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Plus-sized. Unapologetic. Successful.

By DIVYA NAIR
Last updated on: March 28, 2022 08:31 IST
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''Tera kuch nahi ho sakta (There's no hope for you).
'Weight kam karna padega (You will have to lose weight).
'Comedy roles milega (You can take up comic roles).
'Tu aunty ya mummy ka role kar sakti hai (You could take up roles where you play an aunty or a mummy).

'I heard these kinds of comments all the time.'

Diksha Singhi, 27

IMAGE: Journalism and mass communications graduate Diksha Singhi began modelling in 2020 shortly after the pandemic began. In August 2020, she launched her fashion label, A Little Extra, that caters to the fashion needs of the plus-sized.  Photograph: Kind courtesy Diksha Singhi/Instagram

Waist: Size 38+ for women and 44+ for men.

In 2005, fashion brand aLL: A Little Larger entered the Indian apparel industry to cater to plus-sized men and women.

It was one of the first Indian brands to celebrate beauty beyond size.

In 2016, the brand invited young men and women from across India to audition as models for their collection at the Lakme Fashion Week, one of the biggest fashion events in the country.

The show broke many barriers and opened up career opportunities in modelling and fashion.

A lot has changed since then, says Delhi-based model Rajat Khanna who got his first big modelling break when he was selected to walk for aLL.

"I always wanted to be an actor and a model. Growing up, I watched Fashion TV and admired actor-models Dino Morea and Milind Soman. But I am huge. I have never weighed below 70 kg," Rajat tells Divya Nair/Rediff.com.

"Looking at my size, people often suggest I could try for comic roles or lose some weight first,” says the 32-year-old who is now a full-time model and has worked for top brands like Pantaloons's Alto Moda, Blackberry, United Colors of Benetton and Colorplus.

 

 

Jeesha Chowdhury

IMAGE: Jeesha Chowdhury is a stylist and influencer and will soon be making her Bollywood debut with Double XL, directed by Satram Ramani. Photograph: Kind courtesy Jeesha Chowdhury/Instagram

Fashion design graduate Jeesha Chowdhury, who was body-shamed through school and college, agrees that being plus-sized is no longer a barrier in the entertainment industry.

"My weight keeps fluctuating, but I have always been curvy.

"Growing up, I was always told that if you are fat, there is no hope for you. 'Tera kuch nahi ho sakta (There's no hope for you). Weight kam karna padega (You will have to lose weight). Comedy roles milega (You can take up comic roles). Tu aunty ya mummy ka role kar sakti hai (You could take up roles where you play an aunty or a mummy).' I heard these kinds of comments all the time,'" says Jeesha Chowdhury.

The 27-year-old, who won Ms India Plus Size 2018 and Ms India International Plus Size 2019, will soon be making her acting debut alongside Huma Qureshi and Sonakshi Sinha.

"At some point, I took charge of my life and said: 'If I don’t love myself, who will?'” Jeesha continues.

 

Diksha Singhi

IMAGE: Bride-to-be Diksha is not embarrassed about her belly fat and proudly flaunts her curves on Instagram. Photograph: Kind courtesy Diksha Singhi/Instagram

"It’s all about confidence,” says journalism graduate and digital entrepreneur Diksha Singhi, who has worked with several body-positive brands and loves flaunting her curves.

"I have always been a fat kid and when I wore large-sized clothes, people called me a tomboy. While I was okay with that, I disliked the word 'fat'.

"After I moved out of boarding school, I worked on my personality and improved my confidence.

"I realised that being fat is just one aspect of my body and personality and I have accepted it gracefully. I am no longer embarrassed by it because I am comfortable in my skin," says the 27-year-old, who heads a size-inclusive apparel label.

The Delhi-based influencer also creates content that encourages people of all shapes and sizes to feel positive and empowered.

"I don’t have a million followers, but women comprise 80 per cent of my audience. When they DM me to say how my posts inspire and motivate them on days when they are at their lowest, I feel I am doing the right thing," says Diksha.

This year too, aLL had invited plus-sized models from across India to audition for their brand.

Over 400 participants sent in their videos and 25 models were selected for the aLL show that took place on Sunday, March 27.

Speaking about how brands like aLL have redefined modelling and fashion, Rajat says, "aLL was one of the first brands to audition plus-sized models for fashion week. In 2016, I spent Rs 27,000 to travel from Delhi to Mumbai and stayed for a week to audition for it. Looking back, I am glad I took that chance. My dream of being a model came true.

"I had to fight a lot with my family to get here. It’s hard for parents to understand or make sense of what modelling or walking for a fashion week means to me.

"From being one of the attendees in the audience to actually walking the ramp, I feel proud of myself and this journey," adds Jeesha who is also looking forward to her film Double XL, directed by Satram Ramani.

Their confidence is infectious as they tell you how they’ve grown past their insecurities and owned their flaws and imperfections.

"I am getting married next month and I am not on a diet," grins Diksha.

Her advice to other young women? "Do not be ashamed of who you are. You don’t need to be perfect. Be your own kind of beautiful."

Rajat Khanna

IMAGE: Rajat Khanna, who has an MBA in marketing, began his modelling career in 2016 after walking for aLL at the Lakme Fashion Week. Today, he's a full-time professional model for leading apparel brands. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rajat Khanna/Instagram

While Rajat is excited to walk the ramp after two years, he is also working on his body to stay in shape. 

"I want to a fit model. I work out two hours a day to stay in shape. For the aLL show, I rested well and ate the right food so I could look my best.

"I couldn’t believe it was happening until I went for the fittings," says a thrilled Jeesha.

For all those plus-sized beauties who are waiting for their big break, Rajat says, the market is niche but the opportunities are plenty.

"Today, brands like aLL and Pantaloons have banners and mannequins advertising apparel and accessories for plus-sized men and women.

"If you are fit and healthy, you no longer need to be ashamed of your body size. In the digital era, you have more than enough opportunities to advertise your content and make money from the comfort of your home. Don’t be apologetic. Take that big leap of faith."

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DIVYA NAIR / Rediff.com