StyleBible Preview

Ria Atayde Is Big, Bold, and Beautiful

by Em Enriquez | May 5, 2023
You may now save articles for later!

Growing up, Ria didn't have a "big girl" to look up to. She didn't have anyone to remind her that every fold and curve on her body is, in fact, beautiful. But as life would have it, she's now become the idol she once looked for.

There we were, knee-deep into the tepid saltwater of El Nido, Palawan. It was noon, and the sun was searing our skin with her unforgiving rays. At the center of it all was Ria Atayde, seemingly unfazed by the heat, gamely waiting for directions on how to pose. Every time her rosette scarf blew in the wind, there was anticipation for a breeze to pass by and momentarily relieve us all.

When the hour concluded, the team shuffled back to homebase, all in desperate need of air-conditioning and cold glasses of water. While everybody hurriedly made their way to the shore, Ria took a bee-line and waded through the low tide. She kept her head down and kicked her feet as she walked, making tiny splashes with every step. Anyone in a 100-meter radius would be able to spot her in her red latex maillot and long black tresses.


Ria Atayde for Preview May 2023

“Saltwater is healing,” she said, as we cruised through the sky at an altitude of 19,000 feet the next day. It was an answer I wasn’t quite expecting when I asked about her affinity for beaches. With a calm but eager inflection in her voice, she explained the almost metaphysical quality saltwater has on her.

“Saltwater [can] cleanse your aura. Sometimes, my energy sphere will hit yours. Sometimes, the emotions that you feel get transferred to me. To cleanse that, you need saltwater, [so,] you cry or you swim.”

It’s been made evident that she chooses to swim most of the time. Detached from the island paradises she’s come to frequent, Ria swims against the current, literally and figuratively. Having been in show business for about eight years now, she’s become some sort of hero who’s slayed societal conventions—which is to say, she’s a “big girl” who’s sustained an acting career in one of the Philippines’ biggest networks. Every curve on her body has become a symbol that maybe, just maybe, the industry is finally shaking off its narrow perception of beauty. But make no mistake, it hasn’t been easy for Ria to get where she is. Embracing and celebrating the body she inhabits is a choice she continues to make every single day.

The Heat Is On

Ria grew up as a chubby girl. She was lucky to come of age around people that didn't make her feel any less because of her size. Although, she still wasn’t immune from all the microaggressions that disguised themselves as friendly quips. 

watch now

ON RIA: Bermuda Shorts, P19,845, KENZO, Cul-De-Sac, The Podium Mall. Rotonda Bag, KILL JOY STUDIOS, instagram/killjoystudios_official. Toy Mules in Goatskin Faded Acacia, Cateye Glasses in Lilac, both LOEWE, Shangri-La Plaza. Canoe Drop Earrings, P23,000; Bangles Scattered with Diamonds, P59,000; Claudia Trio Wave Rings, P60,000; Chloe Puff Ring-Full Eternity, P89,700, all SUKI JEWELRY,

“There was no bullying with the way [I looked] but [there were] small jokes [calling me] 'suman' or 'porkchop,' stuff like that. I think even [if] people think it’s lambing or endearment, may tatak pa rin sa’yo even if that isn’t the intention.”

It's easy for these seemingly harmless jokes to slide out of people's mouths. For the longest time, chubby girls like Ria have always been the butt of the jokes, just as how plus-size characters are commonly portrayed in TV shows and movies. As a Communication Arts graduate, she's studied how the media dictates what is “sexy” or “pretty” or “hot,” and how her body doesn’t fit those standards.


So when she entered the fickle world of show biz at 23, she felt the need to adhere to a certain look, and that was on top of living up to being veteran actress Sylvia Sanchez’s daughter. We all know the look Ria's talking about: a trim waist, an ample bosom, and no blemishes or marks in sight. 

She recalls going on “crash diets” in order to shed the pounds, which, in hindsight, caused her the health problems she suffers from today. “I really tried to lose weight because I was a lot bigger then,” she says, “It doesn’t surprise me that I have hyperacidity and all these [issues now] because I hated my body back then.” In a past interview, she also revealed how she contracted hypothyroidism, which actually makes it even harder for a person to lose weight.

