Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babe: CurvesBecomeHer

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

Living in America for most of my life, I have a narrow view of the world as a whole. I wanted to delve into body positivity in countries other than my own. Aarti, aka @curvesbecomeher is part of a small community of body positivity in Asia.

“My inspiration stemmed from being a plus size South Asian and Singaporean. There wasn't enough representation for girls like me. No plus size Indian girls in magazines, few blogs that I could relate to. After a year of deliberation I decided to take matters into my own hands and be the representation I wanted to see. There is still so much work to be done for Asian plus size representation and that fact alone makes it important to maintain my social media accounts. There is progress, but it's moving pretty slowly. As a woman of Indian ethnicity who was born and brought up in Singapore, it's a constant struggle against the patriarchy and the hive mind. Although cosmopolitanism has certainly made its way here and we have all the amenities you have in the West, there are a great deal of traditions and old school ways of doing things that kind of make it hard for women who do not fit into society's rules. Be it India or Singapore, I am disliked simply for being who I am - a fat woman of Colour, a feminist, a woman  who dislikes the invasion of her personal space and choices. The constant obsession with slimness, fairness of skin, diet culture is a big problem. The authority by which strangers and people you know feel they have over you by commenting on your appearance as if it's okay to do so, is a problem. There are a lot of times when I consider moving out of Asia but then again, there needs to be proper representation for this very small budding community of body positive advocates here. I cannot just up and leave.”

Being a unapologetic plus size woman can have its repercussions. She says that bullying based on her body has been happening since she was 11. “I find I have less tolerance for it since being an active member of the bopo community. I avoid people or groups of people who I know will be judgemental - I am not here to justify why I am the way that I am. Sometimes it hits me hard. Which is why I struggle with social anxiety. It's an ongoing process that I would really like to see improvement and I am positive I will get there. I was too shy to take outdoor fashion shoots for the blog in my first year of blogging but I slowly overcame that fear. If people want to stare, go right ahead. What they will see is a confident well dressed plus size woman. Who knows, that might give them something to think about? When random strangers get obnoxious about my form, I do have to watch my tongue and try not to lash out. Instead, I choose to give them a smile as if to say "Yes I'm Fat and I feel good about myself. Your opinion is not going to change that".

Along with her own inner strength and her husband/photographer, the online community is a source of support for her. “There is a wealth of resources on the Internet - reading blogs and articles, reaching out to bopo advocates for advice, relating to the many others who are finding their way as well via Instagram, Facebook groups. My personal self love idols are a combo between Virgie Tovar and Ashleigh Shackleford. Amazing unapologetic fat women of Colour who constantly blow me away with their wisdom. Arming yourself with a body positive library is also a good idea! There is helpful literature out there written by people in the community like The Militant Baker, Marilyn Wann. Creating a little body posi circle of your own is something I have really benefited from.”

As amazing as the online community is, sometimes it’s good to take a break from the internet. Especially when your job, she’s a freelance writer, requires you to be on it most of the time. “When I feel like I have had an information overload with the news and happenings around the world, when I tire of the trolls and the passive aggressive attitude of people on the Internet. As unfortunate as it sounds, because trolls on plus size accounts are so persistent, you tend to learn to develop an immunity after a while. Tearing away from social media and taking a short break certainly helps. I sit with my thoughts and rationalise rather than be reactionary, some days that can be hard but I grit my teeth and stop myself from self destruction. Distracting myself by doing things I enjoy or give me comfort in real life really helps. I have a body positive playlist that always empowers me when I'm feeling down. Sometimes I luxuriate in a swim, Sometimes I play the piano.”

Aarti was the cause of some controversy a while ago, prompting her to understandably take such a break from the internet. In case you didn’t hear: She was interviewed by a magazine about her journey to blogging about plus size fashion and body positivity. Part of the feature included a bikini photo shoot. Aarti shared a behind the scenes photo with her and the other women featured. Instagram took it down. She didn’t take this unfairness lying down and reposted the picture, along with a caption about why it was important to have it up. She has already spoke out eloquently about the issue on her blog multiple times which you can check out here and here. But I couldn’t interview her without asking what she learned from that experience.

“I learnt more about social media's really short attention span and penchant for 'sensational' news. I spoke up because I felt it was unfair and while a lot of publicity happened for it, I am not sure if Instagram or other social media outlets really took any wisdom from the experience. I also learnt about the power of community; never did I expect such an overwhelming show of support and love, despite the hateful trolls.”

While the attention from mainstream media may have moved on, the body positive community can look forward to many more conversation starters from her. “It wouldn't have been possible for me to even fathom body positivity had it not been for the Internet! (Body positivity) is an essential part of my everyday life now. It shapes how I treat myself, how I regard others and it has helped my with my battle with the mirror, and my past history of bulimia. When I'm having a bad body day, I allow myself to just seek creature comforts and not let the old inner critic whisper harmful words. I have not purged in the past 5 years which is something I am really proud of.”

Lightning Round
Favorite Happy Song?
  • I have so many! My current fav is Light It Up by Major Lazer
What’s a movie that never gets old?
  • Miss Congeniality! I know the lines by heart hahaha.
What’s a book you could read repeatedly?
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. The book never grows old on me and the imagery is fantastic. Horror is one of my Favourite genres.
Favorite ice cream?
  • Argh! The sadness of my life! I'm banned from ice cream because it really flares up my sinus and then my asthma :/
Favorite brick and mortar store?
  • IKEA - hahahaha I know that's so tacky! Fashion wise, I don't have a fav physical store.
Favorite online store?
  • I am always coveting outfits from Eloquii and Nakimuli but can't afford them! I enjoy shopping with boohoo.com and hope to shop at Zelie for She, Chubby Cartwheels soon!
Favorite drink?
  • Gin and Tonic
Do you have any hobbies?

  • Dancing - usually in the form of solo dance parties :p 

Until Next Time,
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