October 5, 2019 Asmita Aggarwal

Fat! So?

Encouraged by FDCI’s “passion for fashion” call during model auditions, Beena Malji at 48, a plus-sized model is hoping to start a dialogue about body positivity    

By Asmita Aggarwal

Sometimes you really don’t know the depth of your potential till you are thrown into the deep end of the ocean and you learn to swim with the proverbial sharks. That’s just what happened with housewife-turned-model Beena Malji. At the age of 48, she has been selected by the FDCI to model for the Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week SS’20, encouraged by Suneet Varma during the auditions. “It meant so much to get a standing ovation by a leading designer, it builds your confidence even though you know you are the oldest amongst the candidates,” says Mumbai-based Beena.

A graduate in French Literature, she chose to be a housewife for ten years of her life, till she got into acting followed by web series and TV commercials and even a few films. “I was a plus-sized model and I found the glamour world to be a great platform to talk about body issues, considering what I faced personally,” she adds.

As a young girl, her parents would get marriage proposals, and many suitors who came to see her would often tell her to lose weight or join a gym. Beena found this patriarchal attitude infuriating and found weight to be a discriminating factor, only for girls, which she found most unfair. “In Indian society, the onus of looking good at all times falls on women, boys are excluded from this notorious pressure. If a child doesn’t do well in his studies, it is the mother’s fault, if a marriage breaks, the girl is to blame. Everything is altered to subdue women,” she adds.

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Being curvy she was told not to wear certain clothes, as she “looked plump”; “your thighs are too big and you need to shape up”, “wear shalwar-kameez”; “don’t wear Western clothes, they don’t suit you” were comments she had to regularly deal with. “Today nearing 50, I took on the challenge to walk with girls as young as 20 wearing a singlet, shorts and a kundan necklace for the auditions. What needs to change is the outlook of women more than men, as they are the ones who are the most judgemental,” confesses Beena who has worked with the Taj Group and also in a BPO.

Body shaming can lead to severe anxiety and depression, but Beena always told herself that unless there is a medical problem, being large is seen as a huge disadvantage, but “why should I lose weight to make other’s comfortable. Let them deal with their discomfort!” she exclaims.

The two people who motivated her to apply for the FDCI model auditions were her husband and 18-year-old daughter, Tanya. She showed her Instagram pages on women who spoke fearlessly about body shaming, also taught her how to engage with people and do the catwalk. “Beauty should be appreciated at every age and women after 40 really come into their own, finding their voice and handling things gracefully. I would just say to all those housewives who have found solace in family and children to not forget themselves and their desires. Tap you potential and come out of your shell,” she concludes.

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