It took time for the 31-year-old to finally come to terms with how she was built, and to face society's beauty standards with disapproval. Eventually, she arrived at the realization that her physical well-being had to come first. Exercising and dieting weren't supposed to be some form of punishment.

“My health has something to do with how I look. For the longest time, I was so frustrated [that] I worked out a lot. I ate like a bird sometimes but I wasn’t losing weight and I realized that there were underlying issues,” she shared. Ria came to learn that, quite literally, it’s the inside that matters.


ON RIA: Corseted One Piece with Flower, JUST BONITA, Canoe Drop Earrings, P23,000; Bangles Scattered with Diamonds, P59,000; Claudia Trio Wave Rings, P60,000; Chloe Puff Ring-Full Eternity, P89,700, SUKI; Paulina Mini Oval Signet Ring, P16,000Bold Round Diamond Link Ring, P18,500, all SUKI JEWELRY,

The actress also realized that the key to surviving the “ruthless” industry she’s in was finding the right support system. She states, “If you see that [your appearance is] not such a big factor for the people around you, you start to realize what matters is how you are as a person."

“When you see that the people embrace and support you, why can’t you do the same for yourself?”

A Place in the Sun

Once upon a time, Ria was actually in training to be a beauty queen. She eventually realized that it wasn’t for her, but she just couldn’t leave the stone unturned. “I'm the type of person kasi na [gagawin ko] para lang masabi [ko] na ‘no what-ifs,’” she explains.

This “no what-ifs” mindset has become a driving force behind her choices in life. It was what led her to audition for an ABS-CBN series back in 2015, which subsequently kickstarted her career. She took a couple of workshops and found herself starring as Teacher Hope in the 2015 series Ningning, which brought her closer to Jana Agoncillo, who played the titular role, and her beau Zanjoe Marudo.

Once the ball got rolling, Ria stepped into the shoes of people like doctors and lawyers throughout her filmography. Occasionally getting to share a scene with her mom or her brother, Arjo Atayde, is a treat for her. She's grateful that she's been able to fulfill leading roles in spite of her size and all of the stereotypes audiences may attach to it.

"We’re able to have big girls that are leading ladies too. Like me, I’ve already done lead roles. It’s nice. Thank you for looking past my size and looking at my talent instead. At the end of the day, that’s what should matter anyway," she says.


This comes as a refreshing sight when it comes to the entertainment scene, which—let's face it—hasn't been the most inclusive with its representations. With big girls usually only being plopped into a story for comedic relief, it's almost like it's impossible for them to become a romantic interest, much less a leading lady. Having worked in an industry that's so obsessed with size zero, Ria acknowledges that while one’s appearance will always constitute the first impression they make, it shouldn’t be the only thing that defines them. As she puts it, “It’s a choice for it to not matter.”

“It’s easy to judge and look for something wrong with someone. If your size is [a certain way], [people will automatically assume that] there’s something wrong with you. But you know, people are becoming a lot more accepting, so hopefully in the near future, it’s not gonna be much of an issue.”

ON RIA: Rotonda Sleeveless Tunic Shirt, KILL JOY STUDIOS, Instagram/killjoystudios_official. Aiyana Earrings, price unavailable, FARAH ABU, Instagram/farah_abu. Paseo Bag in Shiny Nappa Calfskin Warm Desert, LOEWE, Shangri-La Plaza

A tell-tale sign of people perhaps becoming more accepting is Ria's recent spread as White Castle Whiskey's 2023 calendar girl.

Getting christened as a calendar girl is a rite of passage for many ladies in the industry. It exhibits how a woman evolves into a vixen with the shutter of a camera. For years though, it’s become painfully apparent that these girls subscribe to a specific body type, one that "sells" to the masses. This leaves out those like Ria whose figures have a couple more folds and curves to them.


