Plus-sized model, body-positivity influencer, an exceptional belly dancer and a personality that exudes confidence and warmth. Anjana Bapat is a multi-talented goddess who is breaking beauty stereotypes, one dance move at a time. However, the 32-year-old’s journey wasn’t easy, especially with the image of a belly dancer being that of a woman with an hourglass figure so deeply ingrained in our brains.

Just like most Indian kids, Anjana’a love for dancing stems from Bollywood movies. “I grew up watching and imitating signature Bollywood dance steps. Sadly, that’s not the only thing I picked while growing; the insane standards of beauty came right along.”. But that didn’t stop this insanely talented girl from chasing her dreams. Read Anjana’s inspiring journey from being a kid who imitated Bollywood dance steps to becoming a plus-sized model, belly dancer and body positive influencer.

P.S lots of inspiration ahead!

 

On getting into modelling and belly dancing

On getting into modelling and belly dancing

“While I was already struggling with insane standards of beauty, family, friends, relatives, strangers, everyone made it their business to give me weight loss advice and that added to the weight of insecurities. The teens passed under a blanket of insecurity. In my 20s, the people around me changed for the better and were more supportive. That helped build my confidence, in addition to therapy. I was getting more confident and self-assured and went on to join Sanjana Muthreja’s Belly dance class. This very misunderstood dance form requires great concentration, strength, and persistence. It was meditational for me to delve into my own mind and body for something that inspired me to push myself for every class. This is when aLL (a brand dedicated to plus size clothing) announced it’s first audition for a full-fledged fashion show at the Lakme Fashion Week. Auditioning was a no-brainer. By then, I knew that I wanted a platform to talk about my journey, my changed perceptions and improved mental and physical health.”

 

On being called a “plus-size model” in today's fashion and beauty scene

On being called a “plus-size model” in today's fashion and beauty scene

“I personally relate very strongly to the term ‘plus-sized model’. Because the discrimination and being made the outlier for all these years is what defined me and my intent to be a model in the first place. There is a debate that the term ‘plus-size’ should go away, and we should all just be called models. I will agree to this in time, not today, but in the future, when there truly is inclusiveness in the industry. Right now, if it is not an exclusive plus-size show, how many shows do we see with all kinds of bodies represented? Hardly any. Picking one plus-size model in a line up of 20 is a start, but it is a very safe start. There are still miles to go, and someday, younger plus-size models will reap the benefits of just being termed models. And my fat friends and I will sit back with a good beverage and watch and appreciate the change. That is if diabetes doesn’t kill us before that as most of our very well informed trolls forecast daily!”

 

On criticism that made her think of transforming herself

On criticism that made her think of transforming herself

“As a child, I went through years of body shaming, especially by relatives that made me go from one fad diet to the other, all of which were extremely unhealthy. I also over-worked out and injured my tailbone at some point, and treated my body with extreme disrespect. Once the journey of self-improvement began, the transformation was towards strength. I’ve come a long way from hating exercise because of how badly it triggered me as I associate it with bullying and body shaming, to working out because I wish to and because I’m answerable to no one for it any longer. When I lost the weight of societal pressure, transforming myself into an emotionally and physically balanced big, strong, independent woman became a joyous journey and continues to be so.”

 

On what beauty means to her

On what beauty means to her

“Beauty, to me, means strength. At 32, nothing draws me in like a person who knows what value he/she brings to the table; the calm, assertive, confident aura they exude. The honesty with which they admit to working on themselves to be better at whatever it is they choose. And nothing pushes me away like a person who does not wish to address and work on their insecurities. For me, what society did is one thing, what we choose to do upon being aware of our truth, makes all the difference.”

 

On her favourite self-care activity

On her favourite self-care activity

“I love to dance, of course; not at a club, but freestyle alone in my room with non-dancy music if there is such a thing. I absolutely love to visit cafes alone, sip a good big mug of coffee and read a book. I love me a few good naps. And I do love meeting a few select friends who have my back.”

 

On her skin and hair care routine

On her skin and hair care routine

“My daily beauty and skincare routine are to get at least 7 hours of sleep. I try to remind myself to stay hydrated. In winters, I’ll moisturise; other than that, I have hereditary resilient skin that likes breathing on its own and I mostly let it. Facial scrubs once a week and masking a couple of times a month to pamper my skin is all I do.

“My curls have a mind of their own. I wash my hair every two days and comb it when it's wet. Post that, the curls know their way around the ballroom, they do their own dance. Sometimes there are arguments at the ball, and I have to tie a bun to keep the little rebels intact. I condition/get a basic spa/apply a leave-on serum if I have a long day ahead that needs me to look somewhat, presentable.”

All image courtesy: @anjanabapat