.com/missizacalzado