There was a time when a model had to practically starve themselves in order to make it in the industry. Fortunately, those days are largely over thanks to campaigns that promote body positivity. But while plus size models are becoming more common, they still tend to be overwhelming White. This is what makes 34-year-old Bishamber Das so unique. The daughter of Indian Punjabi and Malaysian parents, Das hopes the success she is having will open the doors for other south Asians who want to contribute to diversity in the modeling world. Bishamber embraces her mixed identity and incorporates her culture and heritage into her career as a model. But she doesn’t merely plan to get by on looks alone; she possesses a degree in law and criminology and speaks an impressive five languages.
Aiming to Promote Diversity
Being an Asian influencer when the majority of models are Caucasian isn’t easy. So how does Das deal with the burden of being the first Asian plus size model, and what are the rewards? She has stated in interviews that she loves what she does because it allows her to both spread positivity and combate body shaming, especially in places where the people aren’t familiar with plus size modeling. There are two things that she finds especially frustrating. First, all of the prominent brands claim to recognize the importance of inclusivity and diversity, and yet the “evidence” is the one or two Black models that represent their brand. Secondly, they never seem to include South Asians in their campaigns, which proves just how much more work needs to be done.
She also noted the negative impact that the obsession with impossible-to-achieve beauty standards has had on her life personally. The songs you hear on the radio and the videos on YouTube discuss the female body in the context of needing to have a large butt and a slim waist. Advertisements all over the world put a premium on blue eyes and blond hair. Das says the value placed on being super skinny had such a negative effect on her that she felt worthless and even contemplated suicide. She did not reveal these struggles until relatively recently. She feels it is important to address these feelings because she feels it is her responsibility to ensure that nobody young or old, male or female, plus size or otherwise, feels that they have nothing to contribute to society. She finds comfort in the fact that over time the Asian community has come to accept and embrace her.
Bishamber has already achieved some remarkable things. Even without any modeling experience to speak of, she managed to finish runner-up in her first beauty pageant, representing the UK as the only plus size woman, competing against contestants from nine European countries. This was a life-changing moment for Das. She suddenly found purpose in her life, which is to represent those who felt they had no voice. She wants young people in particular to ignore those telling them how they should look. Instead, the only thing that matters is how you feel.
Focus on Mind, Body and Soul
Bishamber isn’t trying to suggest that she has all of the answers when it comes to advancing the body positive campaign, but nonetheless she understands that when other south Asians look at her, they know that they can also find success in the modeling world and beyond. Finding a sense of purpose in life starts with accepting who you are, and having people like Das demonstrates that nothing is impossible. What makes society beautiful is ultimately about the positive energy we possess and the way we treat others. So if you dream of following in her footsteps, don’t just concentrate on your healthy body, make sure to spend just as much time on your mind and soul as well.