As diversity becomes a growing focus in the fashion industry, more and more plus-size models are bagging big gigs and getting onto national runways.
Chennai’s darling Akshaya Navaneethan, who has won accolades for her social work and tonsuring her head to donate hair for cancer patients, has been on the events scene too as an anchor and model. The Chennai girl has managed to crack into the big league now and has been selected as the only plus size model from Chennai to have been selected for the upcoming Lakme India Fashion Week.
It has been a hard rise to the top, says Akshaya as she speaks of the days where she was put down. “As women, there is a constant focus on the way we look, especially in a profession like mine. Big is beautiful is nice as a slogan but the reality is different. I overcame the small talk and cat calls and focused on celebrating my curves.
Slowly, in our own confidence blossoms talent too. People now constantly hire me to host events and to walk the ramp for LIFW.”
Akshaya’s story also has a turning point. She says, “When I was in dance school my teacher used to ask me to stand right at the back because she said I was too fat to dance properly. All these instances made me motivated rather than depressed. I knew god made every human being beautiful.”
However, the definition of a plus-size model might be surprising: in the fashion industry, plus-size models are defined as being those who are size 8 and up; when in the real world the average size of an Indian woman itself is size 8.
Designer Tina Vincent, who has developed her brand XXL for over 3 decades, says, “India is obsessed with the thin. I realised the need to cater to women who are forgotten by the fashion industry. That’s how I started my brand. If designers too expand their scope, there will be more business for them and access to work for more bigger models.” She continues, “Most large women look at online stores or shop abroad as most designers stick to standard sizing that leaves women over size 12 out.”
The celebrity makeup artiste and title winner as Mrs. India in a contest conducted in Sri Lanka Sridevi Ramesh, says, “As a mother of a teenage child and so many duties as a wife, my life had turned into a busy routine and I had put on a lot of weight. But I used that to my advantage. I toned up, learnt makeup as a hobby and learnt to accentuate my features. I realised that being big is an advantage especially when it comes to ethnic wear.” She adds, “People seem to believe that big people don’t care enough about themselves.
That isn’t true, sometimes it's just our build and genes. I worked on spreading this awareness and was selected for the Mrs. India pageant.”
These plus size models are claiming a price tag of anywhere between Rs 20,000-30,000 per ramp show and are heavily in demand across countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and in Chennai too.
Mallika Chaudhuri, a tattoo artiste and beauty consultant, recently launched a body beautiful campaign in the city and she speaks rather emotionally, “Weight has ruined some of my most precious moments for me where people's prejudice has been used against me when I tried my luck in films. But I used it to my advantage and took up plus size modelling. Now, the offers just don’t stop and many of the women I counsel as a beauty consultant have begun to celebrate their curves and are more focused on being toned, no matter how big they are.”