Fashion blogger Aarti Olivia Dubey is a self-made woman who can teach us all a thing or two when it comes to standing up for what is right.
As a plus-size blogger, she is also used to fighting her way through. “There is still quite a lot of disregard for us, especially in Asia. We’re not invited to fashion weeks or given opportunities or platforms to speak about our body of work. It is somewhat upsetting to be ignored repeatedly or disrespected, as if plus-size people cannot be as fashionable,” she says.
Her latest struggle, one she didn’t back down from, was with Instagram that took down her bikini-clad photos. Aarti, a first generation Singaporean-Indian with roots from Lucknow and Gorakhpur, recently became the first plus-size person to have ever written an article in a fashion magazine in Singapore. Excited to be a part of such an incredible journey, Aarti shared behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot on Instagram, which saw two other women and her in bikinis. While there was nothing obscene or sleazy about the images, they were taken down few hours after she posted them without any explanation.
“How is this image being hateful, hurtful, abusive, trolling or obscene? Do three fat girls in swimsuits equate to gore, porn, racism, sexism? Or is it that people only want to see slim girls in swimsuits?” wrote the exasperated blogger.
The article was about how Aarti came to feel comfortable in swimwear as a plus-sized person, and the challenges she overcame to get there. “Fatphobic trolls were displeased and they reported a behind-the-scenes happy image of me and my two girlfriends,” said Aarti, who is also part of a worldwide campaign called We Can! that speaks up for violence against women, and how body shaming is inherently a form of emotional and psychological abuse.
“I was happy to see a fashion magazine pay attention to plus-size people, but I didn’t expect the magnitude of the hatred. When a post of mine from a behind the scenes look at the photoshoot was removed, I was exasperated. The post in question did not violate any of the community guidelines and that got me really angry, especially because this is not the first time the image of a plus-sized person has been wrongfully removed, be it on Facebook or Instagram.”
Aarti continued to protest online for two weeks, until she received an email from Instagram apologising for the action. The email read: “A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Instagram. This was a mistake and we sincerely apologise. We have since restored the content and you should now be able to see it.”
Aarti uploaded the email and wrote: “Check your latent fatphobia. Check your guidelines and policies. Take better care of the people who use your services. Fat, brown, LGBT, disabled and many other intersections deserve RESPECT and not to be trolled by anonymous private accounts with no life.”
Founder of the blog, “Curves Become Her”, Aarti admits how it’s always a challenge to penetrate the fashion world as a plus-size blogger but she still doesn’t mind “existing as a fat Indian girl in a stereotypically skinny Asian world”.
“Fashion has always been of great interest to me, but more importantly, I created this blog to embrace body positivity and intersectional feminism while having fun with fashion,” she says. With her family as her backbone and her husband of nine years, Suresh, who is from South India, to rely on, Aarti says, “I hope to see a more diverse set of bloggers from India, having fun with fashion as plus-size bloggers.”