Home > “I Weigh…”: An Interview with Miss Universe Thailand

“I Weigh…”: An Interview with Miss Universe Thailand

Home > “I Weigh…”: An Interview with Miss Universe Thailand

“I Weigh…”: An Interview with Miss Universe Thailand

What percentage of women and girls suffer from mental health issues? The chances are high that you underestimated the figure. A staggering one in five experience depression, anxiety or other challenges, and young women in particular are considered the highest risk group. In many cases this stems directly from the flood of media they face on a daily basis, projecting an unrealistic ideal of beauty and unattainable body shape.

NIST alumna, and now Miss Universe Thailand, Anchilee (Ann) Scott-Kemmis is on a mission to change that. “Plus size”. “Chubby”. She, like so many other girls, experienced damaging comments firsthand and now plans to use her crown to change perceptions in Thailand and further abroad. During her recent visit to NIST, she spoke to representatives from student service groups Girlhood and FemiNIST. From the balance between health and body positivity to Ann’s response to the NIST “I Weigh” campaign, hear how she and other NIST students and alumni aim to make a positive impact on others.

Hi, Ann. Thank you so much for being here. In the interview we’re going to talk about your Real Size Beauty campaign and why that was so important to you. In your experience with negative body image, what do you think is the most influential or prominent factor contributing to unhealthy beauty standards and weight stigma?

I think it’s lack of representation in the media. I think right now, where you’re growing up and you’re in the social age of social media, and you don’t see yourself being represented, especially as your brain is going through this cycle of social development, lack of representation really leads to a negative impact on your body image.

At NIST we created a campaign called “I Weigh”, where we invited members of our NIST community to talk about what they weigh–not in terms of kilograms or pounds, but in terms of their character traits, academic achievement or their accomplishments. Some people said they weighed their love for their families, they weighed their activism. In those terms, what do you think you weigh?

Right now I think I weigh my social responsibility to Thailand, to represent us in a new light, in a modern light, and in a very accepting realm. And I think I weigh my love for what I do.

In our schools there are so many young people who struggle with positive body image or eating disorders. As someone who has experienced some of that and has recovered from it, what advice would you give to younger students who are dealing with body image issues?

It’s so cliche, but you have heard that beauty comes from within, and it really does. I’m not talking about just your personality, but also your confidence: you accepting and owning that you are the way you are, and there is nothing wrong with that, because it’s what makes you you. It’s what makes us so diverse, and it’s something that NIST celebrates. It means knowing that you’re part of the reason everything is so diverse.

When these young people are faced with discrimination or accusations of being too fat or too skinny, or not fitting in a certain beauty standard, what ways should they reach out to feel supported by others?

We need to make room for the conversation. I think we need to provide people with a safe space to talk about how they view themselves. And I mean that you don’t just give them the space and then tell them “Oh, just work out”, because that’s not the point. The point is just to have someone to listen, someone who can understand you, and if they don’t understand, it’s simply being an ear.

I think not following unrealistic expectations on social media is also really big. Choosing wisely what you want to see on your screen is important, because whether you know it or not, there is always an unconscious effect it has on you. It’s think that it’s also accepting that it’s okay to be different, because once that comes from you, the representation will be there with you alongside others who have begun to accept themselves.

NIST International School Bangkok - Miss Universe Thailand Anchilee Scott-Kemmis Playing Volleyball

In one of your interviews you addressed the fact that you can be any size, but we must take care of our health as well. Could you reiterate the role health plays in body positivity, and how should we react when health is used as a weapon against body positivity?

We need to understand that everybody is different. Every body works in a different way. Between the three of us we have different biological aspects that are just unique to us: our metabolism or how much exercise does or doesn’t affect us. Health is not a weapon. Taking care of yourself first is the foundation, and exercise goes into how you feel mentally. On the biological scale, different dopamines and hormones get released because of your exercise, and when you exercise you do naturally become more confident in your body. You’re focusing on how you feel rather than how you look. Exercise helps your physical and mental health.

With the underlying disagreements when it comes to how we perceive beauty, how can women empower each other in a climate of competition, and in what ways could we celebrate diversity through unity and individuality?

I think it’s about being transparent with one another when we go through different struggles. I think sometimes we get ashamed to share what we’re going through, particularly with other women because we have that belief that there’s a competitive nature between us. But when we begin to become transparent with each other we start to realize how many similarities we have, how similar our experiences can be. Through that we begin to celebrate individuality, uniqueness and diversity. 

Is there a moment or an experience where you felt like there was a shift in your thought process about how you perceive your body, or was it an accumulation of different things that led to that transformation?

Accumulation. I came into the Miss Universe Thailand competition accepting my body, but as I continued and saw how it was impacting others–just to simply be represented on stage–I began to accept myself even more, because it’s natural. Sometimes we have days where we feel like we’re the best and sometimes we feel like we’re not so great, so it’s understanding it’s a progression, an accumulation, and you’ll get there eventually. But it’s also understanding that people can continuously develop, and our thinking can always shift. 

You talked about how you struggled with people’s comments about your weight from a young age. Now that you’ve come so far, is there anything you would like to say to them or say to yourself at that time when you were struggling with those experiences?

Just don’t read it. I don’t read it any more. I still get it, but in everything that you do, someone will have something negative to say. Just don’t read it.

You have such an incredible platform now with Miss Universe Thailand, but we all as students at NIST have various platforms with privileges and power. How would you advise students to use their power and privilege to be transparent, to speak for voices that have been silenced like you have been doing?

You ask really good questions!

You’ve heard that if you’re neutral you’re on the side of the oppressor. It’s the same thing. You’re in a very unique position, especially coming from a background like NIST, to be able to express your opinion and express it well because of what NIST has taught you and the curiosity students here tend to have. Just do it. Continue to share your opinions. Someone out there, whether you know it or not, is listening to you and cares about what you have to say. Because we come from such a privileged background, I view it as a social responsibility to give back. Not everyone has the opportunity to give back if they want to, but here at NIST you’re given that opportunity. Take advantage of it and use it wisely.

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