Body Positive Influencers in India

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Srishti Chhaya

27th September 2020

Body positivity movements in India gained momentum around the year 2012 as a part of advertising brands and media organisations' acceptance of real bodies in their content. Though different organisations, brands and media icons are normalising curvy bodies, men and women with extra fat or lacking toned‘ muscles, are looked down upon and criticised by many. There is also little-to-no inclusivity of transgender people in this movement.

You are Heard‘ campaign, initiative of the Indian company – A Curve Story (Source: Daily News Blog)

In recent years, icons of all genders have started speaking up and influencing their supporters to be confident in their real skin. Anjali Lama is India’s first transgender model representing the inclusivity of both — the LGBTQIA+ community and body-positive influencers. This has been a huge step in Indian society. It has helped so many people accept who they are and be proud of it. It took Lama over a decade of struggle to reach where she is today, and today she inspires someone every day to start their own ‘personal growth’ journey. In an interview with The Femina, Anjali Lama happily accepted that “In India today, several show directors are open to casting plus-size and mature models. This makes me hopeful.”

Bollywood actresses like Vidya Balan and Ileana D’Cruz have stepped on the criticism and the ‘size-zero’ norm for actresses. Ileana is the brand ambassador for Levi’s ‘I shape My World’ movement — launched in 2019 to empower women across the world on International Women’s Day. Neha Parulkar is India’s first plus-size model for the fashion show at ‘Lakme Fashion Week’. She strongly believes that as a nation, we should take pride in our skin colours and not be ashamed about it as society suggests.

Body positivity has taken significant momentum, but unfortunately still has a very long road ahead of it. Though these icons and influencers empower women to embrace their skin and body type, there is little to no support for body positivity in men. Men are shamed and claimed to have no ‘masculinity’— if they do not have a beard, are shorter than their female partners, and do not fit the ‘societal’ body image.

Society slammed Bollywood personalities like Arjun Kapoor and Adnan Sami for having a curvy body. The extensive criticism forced them to transform themselves to please communities. The 2005 Bollywood movie Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh showed the insecurity of the main protagonist (Rajpal Yadav) for being shorter than his wife (Rituparna Sengupta). However, the 2001 movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham showcased the height difference between Jaya Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan as ‘romantic’.

Shubham Yadav is one of the very few male bloggers who promote body positivity. While speaking with Hindustan Times, Shubham said with contempt, “I’ve seen plus-size men cry, including me because we’re big but we’re not allowed to feel bad about it or cry, right?” His first real inspiration was Zach Miko, the first plus-size male model in the modelling world.

His search showed him that there were no plus-size male bloggers promoting body positivity in India. Not having anyone in India to look up to, motivated him to become an influencer who spoke about male body positivity in India. He ensures many teenage boys and men start to believe and understand that there is no perfect body for a man, and their feelings are very much valid. He agrees that it will take a long time for men to take fashion seriously and to make it body inclusive.

(Sources: Hindustan Times, Femina, YourStory, Elle) Edited by Meghna Venkatesh

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