When I prepared to launch my first collection for my startup online clothing store, I asked my sisters to pose as models for the clothes. They are young and a little chubby; thus they were initially unwilling to volunteer. I had to convince them day and night that they would look good and that weight really doesn’t matter to look good in photos! I mean, I felt regular people could relate to them. Not everyone has a perfect body! In fact most people do not have a perfect body.
And what is perfect? And who are we to decide what perfect is? Bengalis are short, Europeans are tall, Japanese are shorter. Europeans are fair, we are dusky, Africans are dark. These are all defined by nature. But let’s talk about weight. We Bengalis have a food habit where we consume rice as a staple dish and that leaves us bound to put on some weight here and there.
Even if we live healthy, we inadvertently put on weight. For instance, if a woman’s height is 5 ft 4 inches, her ideal weight should be between 50-65 kilos. So, a female with a height of 5 ft 4 inches having a weight of 55 kilos essentially is as healthy as someone with the same height but a weight of 60 kilos. In true terms, none of my sisters are overweight, but they are not exactly thin. That does not mean they are not healthy. It simply means they aren’t thin, skinny, an ideal figure of modeling that we created.
What is this ideal figure really? Who created this? You and me, the society. Why blame fairness creams for promoting fairness when that’s what we want? Yes, you, me, our whole society likes fair. They think fair is beautiful. Don’t hold fair and lovely guilty for providing only what the consumers want! Business is after all going to serve the needs of the consumers. Although this is yet to become a pressing issue in Bangladesh, don’t go blame models when teenagers at home will starve themselves to be as thin and beautiful like models and actresses and eventually bulimia and anorexia will creep in. Historically, however, voluptuous women have always been considered beautiful. The ideal female body was strong and full figured. Even our mother’s/aunt’s generation tells stories like how they took vitamins to gain weight (societies also have an impact, apparently our men like women with meat, excuse the crassness). Over time, trend has gone from thin to emaciated which has been mirrored by a growing problem of eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction. I know of a friend’s friend who starved herself to death because the boy who liked her, told her he would go out with her only if she lost weight. She secretly started taking pills more than her prescribed dose, and drastically lost weight, trying any and all means of growing thin till her body collapsed one day and she embraced death. Why am I writing this piece? It’s because even though mostly I have received highly positive reviews, I did get some negative comments. And I am truly open to criticism. You criticise the cloth, I don’t mind. I will take your opinion into consideration. Criticise the service, criticise the price, the picture quality, no problem. But when you criticise specifically about the models’ figures, when it goes against principles, and is something that is derogatory to the society itself, I will definitely speak up. I have seen comments like, ‘shukna model hole aro bhalo lagto (it would have looked better if the models were thin)’, ‘why are the models fat? are the clothes only for fat people?’, *tags a friend and says ‘look at the models’ figures’* (I go check the two people’s profile, and no they have no so called idealistic figure themselves) and so on. And such comments came from both genders, male and female. My sisters are not upset at these comments. Before they started, I told them modeling comes with a price, just like any other task. People may comment on their looks (another topic, for another day, but really, why do we comment on features that is divine controlled and we have no control on), other shops may save the picture and use it elsewhere, and of course their figures will be commented upon. They come from a very supportive and good social circle and I know these will not impact them. In case, they ever feel sad, they have people to lean back on. But I know every girl doesn’t. I know every person doesn’t. And when someone commits suicide, or falls ill because s/he failed to to achieve what the society felt was ideal, we are all guilty. I just wish to send a message to everyone who reads this, please do not have an ideal sets of characteristics for what is beautiful. Dark is beautiful, white is beautiful, short is beautiful, tall is beautiful, thin is beautiful, broad is beautiful - beauty is truly in the eyes of a beholder. Healthy is beautiful. You are beautiful, however you are.