It Figures is Yahoo Life’s body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Dinah Jane was just 15 when she was introduced to the world on X Factor. She started as a solo act during the 2012 season of the show but was put together with four other young women. They eventually became Fifth Harmony — one of the best-selling girl groups ever. Success was sweet, but Jane recalls struggling with developing her personal identity.
“People always just compared me to my bandmates,” the now 26-year-old singer, who is of Polynesian descent, tells Yahoo Life. “I just stood out with my height or my physicality. I was thicker than the other girls, but when I would come home, I’m like the smallest Polynesian compared to any other Polynesian girl. We’re known for being thick-boned, being thick girls. So it was weird when I felt like I was living two different lives. … I fit in with my own people.”
Jane emphasizes that it wasn’t the fault of any of the group’s members that she experienced those insecurities. In fact, they were each uplifting to one another despite their different backgrounds and appearances.
“We really did have that chemistry where we would encourage each other and made each other feel beautiful. Whether it was your color or your size or your height,” she says. “I always had them to care for me in a way where I didn’t see myself in the healthiest way.”
The comments she would face outside of the group made it difficult to fully embrace that confidence, though.
“Going into the public eye and being compared always to the other girls, it always played with my mind,” Jane continues. “I would think, ‘Girl, you need to stay small, get smaller. It’s not enough. And times when I was already tiny, I was still so hard on myself.”
She recalls being a size 4 at her “smallest” and wanting to be thinner “just because of what I was seeing online,” she says. “I really did let it affect me at a certain time.”
After the group announced an indefinite hiatus in early 2018, Jane struggled to find a place in the industry where she felt welcome being her most authentic self. “There is just like that Hannah Montana lifestyle, where it’s like I live and breathe [my Polynesian culture] every day. But then when I go to the public, I felt like there was a switch that I had to do just to fit in or to be relatable to a wider audience,” she says. “I don’t want to be compared. Who’s Dinah? What does Dinah look like? I want you to see me for me.”
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, she realized that would take a lot of self-exploration.
“I had a really bad mental breakdown, and during that I went through really bad depression. And then my body literally transformed,” Jane says. “I was in denial that I was going a couple sizes up. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not OK,’ like, ‘No, I’m still gonna squeeze myself into my size 6 and 4. I still got it.’ And I was just not accepting that I was changing.”
In hindsight, she recognizes the all-encompassing growth that she was experiencing at the time, including a lot of mental and emotional work that she’s proud of today. The physical changes, however, were difficult to accept at the time. “I was still thinking like, ‘No, no, I’m still that girl. I’m still that small girl,'” she says. “I feel like being in the public eye for so long, there was this image I had to sustain. I was always like, go, go, go. And I mean, it felt good. But mentally, I wasn’t OK.”
She continues, “It was such a whirlwind of emotions that I was going through. I mean, family relationships, intimate relationships. I was all over the place, but I wanted to experience that. And with that experience comes body transformation. So I’ve learned to love her, every part of her, and to be gentle with her, be kind to her and accept her for who she is.”
Jane released her latest single in August 2023 called “Ya Ya,” which she called the beginning of her “new era. At the onset of this period, she allowed herself to embrace her unique sound, her culture and, at last, her body, which she hoped others would as well.
“The public is scary, like growing up in it and then coming back into it. I feel like this time around, there’s more of an acceptance with being thick. It’s OK, whatever size you’re giving, as long as you look happy, the public will be happy for you,” she says. “My spirit and my soul feel healthy, and now my physicality matches that.”
And while she’s expressed her own pride in being “a sun-kissed brown skin Polynesian Gal” (as written beneath the song’s music video), Jane hopes that she’ll inspire others to feel the same. “It’s just so important that I not only do this for myself but also for every other brown-skinned Polynesian girl out there who identifies themselves within me,” she says.
Gary Rose is a lifestyle connoisseur who celebrates the art of living well. She explores topics ranging from travel and fashion to home decor and culinary delights. Gary’s passion for aesthetics extends to her hobbies, which include photography and interior design.