I would like to personally welcome you to our movement! We have created this space with so much love and excitement to promote body confidence and create a community of support for plus size and curvy women. So why launch a body- positive movement for brown women? Why not? I think we deserve to feel confident and sexy with our bodies just like any other woman on this planet. But I understand that our struggles come with many cultural barriers which start in childhood. I believe that we need a space where we can find people that we resonate with and empower each other.
I experienced body shaming when I was a pre-teen. I was given the message from family, my community and the media that only the ‘wrong’ kind of woman likes to wear “revealing” clothes that are not acceptable according to cultural standards. Eventually I realized that the definition of ‘wrong’ kind of woman is the woman that likes to attract male attention for sexual purpose. Do you remember those curvy women you see only dancing in clubs in the Indian movies? The skinnier women wore modest outfits or sarees and were portrayed marriage material? Then I went to Hindu temples and saw the curvy goddesses carved and worshipped. I had no idea why being curvy was not embraced in the culture when the goddesses worshipped were curvy? How does a culture that invented the kama sutra not allow women to explore their sexuality? How can people who started yoga promote such self-hate? I found the answers later when I entered the social work industry. The answer was COLONIZATION. I had to learn healthy sexuality, mind-body connection and self-love from the west? Can you believe how disconnected I was from my roots?
Some of the cultural expectations for women in my culture is to be a virgin until marriage, dress modestly to avoid unwanted male attention, never express sexual desires and do not be the talk of the town. Now you understand why launching a body-positive movement will be a far stretch for a brown girl like me.
I have broken many of the oppressive practices that exist in my culture by living on my own, dating men from different cultures, dressing the way I want to, entering the media industry and now going into plus-size modelling. I went a step further by becoming a coach to encourage women to CONFIDENTLY ask for what they want in the bedroom and in the boardroom. I hope my mother is not reading this (every brown girl’s nightmare). I realized that many brown women found my life inspiring but felt stuck in their own lives to break that glass ceiling.
Now that we have had a mini crash course on what many brown women experience due to cultural barriers, imagine what we experience as plus size brown women. How many plus-size women do you see in Bollywood? I do see some curvy women in South-Indian films, which is progress, but by no means are we properly represented in films or the media. We are not only fighting the skin lightning battle, but also the body-shaming epidemic.
Interviewing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when I was a TV host
It is culturally acceptable in my community to openly comment on a woman’s weight, and I used to hear comments on a daily basis about my weight since I was a teenager. I was taken to the gym at the age of 16 because I come from a very athletic family and they were not sure how to deal with an extremely feminine teenager with a low metabolism. Extended family members were constantly making fun of me at parties. Guess what? I was a size 4 or 6 during my teenage years. The constant bullying turned me into an emotional eater and the weight kept climbing up. The oppressive practices in my culture didn’t allow me to discuss many personal issues I experienced in my 20s. Not a day went by without me thinking about how fat I was. I did extreme diets, workouts and drank pooping teas. I weighed myself every day and even recorded a one ounce weight loss. I woke up in the middle of the night touching my tummy to see if it was growing. Binge eating and heavy drinking became my coping strategies and I was always on some diet. I only felt the best when I lost tons of weight in a shorter period of time. I had no idea how to do internal work on myself and my validation came from weight loss compliments from others. The fat jokes still continued and I slowly became very resentful towards my culture and community because I didn’t have the confidence to speak up.
Photos from my extreme weight loss attempts in 2015.
Even though I was going through a mental battle, from the outside it appeared that I had the confidence to be in relationships, take leadership roles and had the motivation to achieve my goals. I absolutely faked my confidence because I wanted to challenge my community and the people who made fun of me. Even when I was in the South Asian media industry, I was not asked by South Asian designers, photographers or makeup artists for collaborations. Guess what I realized after? It wasn’t me. It was them who didn’t know how to work with diversity. It was their close mindedness and lack of skills that made them stay away from curvy women. You will still find many of these losers in the industry but screw them.
In the mainstream, I also saw that fashion industry couldn’t think outside the box until Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj told the industry that big butts and curves are in! Isn’t it sad that women like me, with natural curves, were body-shamed until celebrities with plastic surgeries changed the mindset of media and society? (This is not a judgement towards women who have cosmetic surgeries due to bullying, but to point out some women’s privilege to be able to buy their confidence and start a trend) Now suddenly everyone is buying body parts they can’t afford or killing themselves at the gym to build a booty. The question is, if that’s how we want to achieve confidence? Even men changed their type of women they date to fit into this popular world. But guess what? But, I didn’t see much change in communities like mine. Women of colour still experience oppression in the mainstream and in their own communities.
A few years ago, I asked myself these questions. Why do I want to work with people who don’t accept me because of the way I look? Why do I want to date men from a culture that don’t desire my curves? I stepped out of toxic cycle of constantly trying to impress people around me. I had to even tell my mother repeatedly to not comment on my body and weight. After a couple of years of completely removing myself from trying to compare myself to skinnier and acceptable body types in the community, I started associating myself with confident women from all cultures. I slowly started the healing and self-love journey which bloomed into a feeling of freedom. I had to unlearn a lot of toxic beliefs that were fed to me since I was a child. It wasn’t an easy process, but that is when women started approaching me for coaching and mentoring.
Photo from summer 2019 during my healing journey
I eventually launched a podcast called BluntTRUTH show in 2017 because I was not given a chance to truly express myself in my community. I wasn’t the girl that was going to be diplomatic and go with the flow so let’s say I was kicked out from circles. I believe in creating your own opportunities instead of waiting around for doors to open. And I also believe in telling people to fu*k off! Just feels good, you know what I mean? My confidence was mistaken for being a bitch and I was too blunt at the community events when people crossed boundaries with me. The way I accepted my body was interpreted as provocative by many brown men and some brown women. Guess what? I didn’t care. I truly didn’t at this point. This is my journey and don’t you dare try to control it is how I feel.
Never in my life did I think that I would walk on the runway as a model wearing clothes picked out by others. This is what coming out of your comfort zone looks like, my friends. I found some designers and creative people who are looking to promote body-acceptance and break the industry norms. I found a new world! I also realize that not all brown women come from cultures like mine. Some come from a bit more progressive cultures and others from much more oppressive than mine. I want to this movement to represent you regardless of which part of the world you are coming from.
To the brown woman that goes home and cries because some aunty or uncle at a random event body shamed you, I have a message for you. Punch that person’s face! No I am kidding. LOL. They will know Sumu told you to do that. Honestly, you have to stand up for yourself. The time has come! They are crossing boundaries and it is none of their business how you look. Imagine them saying this to your little sister or your daughter. No one has the right to make you feel this way and you have the right to stop this. If your circle is not uplifting you, then change your circle. Unlearn the toxic thoughts that society has fed you. You can let these people win by giving them the power or you can fight back by living your life in your own terms. Wear those jeans to pop that booty or wear that saree to show off your curves. The choice is yours sista! I created this movement for you, so you have a sisterhood to lean on when you need us. So that no one ever tells you how you should look, because now you have a sisterhood that will stand up for you. Be curvy, be plus, be whatever the FU*K you want to be!