The many meanings of 'Beautiful'

Published On: July 27, 2018 10:20 AM NPT By: Rakshya Khadka

Beauty is subjective. Its definition varies according to perception. Though the world has become more embracing of the varying ideas of beauty, Nepal has yet to catch up. Modeling has long been a profession for the ‘conventionally’ beautiful and plus size models aren’t really considered fit to walk the ramp.

This is the mindset that Arati Pradhan, 21, an aspiring plus size model, is trying to break. As the title holder of ‘The Most Amicable Person’ in the Super Plus Size Model Nepal, an event sponsored by Womaniya, a plus size and maternity clothing chain, Arati wishes to make an impression in the modeling industry and cast aside stereotypes associated with models and modeling. Arati was the only plus size model to walk the ‘Winner Fashion Show 2018’ and she sure had a lot of heads turning.

Why did you want to become a model in an industry that allows for scant flexibility in its standards?
As a child, I had always been enamored by the glamor of the modeling industry. The clothes, the traveling, and the appreciation were things I wanted for myself as well. Growing up, it had been all about those things. It’s not the same anymore. I want to make a statement that being plus size in no way means you aren’t beautiful. It makes it more real. I see way too many people are insecure about their bodies and want to hide them. They are ashamed. This has got to change. And I want to bring a difference by embracing myself for who I am and showing it to everyone who scorn the plus size community. And modeling, I believe, is an excellent way to channel this passion that I have for it. 

Did you ever feel like you couldn’t make it in the modeling industry?
Yes, I did. Too many people ridiculed me when I told them that I wanted to become a model. Even when I told my family that I was participating in the Super Plus Size Model Nepal, they were amazed that “someone like me” could become a model. They unabashedly pointed out that clothes would look unappealing on me and that I would only be causing them embarrassment. And I believed it too. The Nepali models that we are mostly familiar with are all slender and tall and not plus size. And I always thought that Nepali people have their own reservations in what they accept. I definitely wasn’t confident if devoting myself into this, when there were no apparent chances of success, was a good idea.

So tell us, how did it all start? 
In recent years, there’s been quite a rage of plus size models in the international media, and people were quite accepting of it as well. I thought it was because it seemed more realistic to people. Not everyone is born with a 5’7” frame and have Barbie-like bodies. Seeing all of that had me wishing things were the same in Nepal too. I really wanted to see plus size models in the mainstream media but I also thought it would be a long, long time before that happened. But one day I came across a Facebook post by Womaniya announcing a pageant exclusively for plus size people and I didn’t waste a single minute in applying. A few days later, I got a call telling me that I had made it to the auditions. I was so happy I couldn’t finish my lunch. The pageant went really well and I walked my first runway as the only plus size model very recently.

Who are your role models? 
I’ve always had great respect for Ashley Graham and Anuradha Koirala. Ashley is a pioneer in the world of plus size modeling. There really wasn’t much buzz about plus size models in the industry until she came along. She was the first plus size model to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a magazine notorious for featuring only toned models with not an inch of visible fat. Ashley featured in it and made plus size desirable. It must have been hard for her but she made it. Also, I was elated when Anuradha Koirala won the CNN Hero Award back in 2010, having closely observed her works for quite some time. The persistence and courage she had to fight against inhumane transgressions is something I take great inspiration from. Her dedication to her cause and the generosity she has are remarkable. I wish to embody the good qualities of both these extraordinary women as I grow older.

What changes would you like to see in the plus size modeling industry a few years’ down the line?
I really want to see a change in people’s perception. Plus size modeling is still in its infancy. It began with ‘Chubby Models’ in 2017 but you don’t see any more plus size models now than you did before. There are still no modeling offers or even models that have had a significant exposure. In a recent orientation for models, a Korean salesman gave me a public suggestion before a crowd of models, among whom I was the only full-figured person. He suggested that I wear a slimming belt that would make me more appealing. I’m hopeful that a day will come when plus size and zero size are both normalized without people batting an eyelash at the mention of either. 

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