Sometime last year, I started working as a model. It took me a really long time to actually accept that as a title. I never felt like a model. I thought:
I sure as hell don’t look like a model.
Even writing it out now is making me a little uncomfortable.
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For many years, there’s been a certain idea of what a model is. When I first started modeling, I was really self-conscious. I’m 5’4” and definitely not a size 0. I felt this inherent pressure to look a certain way. There was an unspoken rule that models are supposed to be thin, or that if you’re a guy, you have to have a six-pack. For many people who are working in this industry, it causes a lot of unhealthy habits to try and achieve that look.
When the people we’re seeing in ads and commercials are pressured to look a certain way, it has an impact on the entire society. I remember when I was younger, seeing how thin all the models looked and how I wanted to be like that. I always wanted to be in front of the camera, but I thought the body I was in wasn’t good enough. I remember skipping meals and restricting my eating in the hopes that I would be thin enough to do that one day.
Let’s put ads and commercials aside for one second and think about what we grew up watching in Bollywood: size 0 actresses gracing the silver screen; “fair and lovely” South Asian models making it seem like being skinny and having a milk-white complexion were the only two ways to succeed in this industry—even life.
[Read Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming Beautiful and Loving Yourself]
I want to break the notion—right here, right now.
A model is not just a woman who is thin with a pretty face; or, a man with lots of muscles and a good jawline. There is no one universal image of beauty. Everybody is beautiful. Each day, the #BodyPositiveMovement is growing. It’s time that we start having real people reflected in our campaigns. It’s amazing to see companies like American Eagle/Aerie, ASOS and Old Navy stepping up and using people of all shapes and sizes in their campaigns. Larger brands take notice!
My name is Jessie. I’m a South Asian model. And, this model eats a lot.
I still have my days where I feel the pressure to look a certain way, but I’m learning to love the skin I’m in.
I am beautiful and so are you.