What body positivity means to five badass Indian women - Elle India

What body positivity means to five badass Indian women

Strong is the new pretty

BY Manali Shah | March 11th, 2019

Ask any woman around you, and chances are it took them a fair bit of time to accept the way they look. For some of us, it’s still a work-in-progress. Unlearning societal conditioning and accepting your body the way it is can feel daunting, even impossible, but five women are here to tell you it’s doable. We spoke to transgender icon, Anjali Lama, model Toshada Uma, who suffers from alopecia (a disorder that causes immense hair loss) and decided to go bald, yoga instructor Natasha Noel, who breaks the stereotype of a lean fitness expert, activist Gurmehar Kaur and rapper Hard Kaur, who are all a part of Levi’s #IShapeMyWorld campaign, to understand the different forms of body positivity.

Through this campaign, they hope to redefine beauty norms, and above all, make the case for loving yourself just the way you are. If they can do it, so can you; read on: 

Toshada Uma, model

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What is your definition of body positivity?

Body positivity, to me, works on a very personal level. A person feeling more than comfortable, content and happy in their own skin is beautiful.

What was your journey of accepting your body, and feeling comfortable and confident in the way you look, like?

I’ve found strong role models in my family, friends and followers alike who have taught me how to be comfortable in my own body. In moments of doubt, they have been there to tell me otherwise.

Have you experienced body shaming?

I think at some point, we all experience body shaming. It’s important that we realise all bodies are unique and beautiful, on a personal as well as social level.

How do you react to trolls on the internet?

I report online trolls. All social media platforms give us the tools to act upon unappealing behaviour and we must exercise them — they’re quite helpful. 

How do you think women can be more body positive?

Beauty is fluid. By being aware of the fact that we needn’t fit a certain mould to be beautiful, we are all beautiful!

Anjali Lama, transgender model

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What is your definition of body positivity?

I think your mind needs to be positive first. I always try to be comfortable in my own skin but I had to go through hormone therapy to look the way I felt.

What was your journey of accepting your body, and feeling comfortable and confident in the way you look, like?

In 2005, when I accepted my identity as a transgender individual, everything changed for me and I became accepting of everything about myself. When I started working and people hired me for jobs, my confidence grew and I felt more like myself.

Have you experienced body shaming?

A few people did say I have big, manly hands and that I was not feminine or flexible. So I tried to change those things about me by working on my flexibility but there was some things, like my bone structure, that I cannot change, so I just learnt to like them the way they are.

How do you think women can be more body positive?

If you can change something to feel better about your appearance, you can make the effort to fix those things. And what you cannot change, you have no option but to try and accept it.

Gurmehar Kaur, writer and activist

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What is your definition of body positivity?

For me, it will always be loving my body with all its flaws and loving the flaws even more because they are so unique to me.

What was your journey of accepting your body, and feeling comfortable and confident in the way you look, like?

I think it mostly came when I began to stop limiting my whole existence to just the physical aspect of it… When I started seeing myself less as a physical object and more as an amalgamation of thoughts, ideas, feelings and a heart that can empathise. That’s when I began to love myself more and more.

Have you experienced body shaming?

I was a professional athlete where I trained day in and day out. I lived in a tennis training boarding school in a dorm with a bunch of other girls. Every other day one or the other would comment on my fitness level and how it would improve only if I lost weight. Back then, it hurt me a lot but now, when I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing about myself.

Do you have a self-care/beauty ritual?

I have really oily skin so I love putting mud packs. I throw one on every three days and put some music in the background and just be. I’ve also recently been into serums where I massage them into my skin before moisturising.

How do you think women can be more body positive?

First, by unfollowing or muting all those pages that portray unrealistic body images and surrounding yourself and the media you consume with women who are more natural. 

Natasha Noel, yoga instructor 

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What is your definition of body positivity?

Just embracing your body, whatever body type, colour or shape you have.

What was your journey of accepting your body, and feeling comfortable and confident in the way you look, like?

This was (and still is) a long journey of accepting myself. The thing is, we have been conditioned to believe what defines ‘beauty’, we are bombarded with images of smooth, hairless women with the ‘perfect body’ in shaving advertisements *before* they shave. So for the longest time, I’ve had this warped notion of how I needed to be. And I was so angry that I wasn’t tall, skinny or anything close to that. And the reality is, no matter which body type you have, no matter how perfect you might feel, there will still be a sense of lack. We make up the society so, if we don’t change our habits, then our grand-children will carry these wounds and body dysmorphia. So, it was a small step to embrace myself, respect myself and fall in love with myself. 

Have you experienced body shaming? 

I’ve always had a distorted image of my body in my head and I hated it ever since I was a child. I was raped when I was seven and then sexually molested till about the age of 12. I assumed all the reasons that everything happened or continued happening was because of this body. I curse, cut and starved my body because of how it looked. And now, when I look back at my pictures, there used to be so much guilt because I was tiny and so angry with myself. Forgiveness helps. Towards myself and others. 

How do you react to trolls on the internet?

Sarcasm. But also I try and engage a conversation asking if they are having a bad day. Most often, they apologise. 

How do you think women can be more body positive? 

Honestly, with love. By loving themselves and other girls. Stop photoshopping your bodies. Embrace the real you. Because when you show courage for accepting who you are, people won’t feel shame in living in their skin. People will start accepting and doing the same. And by watching how we talk to ourselves and others. Trying to be kinder to yourself and others.

Hard Kaur, rapper

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What is your definition of body positivity?

Being comfortable and loving yourself in every way. Whether you want to diet and lose weight or whether you just want to eat and chill…whether you want to wear heels or not… You shouldn’t worry about what others say.

What was your journey of accepting your body, and feeling comfortable and confident in the way you look, like?

I’ve always loved myself, no matter what. But it took some time to be a 100% confident. I was getting brainwashed by the last guy I dated into looking perfect all the time. I was allowing him to make me think that I need to look done up for him, something I never allowed myself to feel before. When I left him, I realised I wanted to go back to myself. In that moment, I felt a full 100% confident.

Have you experienced body shaming?

I mostly ignore body-shamers. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I give it back to them.

How do you think women can be more body positive? 

It’s what you think in your head that matters. I love Viola Davis’ dialogue in The Help, ‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important’.