'You can be fat and beautiful': UK-based designer Ayush Kejriwal
You have such a gorgeous face, if only you were a little thinner!’ Have you ever been told that, or heard someone saying it to you, or someone else? In this column, I want to talk about ‘fat’ shaming and challenge some baseless perceptions that people might have about bigger or curvier women. Now if that seems of interest to you, then make yourself a cup of tea, get a piece of cake, and carry on reading. Oh, don’t feel guilty about eating that cake, you deserve it! Like it or not, being fat or curvy or big or plus-sized can become complicated at times. In fact, the word ‘fat’ itself evokes a not-so-pleasant feeling.
I wonder why, though! There’s so much stigma attached to being big that we have been conditioned to think about it negatively. The stares fat people get on the streets, the cutting comments strangers make about their weight, and the ‘funny’ greeting cards featuring overweight people — they hurt, and go a long way in perpetuating that stigma associated with plus size. Fat prejudice is especially difficult to overcome. On television, fat people are always the ‘funny’ bestie, the focus of every joke, or the shy girl being bullied by the ‘thin’ popular prom queen in school. Nicknames like Moti, Tuntun, Natki, Bhaisee are often used to address bigger women.
Even public health campaigns meant to prevent obesity go a long way to contribute to that stigma, because the implicit message is that anyone who really wants to — anyone who eats well and exercises regularly — can be thin. If only it was so simple! Friends and family are very quick to share their pearls of wisdom on what fat people should be doing to lose weight, and they justify this by saying that they are only sharing their opinion because they care, and are trying to help.
Negative portrayals of overweight people are often overlooked or implicitly condoned on the grounds that it might help them to lose weight. In reality, though, they leave the bigger person feeling unattractive, unhealthy and unhappy. They fail to realise that obesity is not a choice. It’s a complex socioeconomic, psychological and physiological phenomenon. We can all do things to influence our body weight, but the most important thing is to make sure that we are happy with whatever our healthy body looks like.
Obesity is an issue, but the problem is regarding the health of the individual, not whether a given person happens to find them attractive or not. Victimisation and discrimination against people who are overweight isn’t a motivator in reducing their weight. As someone who loves dressing people up, I have never looked at a bigger woman differently.
The size, shape and colour of a woman do not matter to me. My job is to make the person I am styling happy, and highlight their beauty. Look at the three women featured in this article. They have been dressed in beautiful kalamkari and patola saris, and styled with ethnic silver jewellery from my collection. Yes, they are curvy and short, but that does not make a tiny bit of difference when it comes to their beauty. They look very pretty, happy, confident and extremely stylish.
These pictures prove that irrespective of one’s body shape and size — one can look beautiful, and there is a place for bigger women in the glamour world. Bigger women do not need to apologise for existing. They do not need to be ashamed of their size, and they certainly don’t need to be patronised or made to feel bad about how they look, because they look stunning. Whilst working on this shoot, I wanted to make sure that these gorgeous ladies were represented like any other mainstream model. No conscious effort was made to hide their body size or to make them look taller.
These three ladies were gorgeous to start with. All I had to do was to bring their best features out with the correct kind of clothes, the right hair and make-up, and a little bit of positive encouragement. It’s important to keep one’s body shape and physical attributes in mind when it comes to styling, but that, by no means, makes women of a bigger size undesirable. Instead of an overwhelmingly negative approach, which would seem to do more harm than good, encouraging lifestyle changes on the grounds that it is better to be healthy than unhealthy appears to be the key, whatever size or shape one might be.
Last but not least, I wanted to reach out to all those women who look at themselves in the mirror, and despise their big bodies, and say to them — if these ladies here can look so lovely so can you! Don’t let negative comments and snide remarks dull your sparkle. You are perfect just the way you are. Enjoy that cake, stop feeling bad about not fitting into your favourite jeans, do not try and hide your bingo wings or double chin and next time when someone calls you ‘Moti’, smile and say, ‘Yes, I am, and very happy about it.’ #StopJudgingMe
■ Try bold bright colours and don't just always opt for black ■ Block colours work beautifully but make sure to accessorise boldly ■ Don't be afraid to use clashing prints and colours, when going bold with prints and colours try keeping going for a nuteral look and a simple hair do ■ Do not use more than two statements pieces in one look, the focus should be on you not on what you are wearing ■ Embrace your curves don't hide them. Flaunt them with a smile and bucket loads of confidence
Location: 2 Ashoka Road Pics: Satwik Paul Hair and make-up: Abhijit Paul Costumes: Ayush Kejriwal Models: Soumita Ganguly Chilka Roy and Neha Prasad Das