No stopping them

Published On: February 14, 2020 08:52 AM NPT By: The Week Bureau

It’s always nice to see stereotypes and preset notions being challenged and defied. In the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of plus-size women on screen and walking the ramp. As glamorous as it might look, the women haven’t had it easy. But nothing has stopped them from achieving what they wanted to either. Here they share their stories.  

Rakshya Gautam
At the young age of 23, Gautam has already amassed a huge fan-following and for good reasons too. She has proven to be good at her work. Her role in A Mero Hajur 3 finally gave her the platform to showcase her true passion—acting. But this success didn’t come easy and things are still far from perfect. In fact, for a long time, Gautam faced taunts and jabs from friends and relatives alike, questioning her ability to make it because of “how she looked”. Today, she has proved them wrong and how. With almost 13,000 followers on Instagram, she is one of those actors who is a dazzling ray of hope for many. And Gautam continues to put her abilities to test every single day because she enjoys proving people wrong. 

How did you get into acting?
I have always been interested in acting. But height and weight play a key role in determining whether or not you will make it in the industry. The odds were stacked high against me. I started my career after going through a lot of auditions and facing a lot of rejections. It took off after I finally got a role in A Mero Hajur 3. The fact that I had undergone acting training really helped my case.

Have you ever had body image issues? 
Yes, of course, I did. Every time I used to go for auditions, people used to look at me from head to toe and I was often at the end of lots of judgmental remarks. I used to be rejected before the auditions simply because I wasn’t how girls are “supposed to be”. 

How did you overcome them?
I had a very good support system. My mother never left my side when I was going through awful times. She was always there to lift up my spirits and keep me motivated. Her love is what got me here. I don’t know where I would be without her. It was because of her constant reassurance and faith in me that I was determined to get what and where I wanted, no matter how hard it was. 

Is it difficult being a plus size woman when the entertainment industry and the media too seems to promote and endorse being thin as being beautiful?
I will admit that it used to feel really bad. But I’m more comfortable in my skin now. I have realized that being confident and hardworking along with having talent is equally important. And while height and weight do play into your success, it’s not everything. 
What still dissatisfies me is how plus size people don’t get equal opportunities as another person that fits into the stereotypical category. But the mentality change has been slow and gradual. Hopefully, we can pick up speed soon. It’s when you get to see more established people who are good representations that others will feel more comfortable rising up to their full potentials. And for that to happen, we need to have a platform for them first.

What would you like to say to all plus size women who struggle with self-esteem and confidence on a daily basis?
Be who you are even if it hurts, especially if it hurts. And if you want to lost weight, do it for you, not because of what other’s say or to fit into people’s concept of beautiful. You will find people who will appreciate you for exactly how you are. But till then, appreciate yourself. 

Rama Budhathoki
If you had met 26-year-old Rama Budhathoki a few years ago and told her she would be working in the fashion industry, giving fashion advice to plus size and women and become one of the core members of a big clothing brand, she would have laughed at your face. And yet, here she is today, strong, confident and a force to be reckoned with. 

Were you always interested in fashion?
Yes, I was. But it was always limited to what kinds of clothes suited me. I used to play around with color coordination and clothing materials. But it was when I joined Womaniya and became one of the core staff that I truly understood what a vast field it really is. Customer interactions and recommendations really piqued my interest in fashion.

How did you start modeling?
It all started when we had to take pictures for our clothing brand. Since Womaniya specializes in plus size clothing, we were looking for plus size people to represent the brand and I happened to be one. After a while, I started feeling more comfortable in my body and in front of the camera. Watching other plus size models being confident and strong was also a huge inspiration for me. Since then, I have attended many plus size fashion show and body positive programs.

How does it feel to be representing plus size women?
I think that no matter how we are—black, white, tall, short, plus size or thin—we are all simply human beings. It’s important that we see all this diversity in media. And I’m happy to belong to one of those categories. Besides, there are way too many issues in this world that need attention. And I don’t think debating on how one should look for aesthetic pleasure is one of them. 

Have you ever been trolled for how you look?
Rather than online hate, I think I have received more taunts and snide remarks about my weight from friends and relatives. From “politely” telling me that I’m not healthy to shamelessly bullying me for how I look, people in real life have done it all. But I can proudly say that today they don’t bother me all that much.

Have you ever had body image issues? 
I think that our world is so critical that almost everyone is unsatisfied with their bodies. I was no different. From a very young age, I was self-conscious about my weight. I thought all the bullying would simply go away as I grew older. But it took an active effort on my part to let go of my previous misconceptions and ignore random comments from strangers. Accepting myself was a difficult journey but it has been worth it.

How have you tackled your personal body image issues?
A lot of it had to do with changing my thinking pattern. When you start liking yourself rather than making others like you, it changes your whole life. I was constantly surrounded by people who encouraged me to grow. Priyanka Bothra and Sangita Raj Bhat from Womaniya were very supportive of plus size women. My confidence and perception of myself changed a lot when I hung out with the right group of friends.

What is your advice for women who have low self-esteem and cannot overcome body image issues?
Like and love yourself first. Then worry about the world. Your personal skills and achievements matter more than fitting in if you want to be successful in life.

Marcella Rai
Hailing from Dhamak, Jhapa, Marcella Rai is one of the popular faces of the online clothing brand Plus Size Nepal. Interestingly, the 27-year-old landed her first gig because she simply reached out to the page that she had been following in search of an opportunity to model. The brand responded affirmatively and the rest is history. Aside from her fantastic clothes and confidence, Rai is also exceptional at doing her makeup. 

Did you always want to be a model?
Actually, to be honest, I was never interested in fashion. But it was when I discovered many body positive pages and plus size content that I started being more curious. It just so happened that while I was looking for ways to enter this industry, a path just opened up for me. It wasn’t planned but whatever has happened has been good. 

How does it feel to be representing plus size women? 
It often feels like in a world full of Barbies, I am a panda. When I was young, my friends used to tease me with that very name—Panda. And I would proudly say that yes, yes I was. 
Now that I am representing plus size women in Nepal, I feel like I am standing up and speaking up for all those girls who never feel comfortable in their own skin because of the horrible beauty standards society has placed on them. And I couldn’t be any prouder.

Have you ever been trolled for how you look? 
Yes, several times. But that doesn’t bother me at all. From the very beginning, I was comfortable and confident with my physical appearance. I knew what I was getting into and I was prepared. Just because a stranger comes up to me and says something horrible doesn’t mean I will forget my worth. 

Have you ever had body image issues? 
It might sound strange but no. I always used to pamper myself and that gave me a lot of self confidence. I always embraced myself no matter how I looked. I never compromised on who I was and who I could be. 

What is your advice for women who have low self-esteem and are having trouble overcoming body image issues? 
First of all, learn to love yourself. Accept your flaws and pamper yourself a little bit. Don’t let other people calculate your worth.

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