Our last Spotlight Interview for the month of January is Liily Gyal. She comes from the gorgeous island of Guam. Her beautiful smile is the first thing that drew me into her. Her soul and spirit shine so bright that you can’t help but smile when you see her pure happiness beaming. I loved reading about her journey and despite cultural expectations (not including just western standards of beauty) she was able to fight through the BS and realize soon that her differences and beyond amazing personality is what makes her beautiful. Read on beautiful sisters:
First of all, tell us where you grew up and what kind of childhood did you have?
I was born in, raised in and currently living in Guam in a Filipino household. Growing up, I always was bigger (taller and fatter) than my peers, which prompted people to constantly ask if I was actually Filipino. (Because Filipino women are normally petite – short and lightweight.)
I distinctly remember multiple occasions of not being able to wear certain styles of clothing or shoes that my friends were wearing because I was too big for the available sizes. What made it harder was that I was constantly pressured and lectured by my parents (back then) and relatives to be skinny, which doesn’t seem genetically possible despite trying every diet. Even when it came to eating, I was always guilty for eating too much; sometimes to the point where I’d lose my appetite altogether because I was hurt emotionally. Ultimately, I still never really feel like I fit in because I’m 5’9″ and more than 300 pounds today. My friends are all skinnier and shorter, so I look even more like a giant standing next to them.
Tell us your experience with bullying?
I’ve experienced different forms of bullying by different types of people.
For example, because I don’t look like the typical Filipino, I’ve had Filipino people talk out loud right next to me in Tagalog about my weight and how big I am compared to them or that my outfit is too daring for someone as fat as I am, assuming that I don’t understand what they’re staying. Sometimes, I hold my tongue. And sometimes, I confront them for being so rude and disrespectful.
I’ve been around little kids – who don’t know any better – who would say I’m really big or fat out loud, in plain English, and then point to me – in public. (Which I firmly believe is a reflection of their parents’ parenting.)
And I’ve definitely had my share of online bullies who comment on my photos. I’ve been called a “whale” or “fat piece of shit,” even “oily obese pig.” I’ve also had bullies who’d type their insults in another language, thinking they’re slick when they’re really not.
When was the first time you realized your worth?
The first time I realized my worth was when I was about 19. It was around then that plus-size clothing became a consistent thing. There were brands putting out plus clothing that had beautiful designs and patterns that actually complimented bigger and curvier bodies. I suddenly had so many options that it allowed me to experiment with my personal style. It was then that I had all this confidence because I was able to express myself through my physical appearance. I no longer felt like I had to settle for men’s basics or clothes that just really didn’t match who I was. It was then that I really believed and exuded that beauty is not limited to size.
How important is a sense of humor when dealing with hard times?
VERY important. When I was younger, I got very defensive and aggressive when someone teased me about my weight. I would get so angry and waste so much time and energy over what was said. Sometimes, it’d get so bad that I would waste a whole day. And to be honest, it used to really mess with my mental health. It was hard feeling as if it was the end of the world or just helpless.
I was able to turn it around by changing my mindset. I started to find it amusing when I realized that people would actually spend time and effort insulting me, thinking it would ruin my day; when really, it doesn’t affect me at all anymore.
Tell us about your favorite go-to outfit that makes you feel ultra chic and sexy?
A lace-up V-neck bodysuit with high-rise skinny jeans and lace-up heels with subtle accessories and my curly hair down.
What’s the best advice for self-care?
PRIORITIZE self-care. I cannot stress this enough. Sometimes, when we get so busy and caught up with life, we forget to take care of ourselves or push it aside because there’s “no time”. Even if it’s something quick and easy, it’s better than not doing anything at all. And it definitely needs to be consistent.
Some of my favorite things to do include: disconnecting by turning off phone/email/texts; face masks; cold showers; exfoliating; moisturizing treatments; hair treatments; basically any activity or hobby that isn’t related to work.
What are you up to currently?
Currently, I work as a digital media producer and layout artist in journalism; as a teacher; and I run my personal lifestyle blog www.liilygyal.com. I share my personal stories of struggle and triumph in hopes that it can help anyone going through similar situations.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
There’s SO much I want to do. Ultimately, I really want to start up my own social media and branding consultation firm. If I’m really reaching for the stars, maybe some plus modeling and being a creative behind fashion brands.
What’s the one piece of advice you could give your younger self?
The only person who has any say over your body is yourself. No one’s opinions or suggestions should matter more than what you think because they’re not walking in your shoes or living your life. If they’re bothered, it’s their problem. And it definitely doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with others who’ve gone through the same things you have.
Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?
Tabria Majors, because she’s beautiful with a personality and sense of humor to match. Her body isn’t like the typical plus model. She’s got a lot of meat on her! And not only that, but being a plus-sized woman has never stopped her from seizing opportunities and just living life on her terms. That’s what I love most about her. She keeps it real and authentic.
Follow Liily @ www.instagram.com/liilygyal