PETALING JAYA: Qastella Yasmin Nur Ain Nasution is a walking example of confidence.

The thirty-three-year-old Ipoh-born woman has been a professional plus-size model for almost nine years.

Before venturing into modelling, Qastella had to put up with waves of criticism during her childhood. But she never dreamt that she would become a model.

“Modeling was just a dream. I was born a plus-size person and was never skinny. I decided to pursue modelling as I believe it’s unfair that our beauty standards are based on society’s standards. Why shouldn’t I feel pretty too?”

She recounted that her childhood at school was “unpleasant”.

“Since kindergarten, I had been mocked by teachers. I felt I was the ‘centrepiece’ they felt the need to pick on,” she told theSun from her studio in Klang.

“Similarly, in primary school, a teacher would push me to run faster and said that if I couldn’t, it was only because I was fat.

“I’d often wonder why they’d say that because I have feet to run. I may not have as much energy as the others but I still can run. It didn’t make sense to me,” she said.

In secondary school, Qastella would cut her food portion, until her mother noticed.

“She told me to stop doing that. My mother noticed that each time I cut portions, I’d fall ill to the point that I had no energy at all.

“In Science class, I’d be called to the front to show how a particular experiment was to be done. The students would say: ‘Don’t sit on the stool, it’ll break’.”

Although the words cut deep into her heart, she was not one to easily give up.

Qastella decided to get a job rather than continue with her tertiary education due to her bullying experience in school.

“Initially, my mother felt upset that I didn’t want to pursue my education,” she said.

Qastella found her calling in the retail line that became her “haven”.

“It became a place where I could practise being confident. There was still the odd name calling or comment that being big meant being ‘lazy’.

“There were times when I broke down, especially when I entered a new retail shop. I proved them wrong each time and focused on my commitments instead,” she said.

Her big break came in 2014. She was 24 years old and had been selected second runner-up in the Jumbo Queen pageant.

“I was placed among the top three winners from 60 contestants. Before that, I didn’t realise the amount of training that was required just to walk like a model.

“Incidentally, I found that I had a talent for public speaking and singing. I sang Titanium from Pitch Perfect for the talent section,” she said.

Armed with newfound confidence, she was also picked to be president of Pretty in Plus, an informal network of plus-sized women.

“I mentor them to polish their looks, posture and catwalk. I realised that stamina is important when doing the catwalk, and maintaining the right posture takes up some energy. Even without heels, they’d feel tired easily,” she said, adding that she was a strict person when it came to training.

She hopes more room would be given to plus-size women in an industry that has changed her world.

“Modelling is not just a job. It’s a career that calls for professionalism. One has to be on time for modelling assignments and be ready for last-minute changes. Plus-size women also have a place in modelling, so more women should go for it.”