Slender silhouettes, fair skin and a defined jawline. In India, if you tick these three boxes, you are categorised as ‘beautiful.’ These unrealistic beauty standards have been so deeply ingrained in our minds that physical appearance determines our self-worth.
Almost every girl in India has been casually ‘body shamed,’ whether she’s skinny or not. And that’s how the diet culture was born; a culture that does not endorse healthy food habits, but fuels the need for women to look a certain way. Scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feeds, and you’ll find celebrities and bloggers flaunting their perfectly toned ‘bikini bods.’
Yet, there’s an alternative movement growing louder by the day, reassuring women that they are perfect, just the way they are.
Say hello to body positivity (or #BoPo on Instagram) – a concept created to help people feel entitled to self-love and shatter stereotypes. The idea is to love your skin regardless of its size, shape, colour, age and ability. So whether you have stretch marks, wrinkles, cellulite or anything else, you own it with pride.
The Bollywood ‘Beauty Trap’
Young girls in India have always idolised Bollywood celebrities – the way they walk, talk, and look – no less than Greek goddesses, and in turn tend to hate their own bodies for not matching their idols’. But most of us do not realise that it is airbrushing – an advanced technique used in photography – that gives images of models and celebrities that aspirational sheen. With the pressure to look perfect all the time, it is almost a professional necessity for celebrities to adhere to these standards too.
However, certain celebrities have been vocal about body positivity and do not shy away from showing their real self. Actor Sonam Kapoor’s article on Buzzfeed a few years ago was a revelation – one that was widely lauded for its honesty and courage.
Another actor and model, who is a champion for body positivity – Malaika Arora, who co-founded SARVA & Diva Yoga, says, “I have always maintained that it is important for women to embrace their curves, flaws, cellulite and even stretch marks. Most importantly, they must love themselves the way they are.”
But the gender-lens is unavoidable while talking about body positivity. Mini Mathur, Actor and TV Host, feels that women have always been viewed through the prism of the male gaze, leading to an intense pressure to look a certain way. “With Instagram, where everyone is busy projecting an unreal, imaginary version of themselves, it’s become almost dangerous. This damages the self-esteem of those who can’t match up. We need to keep it real, and be more inclusive and less judgemental,” she says, adding that she makes it a point to keep her social media interactions real and relatable.
Malaika and Mini believe that celebrities must clarify to their fans that a huge army of people work behind the scenes to make them look the way they do. Further, Malaika notes that it is important to practice some form of fitness to look good and feel healthy, which is why she recommends yoga. “Exercise instils body positivity. If you feel good, you look good, and if you look good, you will be positive and confident in everything you do.”