(SPOT.ph) Wearing a spotless white bikini and button-down shirt with nothing underneath, actress Ria Atayde made her debut as a White Castle Whisky model. The year is 2023, and she ushers in a new era of calendar girls—advocates for body positivity and acceptance, instead of posing for the male gaze.
Bashers be damned—Atayde said it's high time to battle body dysmorphia (excessive worrying about the way your body looks) with a whisky brand that used to feature the sexiest models wearing the tiniest bikinis with a white horse and a bottle of spirit since 1974. Now, White Castle Whisky is a pioneer in smashing stereotypes and embracing inclusivity when it named content creators Ninong Ry and Sassa Gurl as calendar models in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
"Beauty goes in all forms and sizes. You can be wholesome and sexy. You don’t have to show more skin to be sexy. You just have to show your confidence," Atayde said.
"Too thicc for your narrow mind? Think you missed the point."
As a "big girl," Atayde's stint as the latest calendar model is a far cry from the single mold of skinny bodies that generations of Filipinos had seen in calendars posted in barbershops and sari-sari stores. For social media influencers who have long rallied for body positivity, inclusivity, and acceptance, it's one step towards that goal of having more Filipinas in all shapes, ages, and sizes represented on bigger platforms.
"I think it's important because it introduces more images of beauty and it shows not just people online but people everywhere around the country that being beautiful can look differently. It can come in different shapes and sizes," said TikTok star Ayn Bernos, who challenged the restrictive beauty standards in pageants when she joined the Miss Universe Philippines 2021 standing 5'3" tall.
Ria Atayde Breaks the Calendar-Girl Stereotype
Being a woman comes with unrealistic standards of beauty thanks to outdated views of society, which always include having tiny waists with curvy busts and butts, and flawless and fair skin. Add to that the toxic Filipino culture of body shaming as evident in every Christmas reunion and get-together where the unfortunate conversation starter of your tita is to point out your weight gain, even if it's plain rude and hurtful.
These toxic beauty standards are instilled so deeply into our culture that for decades, only those who looked like former beauty queen Tetchie Agbayani and sexy actresses like Carmi Martin and Aubrey Miles can be calendar muses, further fuelling the belief that sex sells and only women with sculpted bodies can be part of it.
Then here comes Atayde, who stunned in a shiny red body suit in one calendar spread and wore a black dress that bared her thighs and arms in another as she promotes body positivity. Growing up in the spotlight as a sister and daughter to celebrities, the 30-year-old actress said she felt pressured to fit a certain mold for years until she realized that she would never be stick-thin because of her body structure and that's okay, she said.
Atayde embracing her calendar-girl era meant having more space for beautiful Filipinas with different body types, said nutritionist-dietitian Jo Sebastian, who advocates for body acceptance and battles toxic diet culture.
"I think people will be kinder to themselves, see themselves represented, be more confident in themselves and allow themselves to dream, to do those things because I know a lot of kids, a lot people dream of having themselves on different platforms but they don't see themselves there because they feel like they don't have a space there," Sebastian told SPOT.ph.
Representation is powerful, said Bernos, who was empowered by other morenas who preached about loving the skin they're in despite what the world says about conventional beauty. It was the boost she needed to fight for her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen despite knowing she didn't fit the stereotype.
"The more kinds of people and bodies and shapes and faces and colors we see out there, the better we are at representing what we really look like and it allows more Filipinos to see themselves as that standard of beauty," said Bernos, who made the Top 16 of Miss Universe Philippines despite the odds.
Body Diversity in Philippine Media
Having Atayde as the new White Castle girl brought in mixed reactions on who she was representing because for some, she's not even "fat". But for Bernos, Atayde shouldn't be seen as a token representing all plus-size women.
"She's a beautiful woman, she's confident, she looks stunning in her photos and she should be able to exist without having to bear that pressure of representing every other body type outside of the norm that we see in calendars," she said.
For plus-size model and body positivity advocate Mia Franz Gelicka, Atayde in her most daring role as an advocate in a whisky calendar shows the power of positive media representation.
"I was all smiles when I saw Ria Atayde's calendar girl photos. It made me feel seen in some kind of way. It's the kind of representation that I've been craving for [sic] in the Philippine media. It made me hopeful that maybe, this is the beginning of a more inclusive entertainment industry. Honestly, it made me feel like I could do it too!" she told SPOT.ph.
"I have high hopes that this opens doors for even more models and artists of different body types and skin colors so we can finally have more inclusivity and diversity in the Philippine media."
And just like the baby steps Atayde took to embrace the body she was given, her calendar girl stint paves the way to redefine the standard of beauty among Filipinas. It's a stepping stone, not a single shot at representation, beauty queen Bernos said.
"Even if it's not your priority at the moment, something will click on your mind na 'oh, she has a body like mine and she's in a calendar that everyone can see or have.' That kinda clicks in your head na maybe my body is okay, maybe I can do that too," said Sebastian.
"We just need to focus on is how it opens doors for so many people and at the same time it makes a lot of people feel seen because at the end of the day, you cannot deny that calendar girls have been known to have one body type and to have a different kind of representation is always a step forward and I think it's a win for us," Bernos said.