I Am Beautiful. Period.

Tanvi Geetha Ravishankar speaks about her participation in the first ever show for plus-sized women and men at Lakme Fashion Week 

I knew Tanvi Geetha Ravishankar as a little toddler during the years that I lived in Mumbai. Her mother Geetha, who would come to learn bharatanatyam from me, had a strong passion for dance. Little wonder then that Tanvi, now 28, has herself trained in a range of dance forms - odissi, bharatanatyam, kathak, jazz and freestyle.  An out and out Mumbai girl, this is where she was born and raised, went to school (the Bombay Scottish School at Mahim) and currently lives.  Tanvi studied I.T engineering from KK Wagh Institute of Technology at Nasik. 

Exuding an air of confidence and highly positive self image she tells me, "I am a freelance fashion stylist, voice over artist, choreographer and now a plus size model". 

Tanvi walking the ramp with her inimitable style and confidence 

Tanvi walking the ramp with her inimitable style and confidence 

Tanvi recently participated in the first ever show for plus sized men and women during Lakme Fashion Week. From what I have been reading online, she seems to have really impressed the judges, emerging as one of the ten finalists who walked the ramp. Filled with admiration for this bold young woman who is daring to challenge conventional stereotypes of beauty, I shoot her a few questions which she promptly and cheerfully responds to. 

Nirmala (N): What got you interested in participating in this first ever show for plus size men and women, during Lakme Fashion Week?
Tanvi (T): I have always been an avid fashion lover , so would always wonder while looking at international plus sized models and ramp shows as to when something of this sort would happen in India. And on seeing this opportunity , I just had to give it a try and be a part of it.

Lakme Fashion Week's first ever show for plus-sized women and men

Lakme Fashion Week's first ever show for plus-sized women and men

N: The world is so caught in regressive stereotypes. What challenges have you faced in your refusal to subscribe to the stereotypical notions of perfection vis-à-vis the female body? 
T: The most challenging part about being plus size is that every single person judges your capability based on your size rather than your talent. For some odd reason , a fat person is considered unfit , not smart enough , not strong enough and not presentable enough . How does this even make sense ? Plus-sized people face challenges in their jobs, in hobby classes and sadly even while finding suitable life partners in our Indian arranged marriage setting. I am more fit and flexible and dress way better than most of the skinny girls I know of. I know plus-sized girls who run the marathon ! But the world still will not stop judging us over our appearance.

Though I have never conformed to these judgements and have always broken through them and proved everyone wrong , even I was not able to fight one particular challenge. Post engineering studies, I came back to Mumbai to pursue my passion for dancing. But little did I know that more than talent , it is a person's shape and size that is valued in the dance Industry. I have always been told by my mentors that I have 99 out of 100 qualities that a dancer needs...that I am dedicated , soulful, strong , graceful , flexible , expressive and inspiring but would have to lose weight to get to 100 ! I did manage to lose a lot of weight but after a point , I just couldn't because that was just not who I was. I love eating , I am a passionate foodie, so no matter how much I tried , after a point I just could not lose weight. And the thing that I realised was that even if I did manage to lose all the fat in my body and achieve the shape that was required, I would not have been able to sustain it because giving up on food for the rest of my life was not something that I could do. So various body shaming incidents made me give up on Dancing as a profession. This is one thing that really breaks my heart. People with way less calibre than a plus-sized person , are given opportunities to showcase their talent and abilities but we get judged and rejected just based on our appearance! 


N: You come across as supremely confident and comfortable in your skin. How have you managed this given how judgemental society can be?
T: I have always been like this. Honestly I do not know how because I have constantly faced criticism and mockery from my closest of friends and family , all my life , but I still have never conformed to the stereotypical norms of the society. I guess I really love myself...haha ! Perhaps it is because I never let any type of remarks get to me , be it positive or negative. Neither do I believe people when they praise me nor when they criticise me. I always believe in my own judgement of good or bad. And I know that I am beautiful. So nobody can bring me down even if they wanted to . Confidence comes when you wholly accept yourself and love yourself the way you are without comparing yourself with another person. And that is something that I feel. I am smart , funny , beautiful , intelligent , talented and a good , loving human being , so why should I think of myself inferior to anybody else! 

N: What do you aim to achieve through your involvement with Lakme Fashion Week? What are your longer terms plans and aspirations? 
T: One very big challenge in terms of clothing that Indian plus-sized people face is the lack of trendy and chic options. Since a huge platform such as Lakme Fashion Week has been a pioneer in bringing about a change in the fashion industry, I hope that more and more brands and designers will start introducing plus-sized ranges in their collections.
Personally , I would really want to play a hand in putting a stop to the body shaming of plus-sized women and men. More importantly, I want to help promote body positivity amongst plus-sized individuals so that they learn to love their body and be happy with it. Internationally there has been a lot of change - they have plus size fashion , plus- sized models on the ramp , on the cover of magazines and in music videos ! Plus-sized actors such as Zach Galifianakis , Rebel Wilson and Melissa Mccarthy are all doing amazing work as mainstream heroes and heroines. Having role models like them makes a lot of difference in changing the mindsets of people.
I would love to be a part of such a change in the Indian fashion and film industry. As of now I do not know how I would go about doing this. But being a plus-sized runway model seems like a good start!

N: Is this the first time that plus sizes are being featured and celebrated in Indian fashion world? What has been the response thus far?
T: Yes it is. All the plus size brands have been revolutionary in being the first to introduce labels dedicated to plus size clothing in the Indian fashion market . And now with this next step of featuring plus-sized models on the runway they have completely demolished the stereotype of "fashion is for a particular size"! It is a huge leap for the plus size fashion industry in India. People have been loving it. The show was fabulous and the post-show responses have been so overwhelming and positive. 

N: What would be your message to plus-sized women, particularly Indian women? 
T: I would say, "Embrace who you are. Don't fall prey to society's stereotypes of beauty. Beauty comes from owning yourself and being confident no matter what shape , size or colour you are. Only when the world sees how confident you are of your body and yourself , will it change its approach towards seeing you. And when people mock you, don't take it to heart..either laugh along with them or ignore the remarks. Hopefully they will eventually get bored of mocking you...and even if they don't just continue doing your own thing because "Haters are gonna Hate but you've just gotta Shake it off !!!"

So proud of this girl for stepping forward to do her part in bringing about change. Kudos to Lakme Fashion Week for taking this leap. While we cannot expect sensitivity, inclusivity and societal transformation to happen overnight, this is definitely a step in the right direction. And now, if they would just do away with those fair and lovely creams. 

We are beautiful. Period.