The 16-year-old was recently signed to MUSE's curve division.
As a size-12 Asian model, Nootenboom is not only challenging the fashion world's ridiculous size standards, she's also bringing diversity to a whitewashed industry.
An up-and-coming curve model, Nootenboom is working to shred ridiculous body standards — specifically, the stereotype that all Asians are "tiny."
“The norm for Asian girls is to be, you know, petite, cute,
and skinny,” Nootenboom explained to Revelist. “But growing up, I kind of was taller,
bigger, more awkward. I was the opposite
of what people expected me to be, and so I really want to use my platform to
say, you know what? We’re all different. We can’t build a mold and expect
people to all fit that mold.”
Unfortunately, her in-between size sometimes poses a challenge.
At a size 12, Nootenboom is considered “too big” to be a straight-size model, but she’s “too small” to wear plus-sizes.
“I’ve always been stuck in the middle,” Nootenboom admitted. “Growing up I was bullied a lot for my size. I had one girl tell me I stretched out her clothes when I borrowed them. Then [I] have people who are like ‘You’re a plus model? You’re not a plus model!’”
Nootenboom identifies with “curve,” but she doesn’t think labels are necessary.
“I love the definition of curvy and the word curve, but I think that it’s really about saying there are so many different body types,” she said. “There’s no need to separate them by saying, ‘Oh she’s plus!’ or ‘She’s too skinny to be plus.’ Because we’re all diverse. We all have different sizes, and we can celebrate them all.”
Fortunately, she found an agency with the same agenda.
“I love working with MUSE because they not only care about my modeling dreams, but also my personal goals," Nootenboom added.
At first, Nootenboom had trouble accepting her unique build. But her curvy body combined with her distinct Asian features have proven to be her greatest asset.
“I love my eye color. I think that’s what really sets me apart, [especially] as an Asian curve model, because I have green eyes,” she insisted. “Growing up, I always wanted blue eyes, but as I come to learn to love my body, I really do love my green eyes. That’s probably my favorite feature about myself.”
Nootenboom credits her older sister Yumi for her introduction to the modeling world.
“My sister is a plus-size model, and [modeling agencies] found her Instagram first," she said. "And then when they saw that she was signed, they saw me and they were like ‘Oh, wait she’s not signed? Well, we gotta sign her!’”
But her desire to break through Asian stereotypes was directly inspired by her uncle Steve.
"I’ve always looked up to my uncle because he broke Asian norms with his music," Nootenboom said. "Me, as an Asian curve model, I feel like I can use my platform as well to do that."
Determined to never lose sight of her goals, Nootenboom stresses the need to find body positivity in everyday media consumption.
“Listening to singers like Megan Trainor that are bold with their curves — or following women on social media with similar body types — really helps,” she suggested. “Sometimes [your] social media feed really does feed you. So always be careful what you eat.”
According to Nootenboom, surrounding yourself with positivity is key to finding confidence and self-acceptance.
“That’s really helped me learn to love myself,” she concluded. “Because I’ve surrounded myself with positivity.”