Turning a blind eye and deaf ear to naysayers, these plus-size models are on a mission to make India look beyond size zero
The odds may be stacked against them, but these men and women are determined to prove their point, that plus size can be cool too. Last week, 300 models tried their luck at the auditions for a plus-size fashion show for the upcoming Lakmé Fashion Week. Twenty one winners made the cut - 17 women and four men. While for some, it was a world unseen until now, a few others have had professional modelling experience. Their reasons to participate ranged from "just-for-kicks", to holding up a cause.
Varonica Campbell, 28, makeup artist
Right since she was a teenager, Varonica Campbell wanted to be a swimwear model. Her journey to the ramp, however, has been a roundabout one. After graduating from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Hyderabad, she went to London College of Fashion. A move to Canada saw her work as makeup artist for MAC. This was her first tryst with the fashion world, where she worked with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Hollywood stars. "It was around then that a lady suggested I try modelling. I don’t look plus-size, essentially, you see. I am 5 feet, 9, and I have a curvy build."
She went on to do a few modelling assignments for local brands that retailed online. That was in 2012. The next year, she returned to India, found base in Hyderabad, and started her label, Varonica Makeup Artistry. The Shetty sisters, Shilpa and Shamita, are among the celebs on her roster of clients. Her breakthrough on the ramp came when she walked as showstopper for London-based designer, Wajahat Mirza. Campbell credits her circle for never having experienced a body-shaming moment. "Models like us don’t get the opportunity. If given a chance, we can make history," she says dramatically.
Campbell auditioned for Lakmé in risque red Victoria Secret lingerie. "Wendell [Rodricks, designer and judge] was so impressed, he took a video of my audition and uploaded it on his Instagram account. He told me, ‘You were the best’." If her career takes off, she’d love to fulfil that original dream. Be a swimwear model.
Aditi Muni, 38, freelance designer
This mother of two says it’s support from husband, Nikhil, that helped her get selected. "He encouraged me on to do this. I didn’t see myself as a finalist," says the Ghatkopar resident. Muni didn’t prepare for the auditions but recalls it as an experience that was far from intimidating. "We were a similar bunch of people, with the same kind of nervousness. That was, in fact, comforting. The organisers, too, were more than helpful. I remember the moment when Neeraj Gaba [show director] asked us to be positive, and flaunt what we have. That upped my confidence."
Muni, who is the oldest female finalist, doesn’t agree with those who say they are discriminated against for their weight. "I don’t mind being the way I am. However, somehow, even the kindest of remarks makes you feel inadequate. But once I had warmed up to the idea of walking the ramp, I hoped I would add to the confidence of women like myself," says Muni, who auditioned in a knee-length black dress. Her children are excited to see her model. "My in-laws, however, don’t know yet. It will be a surprise," she says.
Prince Khurana, 38, entrepreneur
For someone who ran the family engineering business for 15 years, modelling was nowhere on Prince Khurana’s mind. Until a day before the audition. "A close friend, who was also auditioning, asked me to come along, for moral support. Then she egged me on to try my luck. It was like nothing I had done before, but I said, why not!" says the 38-year-old entrepreneur from Thane. Khurana has been "chubby" all his life. "I understand the fears of plus-size people. I have friends in television and media, who associate being slim with fit and cool. I think it’s an Indian thing. I have wondered why a chubby face isn’t the face of a brand? Why are people like us not the focus of anything?"
He sees this fashion show as the chance to make people look beyond size-zero. At 5 feet, 8 inches, Khurana found himself among the shorter contenders. But now that he has made it, he is nervous and curious about the big day, just like his family. "They are new to this, too. When I broke the news to my mother, she said, ‘But you are short and fat. How did you get selected?’ I told her, ‘That’s exactly why, Ma’," he laughs.
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