Woman Overcomes Bullies And Becomes International Beauty Queen

It was in 2016 that Joanna Joseph won the Miss Selangor Earth beauty pageant. This year, the 21-year-old model came second in the Miss India Worldwide contest.

But it wasn't always that way for Joanna. Just a few years ago at the age of 13, Joanna, who's from Malaysia but has Indian heritage, weighed 16 stone and was relentlessly teased at school as a result.

It wasn't just her fellow classmates behind the taunts, either. By all accounts, her teachers - and even her relatives - would tease her.

The bullying led her into a deep depression and a severe bout of comfort eating, which caused her to put on even more weight.

''I grew up eating," she said. "I could eat five plates of rice in one go. I was 60kg when I was seven years old and the fattest child in pre-school.

''My teachers would taunt me and so would my own friends. I fell into depression because of that and I had no friends to talk to. I only had my diary and music to keep me sane in school.''

Credit: Viral Press
Credit: Viral Press

Credit: Viral Press
Credit: Viral Press

For a while, it she withdrew into the music of Linkin Park and Justin Bieber, but decided to stop wallowing when she turned 16, swapping her unhealthy eating habits for fruits and vegetables instead.

And while she didn't go to the gym, she ran for two hours every night in the fields surrounding her home. That caused the pounds to fall off - as it would - and she slimmed down to 8st 3lbs. Not that that was enough to shut the bullies up.

''Even when I lost so much of weight, everyone used to taunt me saying I took drugs and I was a 'drug addict' and more, which is why I decided to just let it go," she said.

''I used to be bullied every single day, even by my own friends because I was overweight and probably looked ugly in their eyes. My own relatives made my life miserable."

Credit: Viral Press
Credit: Viral Press

Now, she hopes her success as an in-demand model can show others that another life is possible, however unlikely it may seem.

''I went through hell from the age of 12 till 16 until I decided to take matters into my own hands because I realised that if I wasn't going to act, I'd be the same forever.

"I had to push myself and sacrifice a lot of things in life to get to where I stand today. When I saw changes, I began to like what I see.

"It was pure hard earned work without the gym, good diets and no medication at all. And here I am today.

Credit: Viral Press
Credit: Viral Press

''If I can do it, give me a reason on why you can't?" she said.

"It's all about the mindset. Your goals. Go for it. Prove everyone around you that you are more than what they imply you to be.''

Featured Image Credit: Viral Press

Mischa Pearlman

Mischa is a freelance journalist usually based in either New York or London. He has written for Kerrang!, Record Collector, NME, the New York Observer and FLOOD magazine, among others. Contact him at [email protected]

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