Curvy model and body positivity champion Ameni Esseibi shares how her diverse upbringing gave her the strength to become the Middle East’s first curvy model, and how she’s taking her message to the masses with her new international collaboration.
As told to Rachel Silvestri
“I never thought that a fitness brand would want its ambassador to be a curvy person. Naturally, I was surprised when Women’s Best sent me the email. This brand could have chosen a football player or an athlete. But no, they chose me, a curvy model, giving me my first international contract. The fitness world and the curvy world are frenemies – it’s such a sensitive topic when they clash. Good to finally see things changing.
I grew up in Dubai, and I attended a French school. When I look at myself back then, I find myself extremely thin. I thought I was a huge girl when I wasn’t. But I was the curviest out of the people I grew up with, and automatically felt bigger than I was. Back when I was a kid, Ashley [Graham] wasn’t famous yet. I had no representation, no one to relate to. The generation that’s out here today is lucky; they have people to relate to, but I didn’t. If I had, it would have made things much easier.
Even today there’s a lack of representation in stores. Growing up, on Thursday nights I would go to the mall with my friends and visit all the stores, but I was always the only one to go home empty-handed. I’m a busty girl – when you’re 21 and have a big bust you’re proud of it, but when you’re 14, 15… I would ask myself, why do I have them? I always had to shop online, everything was a struggle. And even now, the options are a granny shop, or somewhere unbelievably expensive. There is no in-between.
It’s the biggest honor to be the region’s first curvy model, but it’s also sad. The first one should have existed years ago. I think we were waiting for someone brave enough to go against society, and that is something that is difficult in the Middle East, where we are so judgmental. You have to have a strong support system. It’s important to have parents and friends who don’t listen to what society says.
Moving forward, my goal is to break more barriers. People tend to think that because I’m a big girl, I don’t work out. It’s a stereotype that’s been going on for years; this idea that you’re not even physically able to do activities and sports. Now, with this new collaboration, I can finally box, I can dance, I can swim, I can jog, I can lift, I can do everything… I’m a big girl, I’m wearing a fitness brand that suits me, that has sizes for everyone, and that I work out in. It’s my body, and I love every single curve of it.