8 Bollywood actors on their struggle with body image issues
"There's nothing wrong with stretch marks, cellulite, or scars," says Sonam Kapoor
You have better odds of winning 1 billion dollars in a lottery than finding a human being with zero body image issues. No matter how much we decry society’s attempts to pigeonhole us, we’re often our own worst critics. Think back to conversations with your friends or family and you’ll notice a pattern: Everyone has a goal they’re looking to achieve and are never happy until they get there, at which point, they discover another supposed flaw.
Often, these goals are hinged on helping you achieve the sculpted bodies and groomed looks of celebrities. If you too have secretly (or not so secretly) vied for Priyanka Chopra’s hair and Deepika Padukone’s legs, then you should know that even seemingly perfect women have insecurities and struggles with their bodies and how they’re presented. The trouble with living in the public’s eye is not only having these insecurities pointed out to you often, but also being treated as an object that can be put through the scanner for anyone to see and leer at.
How Sonam, Deepika and company confront body image issues
The Quantico actress recently appeared as a guest co-host on The View and revealed her brush with body shaming early on in her career. "Before I became an actor, I met a producer about the possibility of acting. I was a beauty pageant winner at that time, Miss World. And he said that everything was wrong about me. He said my nose was not proportionate, the shape of my body was not proportionate." Priyanka went on to criticize the standards by which women across the world are judged. "There is such a false perception about what women should look like and what our bodies should look like. Especially when you are in the (film) business, you put on a couple of pounds and people are like..body shaming you. It happens. Christmas happens to all of us. I am an Indian. I have Holi, I have Diwali, I have hundred holidays and my body fluctuates and you know what... I am fine with it."
Deepika has been vocal about the objectification of women, especially actors, by members of the media, especially after her spat with a leading daily. She wrote an open letter addressing the problem. "I have no issue celebrating my body and I have never shied away from anything on-screen to portray a character. My issue is you propagating the objectification of a REAL person, and not a character being played. Sure, dissect my characters if you wish — if it is of so much interest, then discuss the character’s cup size and leg length if it is relevant to making the role convincing. All I am asking for is respect as a woman off-screen," she wrote.
Parineeti Chopra was equally lauded and criticized for shedding a ton of weight and getting fit, with the opposing camp accusing her of selling out and changing herself to fit Bollywood's standards of beauty, as she was one of the few 'real' women in the industry. The actress countered all those arguments by talking about how she never asked for that tag and getting fit was something she had done as she didn't feel good about herself anymore. "I was not happy with the way I used to look. I didn’t have the confidence and the freedom to wear what I wanted. I was always restricted by clothes. I would see how I looked in photographs and on screen and constantly felt, ‘Oh my God, I wish I was looking better’. I always used to feel that and many people used to ask, ‘Are you comfortable with your body and are you trying to make a statement by your body type?’ And I would be like, ‘Please, no, this is what I am’. I was really trying to lose weight, but I never went to the gym. I never worked out, I never did anything that would help me lose weight."
Sonam Kapoor has never shied from talking about her weight loss before joining Bollywood, even going as far as to discuss how magazines had to retouch her thighs because of her cellulite. She opens up about her struggle with body image issues in a piece she wrote for Buzzfeed, in which she wrote about how celebrities and their over-zealous team of make-up artists and stylists present an illusion of perfection that is toxic to young girls who are looking up to them for inspiration.
"Like every girl, I spent many nights through adolescence leaning into my bedroom mirror, wondering why my body looked nothing like it should. Why does my belly crease? Why do my arms jiggle? Why am I not fair? Why are there dark patches under my eyes? Why am I taller than boys my age? Do stretch marks ever go away? Will this cellulite stay forever? "Itni lambi, itni kaali," a relative casually let slip at a family gathering. "Shaadi kaun karega?" It confirmed that my greatest insecurities were well-founded," she wrote, "I constantly worried that, if asked to dance in a backless choli, rolls of back fat would give me away as an imposter to the industry. Nobody lines up to buy tickets to see cellulite. The ball is in the media's court to celebrate fit bodies rather than thin ones, and to know the difference. I know now that there's nothing wrong with stretch marks, cellulite, or scars. They're markers of our growth. There's beauty in their realness."
Alia Bhatt was not conventionally beautiful or thin and that was a problem. This is not us talking, it's what her first director and mentor Karan Johar thought when he first met her. Even though he was blown away by her confidence and charisma, he still recommended that she lose the extra weight and come back. "To feel healthy from the inside takes effort. For that, following a basic workout regime is necessary, even if it’s just a daily walk," she confessed in our November 2016 issue.
Sonakshi Sinha admits that she felt the pressure of conforming to society's standards of beauty and fitness. The Lootera actress once said, "I think actors are under pressure to look perfect all the time. However, it depends on the particular person, on how you feel that pressure. I have always been projected as a healthy body image,” she added, "I know that young girls take us as an inspiration. They follow us in every way. Therefore, I don’t want to give any wrong message regarding health-related issues. What I feel is that you have to be healthy and happy if you want to do something noteworthy in your life."
Like any other celebrity, she faces a lot of trolls online who attack her especially for her weight. Sonakshi tackled them head on with an Instagram post that featured an image of a skeleton, captioning it, "To all those who keep commenting on my weight, whether it's a full picture, or a close-up where you can't see jack. Take a good look at this picture. Now get this: 1) this aint ever gonna be me 2) get over it. 3) i wish u could see which finger i hold up for shallow and idiotic people like yourself (sic)."
While Jacqueline is inarguably one of the fittest celebrities around, she self-admittedly hates the way her arms look. "I dress according to my body type. I like my legs so I don't mind showing them off. But I hate my arms and when I have the choice, I always go for clothes that highlight my legs over my upper body," she confessed in an interview.
It might appear that 'fat shaming' is one of the major issues in the fight for body positivity, but 'thin shaming' is also very real, said Lisa Haydon. "People always think that if you’re on the larger side or you’re overweight, then you (develop) a complex. But I think being a really skinny kid (gives you a) complex too. I just remember being picked on for being a toothpick. Really skinny and really tall. Eventually, you fill out and then, you tend to not put on weight when you’re older. But, when you’re younger and if you’re really thin, people just make fun of you," she admitted.