When Minami Gessel isn't taking notes during lecture as a political science student in Los Angeles, she's busy posing for fashion and beauty campaigns as a plus size model. When she was young, Gessel never saw anyone who looked like her in movies or magazines and it affected her self-confidence. Through her work as a model and her own content on social media, Gessel hopes that she can be an example to young Asian girls growing up today. That's why Minami Gessel is included in this special edition of Bustle's Must Follow, in which we highlight the incredible Asian American and Pacific Islander voices you need to follow on Instagram and Twitter.
Briefly describe yourself, including how you identify and what you do.
Half Japanese, half Ashkenazi Jewish political science student and model.
What do you hope people take away from following you/your work in the industry and on social media
I hope people just see a happy Asian girl who is doing her best with what she’s got. It can be difficult, as a half Asian girl, to feel like you aren’t being represented in the creative field. Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of women or girls in the media who looked like me. If I saw them on TV, I would hear they got their eyes done so they would be bigger. And that’s no shame to them — I think people have their right to their own bodies. But as a little girl hearing those things, it made me feel that the only way for me to be considered beautiful was to look more Eurocentric.
I hope that I can make a difference and represent the thicker Asian girls that you don’t see in media. I want girls to not be afraid of their bodies and embrace them.
When did you first feel that you were a voice for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community?
I honestly don’t know. I didn’t really see myself as a voice for AAPI community until I started getting DMs from girls sharing their experiences. It's still shocking when girls say that I inspire them or that they relate to what I have to say.
Who's another Asian American or Pacific Islander person you would recommend to follow on social media?
Follow Minami Gessel on Instagram, @minamigessel
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.