Life... as a plus-size model
The UAE having more brands in the future that cater to plus-size fashion.
Not too long ago, whenever I told people that I wanted to be a model, they would think I am joking. Reason? With a 38-inch waist and 46-inch hip, modelling, they thought, was out of the question for me. They would scrutinise me from head to toe with a curious glance, which would then compel me to explain that I wanted to be a plus-size model. This description, I felt, fit into their scheme of things better.
All through school and college, I was told I'd look prettier if I was thinner, with unsolicited advice coming on what I should eat and why I must exercise to lose weight. Growing up, I hardly had any plus-size role models to look up to. It almost seemed like they were being edited out of all things glamorous. Somewhere, I was sure they existed. I had no choice but to look up to slim, tall and fair models - prototypes of what was then considered 'beautiful' - for inspiration.
I couldn't help but continue to eat, sleep and dream fashion. I began sketching outfits and experimented with clothes I already had in my wardrobe. Before I knew it, this developed into a hobby. My experimental styles not only got noticed, they were also appreciated by my friends and peers. You could say that was my foray into the world of fashion.
With time, studying fashion design became an obvious career path, but even then 'plus-size fashion' was a largely uncharted territory. It was in August 2016 that I found an advertisement from a fashion brand, asking plus-size women to audition for their show at the Lakme Fashion Week. Three rounds later, I was eliminated. To my surprise, several newspapers in India carried my audition pictures. The feedback had been positive. This only inspired me to enter the community of plus-size models that had begun to form in India. At its nascent stage, plus-size modelling came with its baggage, chief among them being the question if it promoted an unhealthy lifestyle. At times, my own family and friends would ask me this.
Later, I came across the profiles of Denise Bidot and Ashley Graham on Instagram. Following Bidot back in 2015, I realised the world of plus-size fashion was bigger than what I had imagined it to be. In India, technically, any woman who is over UK Size 14 is considered a plus-size woman. The industry, however, is in a bit of a mess. Plus-size fashion, for many brands, revolves around making uninteresting parallel-shaped garments.
Working in the UAE now, I feel a major difference between plus-size modelling here is in the level of professionalism. There are agencies here that actually represent us. In India, however, not only are there no agencies; what happens, as a result, is that there are clients who expect plus-size models to shoot for free in exchange for the photos they give us. I have faced this myself and often wondered if it would be the same had I been a regular fashion model. I also see the UAE having more brands in the future that cater to plus-size fashion.
Being a plus-size designer myself, I think people express themselves tremendously through the clothes they wear, how they wish to wear them and where they wear them. Fashion can be revolutionary - it can spark conversations.
Currently, there are plus-size brands coming up with better designs every day, not restricting people to wear only limited styles just because they are big. Women of various sizes, who haven't been represented yet, are also coming up with bold styles for themselves, to express their individuality better.
The world is increasingly celebrating uniqueness. I am glad the fashion industry is heeding to the call.