Instagram influencer. Plus-size fashion blogger. Mumbai-based Dimple Mehta has been using her Instagram handle to decry fat-shaming.
Meet Dimple Mehta, a fashion designing graduate, who is using her size as inspiration.
A vocal advocate of plus-size style and body positivity, this 26-year-old is taking over Instagram, an inch at a time.
She set up her account two years ago to share her story and get other plus-size women to embrace their curves.
"I realised there was a need for people to see that plus-size women need not dress a certain way," says the lifestyle blogger, who successfully battled depression.
"They can wear whatever they want. Wear what makes you feel comfortable and looks good on you.
"In the beginning, when I started using Instagram, I thought I'd face lot of hate and criticism."
However, Dimple was taken aback by the love she received.
"I have been lucky to receive a lot of love from women abroad. They really supported and encouraged me to go beyond what I was doing.
"Their encouragement made me very comfortable with my skin over a period of time.
"When you put yourself out there, being validated makes one feel better."
At 85 kilos, Dimple is an anomaly in the Indian fashion world. Petite and curvaceous, she rarely accepts conventional advice.
Social media adores her and she's loved by her super-supportive family.
"I feel that they still don't understand what I do," she laughs.
"They know that I wake up really early in the morning, dress up and go click pictures. But they still have no idea about what I do with those pictures.
"However, they been very supportive because they have seen me give my 100 per cent."
Her mother doubled up as her photographer at times, her brother often doles out style advice and her grandmother tirelessly alters her clothes because she loves high slits.
"There are times when I go to my grandmother and say, 'I need this slit to be 5 inches higher' and she will stay up an hour late to hem the skirt for me."
In an interview with Anita Aikara/Rediff.com Dimple shares her journey, struggles and the challenges of being a plus-size woman in India. Excerpts:
Fitting into a society that is obsessed with appearance
I was a skinny child. After my tonsils operation, when I was in my second standard, and after I got my periods in my sixth grade, I started putting on weight.
Back then, my weight was the least of my concerns. It didn't matter to me. I wasn't conscious about it.
Even when people bullied me and called me names, it didn't affect me. I was pretty self-confident.
In school, I happened to have a heavier bust than the other girls. It turned to be a difficult situation because guys would pick on me.
In my ninth standard, this guy came and asked me if I could lend him two litres of milk. I was scandalised; he thought it was funny.
I went and told my best friend who told the teacher. The boy was made to kneel down and ask for forgiveness. It happened in front of the whole class and people backed off a little after that.
But that sort of attention is not what I wanted.
Students from the older standards have felt me up while passing by.
I never had the strength to go up to my parents and confide in them even though they have been like friends to me since I was a child.
I felt that it was my fault and I couldn't understand how to get rid of my boobs or make my butt smaller. I would feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself.
It was a bad phase.
When I was in college, I'd have boys telling me that if I lost a little weight they'd date me. A couple told me I have a 'great heart and face' but...
At that time, I chose to be alone. I'd rather be isolated than take bullshit from people.
Flipping the script: The path from depression to happiness
I was in a very bad relationship for six years. The guy I was dating started bringing up my weight whenever something went wrong.
My weight was seen as a downside of who I am.
That's when it affected me.
The guy was perfect in his eyes.
I believe that if you love someone, you won't judge their physical appearance. His looks didn't matter to me. I loved him.
After I broke up, it took me five years to get over him. I am a happy person now.
I am very open about my depression and some of the bad things that happened to me in the relationship.
These issues are common with plus-size women; a lot of women identify with it.
It really helps when people to know they are not alone. The experience has made me a better person.
After my break-up, I started working out and lost 18 kilos in three months.
I suffered from anorexia and later started gaining weight but suffered from bulimia and used to throw up everything I ate.
Slowly and gradually, I began accepting myself for who I am.
Inheriting the love for fashion
It comes to me from my father.
He owned a clothing export house and that's probably when I fell in love with fashion and clothes.
I would roam around his factory and see things and that really fascinated me.
The men in my family are really well-dressed. My father wouldn't step out of the house without a matching tie. I can take fashion advice from my brother.
In college, I only wore ankle length jeans, baggy T-shirts and Converse shoes.
I always wanted to be well-dressed and that happened when I reached fashion college and became more aware of the trends. I started experimenting.
In fashion college, no one ever body-shamed me.
Last year, I got the chance to walk the ramp in my college as a plus-size model. And that was the happiest moment of my life.
Challenges of being a plus-size woman
It is easier now to get clothes for plus-size women, but the problem is when you walk into a store and people are constantly judging you for your size.
When I was wearing a cropped top, I had this auto guy staring at me and he just wouldn't look away.
Bar stools are such a problem; I feel that I'm going to topple over anytime.
If I go to a restaurant and opt for a buffet, people are constantly looking at me to see how much food I eat. That is annoying. It makes me conscious.
Once, when I was going to college, I got off the train and a guy yelled, "Ananas (Pineapple)." I was mortified! It's bad that people yell these things in public.
Over a period of time, I have stopped having a problem with these gestures and remarks.
I feel someone who is confident will uplift others because they have nothing to fear.
When I was 23-24 -- the prime age to look out for boys for marriage -- people told me to lose weight or I'd never find a boy.
I didn't want to sacrifice who I am to fit someone's expectations.
I'd rather wait and find someone who likes me for who I am.
Coping with cyber bullies
On Instagram, I have been receiving a few comments like 'Moti khaana kam kar (Fatty, eat less)’, but I don't get affected anymore. I find it funny now.
The fitness factor
I think my family wants me to be healthy and eat right. It comes from a place of concern.
In January 2018, I realised I was not showing the right kind of body positivity through my Instagram page.
None of my content showed healthy eating and working out.
I then did three months of functional training.
I don't have much time to work out, but I do spot jogging and push-ups against the wall when I can.
I have started eating more fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated. I try and stay as active as possible.
Society and plus-sized women
If you don't make fun of someone who is thin, you should avoid doing it with fat people too!
Women, on the other hand, need to accept their figure.
Body positivity is not about being fat or thin. It is about loving yourself, respecting your body and caring for it, which is why you need to stay healthy.
Don't let your choices affect your health.
I eat what I want but, when I get the time, I step out for a walk.
Accept, love and respect yourself and your body. Stand up for yourself when people are wrong.
There is only one person you don't want to disappoint and that is your future self.
With society, I don’t know how much one can change.
If you are confident, society will see that their words don’t affect you and they will either cut you off or accept you.
Style tips for curvy women
The right fit does wonders for a curvy woman. Refuse to hide your curves. There's nothing to hide.
What women must know
Women are so gorgeous. There are some who are really supportive of each other.
I would walk up to a stranger and compliment her if I liked what she was wearing.
However, today, I feel that personal connections and empathy are lacking.
With so many people going through anxiety and depression, I feel it is time for people to open up and move towards a better space.