Meet Bishamber Das, the first British Asian plus-size model
Bishamber Das tells us about how plus-size individuals are treated in India, her journey as a plus-size model in the industry and more.
For what seemed like forever, the fashion industry would offer entry to only those who were tall, skinny and mostly fair-skinned. But gradually, over the last few years, the definition of beauty finally started to change, with the advent of plus-size modelling and the body positivity movement. 32-year-old U.K based Bishamber Das is one of the significant names that have been part of this body positivity movement.
Das is the first British Asian plus-size model and has contributed immensely to the plus size industry in the US and UK. Growing up having an alcoholic, abusive father, she took solace in food, which led to a huge weight gain and bullying in school.
It was in 2012 when Bishamber decided that she needed to change her lifestyle in order to reduce her weight since her health was getting severely affected. Born to Indian Punjabi and Malaysian parents, Das is not defined just by her modelling career. She also has a degree in law and criminology and is well-versed in five languages. She also became the youngest Asian magistrate in the UK when she was just 22. Das has been diagnosed with conditions like dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Das has modelled for various international plus-size brands and was the runner up at the international Miss India Europe competition in 2014. In an exclusive interview recently during the grand finale of the MS Plus Size India 2019 held at the Lalit Hotel in Delhi, where she was one of the judges, Das tells us about how plus-size individuals are treated in India, her journey as a plus-size model in the industry and more.
Some excerpts from the interview:
Growing up did you ever think that there would be a fashion show for plus-size models?
Never ever in my life did I expect that to happen. But over the last 6-7 years this movement has picked up in the UK, not so much in India though. But I’m proud to say that I’m the first woman who got the whole body positivity movement to India four years ago. Before that, no one understood the concept of plus size modelling.
Would you say the West is more acceptable towards body positivity than India?
Well, that’s the way we are. Whatever happens in the West catches on in India, which is what is happening with plus size modelling now. Like in the UK the average size of a woman 16-18, which is my size, so women like that are there everywhere. But in India, I hear stuff like yaar kitni moti hai (She is so fat). I feel like I’m an alien, I don’t know why we do this.
I used to be even bigger over the last three years and I have lost a significant amount of weight.
Another thing seen in India is when you reach a marriageable age, are your parents pressurising you for marriage?
It’s interesting that you’ve touched upon this, when we are growing up we are made to believe as a woman that we are supposed to finish our education, then get married, then have children- there’s a timeline.
People used to approach my parents regarding marriage. Even when I used to go to the Guruduwara people used to say, kudi tei badi soni hai, lekin moti hai, koi munda vya nahi karega (She’s a pretty girl, but since she’s on the heavier side, no boy would want to marry her.)
All the time they would say that kind of things to me and I would look at them and say, “Sorry, but I’m a magistrate judge in the UK, I was 22 years old when I was appointed, the youngest at the time, I’ve got great education behind me but your son who’s got no education thinks I’m not good enough for him because I’m fat.”
You’ve got a degree in criminology, you plan to do something career-wise in that direction?
I’m following that on the law side of things, but I’m involved in a lot of other things, I’m very active in the child protection issues and exploitation in the UK, so I’ve got fingers in every pie.
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