Article from the Sun daily by S. Indra Sathiabalan (posted on 6 September 2018)
ONCE a victim of bullying, 21 year-old Joanna Joseph is now a beauty queen and model, as well as an anti-bullying activist.
As an only child, Joanna was indulged by her doting parents who gave her whatever she wanted. This included lots of food.
In primary school she weighed 60kg and this made her the target of nasty schoolmates, and even teachers.
By the time she attended secondary school, she weighed 104kg, and was filled with insecurities.
On her first day, she fell during assembly. Instead of helping her, the students and teachers laughed at her. The only friend she had in school was another overweight girl.
The bullying got so bad, that it affected her school attendance.
In an effort to get over her insecurity, Joanna decided to do something about it.
When did you decide to lose weight?
"There came a time when I got fed up with everything and decided to try to lose weight. I was 15."
How did you go about?
"I had an uncle who used to work in the fitness industry. He used to come by my house a lot and tell me ' You know you should lose weight. You will look better, you will feel better.'
"But losing weight is hard. After going to the gym I would still go [eat] nasi goreng. Then I realized [success] was 70% diet and 30% exercise. At one point I said I should be serious about this.
"I told my mom about it and she laughed. I went in the Internet and did a lot of research. I wrote down what to eat, what not to eat."
How long did it take you to lose weight?
About three months. I used to be able to eat nasi goreng for five people in one seating. When I completely cut off rice, it must have been a shock to the system and I started loosing weight drastically. But I was eating healthy, I was not skipping meals.
"It worked. I would work out two hours everyday. I would spend one hour jogging and one hour working out to YouTube videos. It really helped me a lot."
Do you still do that now?
I don't have that much time now but I still watch my food.
How did you become model?
When I lost weight, a lot of photographers approached me and said I should give modelling a try. I was [just 17 and] pretty lost because [I knew] no one in the industry and my parents felt studies were more important.
"But I wanted to try something different. I managed to win a few competitions and things took off from there."
What are you doing now?
"I currently study at MSU in Shah Alam. I am thinking of pursuing psychology or criminology. Something more exciting."
What do you do now as a spokesperson for the anti bullying movement?
"A lot of school call me especially for their International Understanding Day [event]. A school.
"A school recently called me to talk about body shaming. Another school called me to talk about confidence.
"Whenever there is a campaign, school and institutions would call me to talk.
"I am hoping to be able to share my story with more people because I believe there are a lot of people going through it but don't know what to do."
Have you ever met any of your school bullies?
I did meet a few of them. They ignored me and so I ignored them. I don't think they have the courage to come up to me anyway."
What would you say about your younger self?
"When I was younger, I did not love myself. I fell into depression and I would hurt myself a lot. I still get depressed now and then but I cope with it better.
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