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JWB Finds Out How Artist Joanna Thangiah Kicks Body Shamers In Their Guts

  • IWB Post
  •  January 10, 2017


Joanna Thangiah is a Sri Lankan artist based in Sydney. She started drawing after she was diagnosed with four mental illnesses. Most of her art features women with round faces, lips covered in blue or pink lipstick, big beautiful eyes, and eyebrows that are on fleek.

Joanna’s work is targeted towards people who body shame others.

Here’s some of her artwork! Look at how cute this is! Just look at it!


This one is for all those brides out there who are told that they’re too fat.


I have no words for this one. #truestory


And this one is for the very pushy parents out there.

We got the chance to get to know her, and we think she is absolutely amazing! Here’s what she had to say:

What is Joanna’s story and how did it inspire her to create art that was body positive?

I had been in therapy and recovery from an eating disorder for over a year and started drawing as a way to get my feelings out. I was incredibly conflicted at the time. I was the happiest and healthiest I had ever been in my life, but I had gained so much weight. I guess I started illustrations as a way to process that. At the time I didn’t even know what body positivity was or that there was a movement. It was just something I did for me.

As a Person Of Color (POC), what were some of the biggest struggles you faced living in western society?

Sure I’ve had racist, prejudicial and ignorant comments thrown my way but I think the biggest issue for me growing up and living in a western country was the struggle to fit into the society. My parents migrated to Australia when I was six months old. I’ve lived in Australia practically my whole life, yet I have never really felt like I belonged in either the Australian community or the Sri Lankan pack that raised me. Both cultures completely contrast each other, and it has been a struggle navigating between the two. 

We come across cases of body shaming almost every day. How can we as a society eliminate body shaming?

I honestly believe that body shaming stems from a place of self-loathing which mass media outlets and corporations can easily feed on to sell their agenda. As a society, if we focus more on self-love instead of the things we’re taught to hate about ourselves, we would have one less thing to worry about.

Your art highlights a lot of feminism. Why do you think people are afraid to associate themselves with feminism?

It’s like any movement; there are the people who follow and understand the movement, and there are the people who spread their wacky agenda in the name of whatever movement. 

Unfortunately, for feminists, we’re depicted as man hating b*tches that want to take over the world. I think people are afraid to associate themselves with feminism because they are ignorant about the movement. We live in a wonderful age where we have access to so much information. For those who have access to the Internet, their ignorance really is a choice.

Well said! What changes have you noticed within yourself after you started drawing?

I’m definitely more comfortable with my body and being able to express myself without feeling embarrassed. But that’s more of a testament to the Body-positive and feminist community. They have been so wonderful to me; I’m very grateful to be embraced by such wonderful people.

Now that you’re more confident about yourself, what do you tell yourself every time you stand in front of a mirror?

As I don’t wear make-up on a daily basis, I only ever use the mirror to brush my hair, which is usually a ten-second rushed job. But when I do take the time to put some effort into my appearance I always tell myself that I look cute, cause I do!

One drawing of yours says, “My Body, My Rules.” Tell us about some of your rules.

When I was suffering from eating disorder I had so many rules about what I could and couldn’t eat and drink, how long I should exercise, the types of clothes I could wear. So, now my rules are to have no rules. I eat what I want and when I want. I wear whatever I want, and I exercise when I want. My number one rule is not to be too hard on myself, to accept that some days aren’t going to go my way, and that’s completely okay.

You must be facing a lot of trolls on a daily basis. How do you handle them?

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t really reply back to any comments even the positive ones, which is kind of sad, but I can’t deal with the negativity back and forth. Sometimes, I will bait the troll, but it always ends up being a giant waste of time. It’s mentally draining, so I ignore them for the most part.  

One of your works talks about vulnerability. What does vulnerability mean to you?

To me, it’s about being in touch with your emotions and knowing your boundaries.

Talk about body-positive parenting.

Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, which is something that everyone should remember before blaming parents on how crappy someone turned out. However, it is important for children and adults to know the difference between health and beauty that they are not mutually exclusive! None of us look the same because we’re not supposed to; someone else’s beauty should not make you question your own worth.  Parents need to be aware that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that health is about how you take care of your body, not what your body looks like.

Lastly, can you share your favourite selfie with us?

Joanna Thangiah

Joanna Thangiah

Joanna, you are cute AF!

Joanna Thangiah’s work is an inspiration for every person who has been shamed for their looks or their body. Her art tells us that each one of us is beautiful in our own unique ways.

Body shaming is a social evil that needs to be stopped immediately. But how does one stop body shaming? The answer is easy. Love yourself; tell yourself that you are beautiful. Don’t give a f*ck to anyone who says anything otherwise.

So, remember to always love yourself.

Besides publishing her art online, Joanna also sells merchandise inspired by her art. You can buy them here.


This article first appeared on July 1st, 2016.

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