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Malaysia’s first Malay/Muslim Victoria’s Secret model Nia Atasha draws mixed reactions

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Two Malaysian models on Tuesday fronted Victoria’s Secret’s latest promotional campaign, intended to empower women using an all-female photography and production crew, but it has drawn some flak for missing a trick by not promoting colour and size diversity.

Apart from the team formed by Women Photographers Malaysia, the campaign was also notable for Malaysia’s Nia Atasha becoming the first Malay/Muslim to model for the iconic lingerie brand.

Along with Jane Teoh, who was Miss Malaysia in 2018, and American-born Thai model Janie Tienphosuwan, Ms Nia was picked as one of the faces of the brand’s T-shirt Bra collection.

“It’s an honour, honestly. This is a big opportunity, and I’ve always had a dream since I started modelling to be the face of (Victoria’s Secret) or be in a campaign with them,” the 26-year-old Ms Nia told Malaysian media at the campaign’s launch in Kuala Lumpur.

“I’m honestly still processing everything and currently in pinch-me mode. Teenage Nia wouldn’t believe this,” she added on an Instagram post where she shared a video of the campaign.

But on another social media post sharing the same campaign video, other women lamented the lack of representation for more types of women.

“Where is the body inclusivity? We need larger and different body types represented with underwear and lingerie,” wrote Jenny Woo on Instagram. “It’s nice that it’s different races, but we also would like to see realistic and various body types.”

“Where are my dark skinned and plus-sized queens,” another Instagram user Reenosha Krishnasamy wrote, while S. Suhashini commented on the irony of “feeling unrepresented as a Malaysian/Southeast Asian woman”.

While becoming the face of Victoria’s Secret may represent a milestone in the career of Ms Nia, who has also appeared in a film and TV programmes in Malaysia, there were also guarded reactions, including some media outlets in Malaysia who covered the campaign’s launch accompanied by partially censored photos of the Kuala Lumpur-born model.

A few netizens commented that Ms Nia was an example of a “Muslim human who was set for hell” or that her actions were “fuel for her fate in the afterlife”.

But most netizens commended Ms Nia and her colleagues for the showcase, with her image set to front Victoria’s Secret international stores while the series of photos and videos have been beamed to a global audience.

Supermodel Ling Tan was the first Malaysian to don Victoria’s Secret apparel and walk for the brand’s fashion show in 1996.

The Straits Times has contacted Women Photographers Malaysia and Victoria’s Secret Malaysia for comment.

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