Beauty, to SI Swimsuit model Yumi Nu, has nothing to do with looks. “Beautiful to me is how you make other people feel and the presence that you bring,” says the 25-year-old singer/songwriter who will appear in the 2022 SI Swimsuit Issue. “When people meet me, they notice my energy first, hopefully.” Despite now having this light and warm energy, it wasn’t always like this for the Asian American model.
Growing up in New Jersey, Nu, who is of Japanese and Dutch descent, felt like she didn’t belong. She would do everything to prove she was “white enough” because she grew up with so much shame around being of Asian descent. When she finally personally accepted her Asian roots, she felt she wasn’t “Asian enough to fit in,” - a feeling of being split between two worlds that many mixed race people know well.
Tack on the added pressure of societal norms regarding how women are supposed to look in these cultures, and she had an even more difficult time of loving herself and feeling welcome. “It took a long time for me to really embrace being Asian and being plus-size and just who I am because that was the root of what made me feel like I wasn’t enough,” explains Nu, who created the fashion line Blueki for plus-size women. “Having any curve is crazy. There is this shame around feeling sexy, and so with Asian American culture, it can kind of be confusing because we have this voice in our head saying to cover up. American culture is on the opposite spectrum. It’s a tug-of-war between cultures.”
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Owning both sides of her family’s cultural background is creating a clear path for others to see they do fit in. “I want to do as much as I can to show other people that there is a group of us,” says Nu. “We exist, and we are beautiful. We are confident, and we love ourselves. I have a big butt; I can’t get any smaller than this!”
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