My weight didn’t stop me from becoming a model
A Delhi-based girl, Sakshi Sindwani, is everything and much more than you can imagine. A flagbearer of body positivity and a stylista at heart, Sindwani spoke to us about her humble beginnings, her love for YouTube and content creation, and how she triumphed self-love. Read on
Tell us about your life before you became an influencer.
Growing up I used to live in a family of five with my mom, dad, an elder sister and my grandfather. In school, I was an A grade student and wanted to become a genetic engineer although, I always had a liking for fashion. So, did my post-grad in fashion styling and image design, went to New York for an internship and did a few styling gigs here and there. In fact, styled one of the shows at New York Fashion Week; that was pretty cool.
When did you think of becoming an influencer?
I’ve always been obsessed with watching YouTube videos. I started when I was barely in 6th or 7th grade because I could relate to the girls on YouTube more than to the girls in the magazines, TV or movies. The YouTube girls were regular girls that somewhat looked like me. I would watch videos of the American vlogger, Bethany Mota, who was one of the first content creators to get the kind of success that she did. In 3rd year of my college, I finally started my own YouTube channel.
When did you decide to move from YouTube to Instagram?
I never thought of content creation as a career initially but something I was doing for fun. I would literally post once in a month or something. YouTube was really a phase where I found out how much I love content creation. And, so, I started to build a community slowly and steadily, although, the urge to fit in and for people to like me remained intact. I started doing Sarojini Nagar, Chandni Chowk hauls, lookbooks, because these were trending and performing really well, and had a burnout in 2019. I was at 60k or 70k subscribers back then. Right after my YouTube burnout is when I decided to create videos on Instagram.
What changed when you started your IG account?
On Instagram, I took up a challenge that I will not create videos; I would just talk to people about the outfit that I was wearing on that particular day and give them styling tips. I decided to do this every single day for the next 365 days. That really changed my life and the trajectory of my entire career. Later, I started my series, SMU, meaning Style Me Up, one episode every single day, and as they say, rest is history.
What were your family’s thoughts about your career?
I grew up in a typical Punjabi family who have always been very supportive of everything that I did. My parents saw how much passion I was putting in my career. There was one time when they were scared about it because for a very long time as a content creator, I wasn’t earning anything. I would earn ₹5000 a year. It’s only In 2019 that things started picking up and they saw that I can really grow financially. Today, I’m one of the highest earners of my family, so they’re extremely proud of me.
What was the turning point for you?
In 2019, I was scouted as a model for Lakme Fashion Week. It was my first show ever and I walked as a showstopper model. It was for designer Rina Dhaka. After that, I heard about open auditions for India Fashion Week (IFW), and got selected as a pool model. It was for the first time ever that a plus-sized model was scouted as a pool model for IFW.
Did you always want to be a body positivity influencer?
Subconsciously, yes, I always wanted to talk about representation. I didn’t know what it meant when I had started my YouTube channel, but there was certainly a community that liked me for who I was. I really started reflecting on my own choices and how I saw my body and what I wanted to change in my mindset. It was the audience that pushed me to talk more and more about body positivity. In my post-grad, I had made a documentary of 13 different women called Our body that got viral. I saw then the kind of impact it had on people irrespective of their gender, shape and size, and realized that everyone is struggling. I wanted to talk about self-love, fitness, and wanted to change the fashion industry and the society for good.
Did you face body issues as a kid?
I’ve had a lot of issues with my body. As a kid, I loved my chubbiness because everyone thought it’s cute. Later, when I went to school, the same cuteness became “tu kitni moti hai, tu kitni bhais hai”. So many of these adjectives get attached to you and you start hating your body. I’ve hated my body for the longest time. I was bullied every single day and not just at school but at home by relatives and my own parents, siblings. I was compared to my elder sister because she had lost her weight and had become the thinnest of the girls. My father and I didn’t have a great relationship back then because I was very big. Even with mom it was the same. I’ve always had a love and hate relationship with my body because I gained and lost weight many times. It’s only until later that I learnt the meaning of self-love and body positivity, and that the only validation that matters is the one that comes from inside.
Do you like what you do?
I love what I do; I’m obsessed because I put my heart and soul into it. I don’t want to be preachy but I want to make fashion accessible and relatable for bigger bodies as well. And, not just talk the talk but also walk the walk. For me, I’m a badass boss who won’t quit until and unless I change the fashion industry and honestly, the world for good. I will continue to talk about body positivity, body neutrality, self-love, and inclusivity.
Who has been your inspiration?
Back then it was Bethany Mota. She was very bubbly and chirpy in her videos. And, was a ball of sunshine for me. I’ve seen her grow and break paths. She inspired me to start my own channel. Right now, I absolutely love Masoom Minawala, Komal Pandey, Prajakta Koli, Kusha Kapila, and Dolly Singh.
What are your views on the social media influencer space?
The industry has completely boomed. Digital marketing is the future. Social media influencers are the new age celebrities. They’re more relatable, fresh, and they challenge norms. The thought that you can be anybody in the world and could become somebody, is revolutionary. Possibilities are endless and it’s open for everyone. You can influence people even if you’re not an SM influencer. In India, we still have a lot of learning to do and we’ll get there in time.
Do you think social media influencers can bring about positive change?
I definitely believe that body positive creators have brought about a change. They’ve made people feel more comfortable in their skin. You have to remind people to take care of themselves and body positivity is about taking care of your health and fitness regardless of your size and shape. There are so many body positivity creators who might make you feel good about yourself and others who might not bring much value to you. Follow the ones that bring value to you, who make you feel good about yourself, who make you happy. We’re challenging the society and not just the fashion industry. We’re changing the mere definition of what is considered normal and beautiful, and that’s powerful.