Body Confidence Coach Mina Kumari tells MoD her story
Hey, my name is Minakumari but people commonly call me Mina. I am a 52-year-old British Asian woman. I was born in Uganda and arrived in the UK in 1972 at the age of 4 with my mum dad, and my 3 brothers. I am married to an amazing man for 34 years and a mother of 2 independent women 32/27.
We were told to leave Uganda in 1972, by the President Idi Amin, who wanted all the Asians to leave his country within 90 days. Our journey took us to Leicester as we already had family there. Despite moving to a new country where I could not speak the local language and the weather was colder, I recollect clearly that I had a very warm cosy feeling of welcoming because I was with my family and now my cousins; a new adventure for a 4 year old child.
Life continued as normal through to my teens, where I encountered feelings which most teens experience, like having crushes on boys. The kicker for me was that I was too scared to go out with anyone in case my dad found out as the school I attended was full of family and distant relatives, I wasn’t going to chance that. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I knew boys fancied me, so I had no issues with my looks or body, but it was more being comfortable in my own skin and who I was as a person.
Growing up in an Asian household back in the 1970s & 80s as a girl it was different. I remember I had to be the one to help with all the household chores and my brothers participated a little bit, (I don’t really remember too much).
When we had visitors, I was the one who had to help my mum prepare the food, serve the food, and clear up afterwards. When I did object to the unfairness of the situation, it was explained to me that one day I will be doing this when I got married and therefore, I had to learn “the ropes”. There were days when I felt like lashing out as there weren’t any expectations of my brothers to do any of this. Was I being prepped to be the model wife? As with most Asian families the girls are always taught how to care for a family as one day, she will be doing the same. I never questioned any off this, was I even mature enough to challenge this?
I was married by the age of 18 & expecting my first baby at 20 and 2nd at 25. Living in an extended family.
Remember when I said I was so confident about the way I looked and how positive I felt about myself? That soon changed as I came to know that someone close in the family had said “she is a little dark”, this was the first time I started to feel conscious about how I looked, this really affected me significantly. I remember when the sun was out and the family were sitting in the sun, I used to lie and say I don’t like the sun it gives me a headache, but I convinced myself that I would turn darker. From then on there were comments that had been made maybe as a joke, but I took it to heart. I was still incredibly young and vulnerable. There were indirect comments made about my weight when I was pregnant, this really effected my confidence. I was new to a family I didn’t know, a wife to a man who was nearly as young as I was, a mother to a baby only months old, living away from my own family and on top of all this totally losing confidence and becoming this person who didn’t know how to deal with this new life and people I really didn’t know and they didn’t know me.
It was one of the toughest times of my life and yet never spoke about any issues I had or was going through. From a young age you are taught not to challenge or speak back to anyone. Despite all these challenges and issues faced coming into an extended family, you are expected to soldier on. I was a young mum going through post-natal depression and no one I could speak to. I only knew it was PND years after, as it was never picked up medically and I never really spoke about what I was going through. I couldn’t tell my parents as I didn’t want to worry them.
Over the years I tried so many fad diets, tried all the major slimming clubs, but nothing changed for me. My escape was trying to raise my girls to become strong and independent. I worked in Retail Banking made so many amazing friends over a span of 25 years.
My life with hubby became difficult, some of this was due to my insecurities of the way I felt about my body, never thinking I was good enough for him. I was constantly surrounded by slimmer women, who often talked about weight and looks. This was very uncomfortable for me. I would just hide behind my smile and pretended everything was fine. I remember making fun of myself with “fat jokes”. There were times when people used to ask me if I was unwell, they were always looking for an excuse for me. Comments like, “she has such a lovely face but she is just a little fat”. It was the looks of pity that really got to me, and comments like “you were so pretty”, translated as “you were so slim”.
I finally decided to take control of my life once we moved to Singapore in 2016. In the 18 months we lived there I found the old confident me. Very comfortable inside and out. I actually felt like that teenager again.
I lost both my parents and my eldest brother before I turned 50. My life took another turn, not only was I dealing with bereavements but dreaded “M” word MENOPAUSE arrived. Why hadn’t my mum told me about this? She was there when the periods came, and I knew exactly what to expect. I had heard about the “change” but a taboo subject that is not discussed over a cuppa. Oh how I miss my mum, the hugs, and if only we spoke about “the change”. I don’t even know what she went through, even if she was suffering no one heard about it. With me I’m sorry but everyone will know about my mood swings, they can definitely see what I call the “Hot Look” Thanks Google for the explanation of what to expect – “Hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, difficulty sleeping, low mood or anxiety, reduced sex drive (libido),problems with memory and concentration….etc. etc.”. Fellas count yourself lucky! YUP this is all me … I walk around with a hand held fan and look like a right Diva..
With all this going on I trained as a stylist and colour analyst. Started to help & support plus size women to bring a little spark back into their lives, I still felt there had to be more that I could do, I became a Body Confidence Coach. This was the game changer. Whilst studying for this, I confronted all my demons and gremlins worked on myself, resolved how I will never let another person make me feel bad about myself with their looks or words ever again. I now CARRY MY OWN SWAG! I have a better understanding of what a woman should not go through. I understand the challenges of being an Asian woman wanting to live in Western society. Take the best of both worlds and live life to the max!
The icing on the cake for me was the photoshoot, #AsianRepresentaion, wow what a great opportunity being part of something so amazing.
So why are Plus Size Asian Women not being represented in the fashion/ media industry? We are not all the stereo typical petite and slim. Some of us are BIG BOLD & BEAUTIFUL and have so much to offer.
The lesson I learnt on reflecting on my life, never let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. When I look at the stretchmarks, I see the 2 beautiful strong women I gave birth to. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a strong woman who loves herself.
I hope this helps anyone who is going through issues either in extended families or from different cultural backgrounds. No one should ever feel alone and made to feel bad about themselves. My role now is to help and support women to fall back in love with themselves and their bodies. To start living the life they always wanted in the body they have.
"I want to Empower Women, to help them FEEL good from the inside and outside. I want them to LIVE healthier, happier and more FULFILLING lives"