Bishamber Das made history as 2014’s first-ever plus size model to win the Miss India Europe competition. She has since then become a huge advocate when it comes to body positivity and self acceptance. But getting to where she is now wasn’t all easy as the now 29-year-old admits that growing up with an abusive father made her turn to food for security. Her increasing weight later took a toll on her self-confidence and she found herself struggling throughout her ordeal.
Now Bishamber Das wants women to feel happy no matter what size they are. She spoke to Paper magazine early this year to discuss what it’s really like to be a plus-size model, and how what every girl should know about loving their bodies. Here are some of the interview highlights.
Bishamber Das on Body Positivity and Plus-Size Modeling
How did you start modeling?
Bishamber Das: My journey started when I entered a beauty pageant called Miss India Europe 2014. I was the only plus-size woman and went on to become the second runner-up. It was an amazing achievement, especially because I was the only plus-size woman representing an issue that requires further highlighting.
What has been the modeling job you’ve been most proud of? Why?
Bishamber Das: One of my proudest achievements has been modeling for Yours Clothing, I have been the face of their latest campaign across all their stores in the Middle East—in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. When I started off, many laughed and joked about me, as plus-size is not so widely accepted and celebrated in the far East as it is in the States or Britain. I see myself as more than a model, I don’t just dream of having a successful career, I aim to be the woman who challenges perceptions of beauty in countries around the world. [I want] to bring change.
Bishamber Das: The attention plus-size models have been getting recently is amazing! I really feel like it’s our time and have noticed a slight shift in opportunities. Having said that, a lot of work still needs to be done within our own industry. I believe in size diversity and in my opinion real diversity is not being reflected amongst mainstream labels. Women of my size need to see more opportunities. Plus-size models in Britain are working so hard to make a mark in this industry on par with models from the States, sadly a lot of mainstream plus-size brands in Britain are still reaching out to international models rather than supporting plus size models in Britain.
Do you have advice for young girls trying to get into the industry? Or girls who even just want to be more body positive?
Bishamber Das: Too often we are told how we should dress or look—just do your thing, [and know that the] best things come from when we’re out of our comfort zone. Explore yourself without fear, wear what you like, live your life. We’re so lucky in today’s day and age to have social media. There are so many public figures we can turn to for inspiration . . . or we can even put our own personal campaigns out for the world to view. Breaking into this industry can be very challenging, so just stay focused and offer the world your experiences. It worked for me.
What else is in store for you?
Bishamber Das: I am so excited about 2016. I have so many amazing things lined up. I have been working very hard on my own label where I will be launching a collection that represents me—classy and affordable. I am just working hard spreading my vibes across the world showing a plus-size woman to the world with the same respect and dignity they deserve.