ON RIA: Flower Bandeau and Corset Skirt, NERIC BELTRAN, Instagram/nericbeltran. Jasmine Marquise Drop Ring, P41,900; Claudia Trio Wave Rings, P60,000; Chloe Puff Ring-Full Eternity, P89,700; Paulina Mini Oval Signet Ring, P16,000; Paulina Mini Oval Signet Ring, P16,000Bold Round Diamond Link Ring, P18,500, all SUKI JEWELRY, Cateye Glasses in Cherry, Bracelet Pouch in Pleated Napa Dark Butter, both LOEWE, Shangri-La Plaza

“Growing up, it’s not something I saw [for myself]. Stereotypically, I’m not what a calendar girl looks like,” the actress says. Ria loves putting on her swimsuits (and can rock them well, if I do say so myself), but actually starring in a liquor brand's annual campaign was completely unexpected. You could only imagine how overwhelming it was when she officially became a calendar girl. 

Akalain mo nga naman,” she declares with a smile. 

Having her figure in full display on billboards across the country empowers her as much as it does those who see it. She shares, “If anything good came out of the calendar, [it’s that] I’ve had people thank me [saying,] ‘If you can embrace yourself, why can’t I? Because of you, I’m a lot more confident too.’” 

The resounding moral from the campaign, and all of the ripples it’s made thereafter, is clear: “Representation really does matter. You don’t realize how much it matters until you see it.”

Ray of Light

Ria’s life has consisted of a bunch of choices, each one she’s consciously made, and each one she takes full responsibility for. She can speak her mind and be held accountable for every word that comes out of her mouth. “There are just some things that should be talked about that aren’t talked about,” she explains.


“Whatever I say, I will make sure [na] kaya ko [syang] panindigan,” she says matter-of-factly. More than just being brutally honest for the sake of being so, Ria sees to it that everything she utters carries weight. “I don’t speak up unless I feel like I really have to. It’s not just ‘nakikisawsaw. As much as I am vocal and honest, I still try to tread with kindness.”

Among the causes Ria speaks up for are children’s rights, animal rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, mental health awareness, and coastal clean-ups. It may seem like a lot to put on one’s plate, but she assures us that offering her platform is the least she can do. “Without sounding too self-righteous, para saan pa yung position ko ngayon if not to better the world kahit papaano,” she states.

Becoming this outspoken is a gift Ria received from her mom, who allowed her to be as vocal as she needed to be growing up. She chooses the things she says, and she owns up to them. Out of all the choices she's made in her life, both in her career and personal life, one she makes every single day is to embrace the body she's been blessed with.

“One of my core principles in life is that you’re accountable for what you feel and what you do. Being comfortable with your body [is] making a choice [to be] comfortable with it.”

Getting cozy in her own skin is easier said than done, but it's something she continues to do without fail. The journey to get to where she is now took a whole lot of time. Looking back, Ria reminisces on how her younger self needed someone to tell her that it’s okay to be big. That being big doesn’t make her any less of a person, or that she can express herself the same way her skinnier peers do. 


As life would have it, Ria has now become the idol she once looked for. Every fold, every stretch mark, and every ounce of cellulite on her body constitutes the woman we marvel at today. Little girls can look at her and realize it's okay to be big—that in fact, being a big girl is also beautiful.

She’s a real woman with a real body, and she’s learned to honor it in every way she can.

Produced by Reg Rodriguez and Em Enriquez

Photographed by Borgy Angeles, assisted by Pao Mendoza

Art Direction by Bacs Arcebal

Fashion Direction and Styling by Marj Ramos-Clemente

Styling Assistants: Isha Fojas and Katrina Maisie Cabral

Makeup by Denise Ochoa, assisted by Janice Perdigon

Hairstyling by Anton Papa

Nails by NUYU Home Service Spa and Salon

Words by Em Enriquez

Shot on location at the 7 Commandos Beach in El Nido, Palawan

Special thanks to Dianne De La Cruz of Star Magic, Kriselle Villanueva-Romana of Airswift Philippines, and Weekends El Nido Resort

Hey, Preview readers! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, and Twitter to stay up to speed on all things trendy and creative. We’ll curate the most stylish feed for you!

Back to Top
More Videos You Can Watch