This plus-size Instagram star is paving the way for body positivity in Japan


Japanese comedian and Instagram star Naomi Watanabe is hilarious, iconic, and celebrated. Known for donning bright colors and her impeccable, entertaining Beyoncé impressions, Watanabe is one of Vogue Japan‘s women of the year for 2016. 

But beyond her career, Watanabe is leading the charge for body positivity in Japan.

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In an interview with Fusion, Watanabe discussed how she’s incorporated body positivity into her work, from her roles in Japanese sitcoms to her sketch-performance showcases.

“I started incorporating messages of body image in my comedy and people started laughing. They weren’t laughing at me but relating with me. It became a positive message,” Watanabe said. “Now there’s more of a feeling that these girls can wear what they like to wear and not cover themselves up just because of their size.”

Since her first memorable Beyoncé performance in 2008, Watanabe’s influence has become more prominent in Japan, with more girl groups featuring plus-sized members taking the stage during the past five years. Watanabe has even performed for the Queen Bey herself, who told her she wanted to work with the Japanese comic when she returns to the country. 

“In Japan, a pretty skinny country in general, if there’s a 200-pound girl dancing, there’s a wow factor,” Watanabe told Fusion. “Everyone is surprised.”

Read Fusion’s full feature on Watanabe here.

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso

Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.