Japanese group Pottya tackles prejudice against obesity

First treated as an offbeat joke in 2015, the group’s image is evolving, with the release of two albums and an increasing number of live concerts.

Competition is fierce among the thousands of aspiring pop idols in Japan, but a unique concept is becoming famous for a group of “chubby” girls deploying their cheeky cuteness to fight obesity stigma.

Despite one of the lowest obesity rates in the developed world, Japan has a growing number of underweight young women who depend on excessive diets to satisfy society’s emphasis on being thin. . Heavy people are frequently the target of jokes in the media and the use of derogatory “debu” or “fatso” remains common.

Enter “Pottya,” a pop group named after a slang word for chubby and made up of four young women who aren’t particularly heavy in Western eyes, but well above average weight in Japan.

“People assume that being chubby is a sign of laziness or lack of self-discipline,” said Michiko Ohashi, the heaviest member of the group at 87 kg (192 lbs) and a height of 167 cm (5.5 pi). “I became an idol in hopes of changing that image. If they see us working to make our dreams come true, we can show that chubby people can work hard.”

First treated as a quirky joke when they debuted in 2015, the band’s image is changing, with the release of two albums and a growing list of live concerts and television appearances.

Limbs weigh 63 kg (139 lbs) to 87 kg (192 lbs) for Ohashi, 26, and their average of 76 kg (168 lbs) is about 26 kg (57 lbs) above the Japanese women’s average aged 13 to 18, according to the Ministry of Health.

Their body mass index, which compares weight to height, ranges from 27.4 to 31.2. Doctors consider a person with a BMI over 25 to be overweight and a person over 31 obese. “We’re really heavy but we want to use this to shake up the idol world,” Ohashi said.

Pottya has passionate devotees, both male and female, many of whom describe themselves as overweight. Fans gather to meet the Pottya members for a high-calorie lunch each month, with a recent meal menu featuring rice, noodles, chicken, and potatoes, all fried.

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