Elle India Features 7 Badass Women Who Are Breaking Feminine Stereotypes!
Who decides what is sexy? Who makes the rules? The answer is simple. You. In an age driven by social media, we see plenty of situations where women are body shamed for looking a certain way (i.e. not thin, tall and conventionally beautiful), and the scary bit about it is that the ones who do this are blatantly unapologetic about their views.
After a recent viral photo shoot featuring plus-size women (our editor-in-chief Zahra Khan being one of them!), Elle India has once again opened up the conversation around beauty stereotypes by featuring 7 muscular women breaking stereotypes surrounding the female body. I’m so glad that we’re slowly but surely breaking our staid perspectives about body image and celebrating the female form in its glorious avatars. This initiative by Elle India is definitely the start of a new revolution. Kudos, ladies!
Keep scrolling to read more about these women and the inspirations that keep them going:
Nilparna Sen, 23, Gym Trainer & Manager
“When I saw my bicep pumping for the first time, I wondered why I ever wanted to be skinny.”
An eating disorder and a history of drug abuse had pushed Sen to breaking point two years ago. But she found a new reason to love her body when she signed up at a gym. Now training to be a bodybuilder, she says, “I don’t think a regular person can feel as energetic as I do. I owe it to my body to be the best version of myself.”
Bani J, 28, Actor
“I love the way I look, so it’s no good telling me to stop. Your body can achieve so much once you shut out the doubts and focus.”
Bani is proud of her body, and rightly so — just look at those abs. The former TV presenter who stars in the upcoming Punjabi film Zorawar, took up weight training at 19 just as a way to stay active. And there’s been no looking back since, she says, “I understand my body better now, I can control it and build it the way I want. I know what a slice of pizza can do to it, for example, I can’t eat that anymore.”
Shweta Sakharkar, 25, Bikini bodybuilder
“My mother trains so hard at 45. Her fitness levels push me to work harder.”
Sakharkar’s inspiration was her mother, a weight trainer with a decade’s experience. It nudged her in the direction of professional bikini bodybuilding. A perfectly sculpted body, she’s learned, has to house an equally strong mind. “I’ve taught myself to build a mental block against the creepy Facebook messages and arm-wrestling challenges that come my way.”
Ayesha Billimoria, 29, Track athlete & fitness trainer
“Fitness has become all about looking good and running marathons. But you need to be able to just stretch, jump and sprint to be fit.”
After damaging her muscles with excessive weight training, the national-level sprinter decided to go back to basic functional training. She now uses her social media persona FitGirl India to change how we think about exercise. “I get women saying they want to look like me. What they often miss is that it took 13 years of focused training to get here.”
Navreet Josan, 30, Makeup artist
“If I can reach this level of fitness with a full-time job, then really, anyone can.”
A full-time job and erratic travel plans don’t stop Josan from squeezing in two workout sessions every day. Because that’s what it takes to train for competitive bikini bodybuilding. “I’m very proud of my body. The way I look during a competition — my hair, my muscles — everything just feels glamorous,” she says. Last year she won two golds, a silver and three bronze medals at National Physique Committee meets across the US.
Natasha Noel, 23, Yoga instructor
“I have my curves, breasts, and hips, and I’m still a woman — just a very strong one.”
After an injury forced Noel to give up dancing, she found self-expression in yoga. And with that came a different set of body image stereotypes. She now uses Instagram (@natashanoel001) to make the point that dancers and yoginis can be muscular. “My teachers used to tell me to be more delicate, ‘like a woman’.” But, she says, “Strength has always fascinated me more than flexibility. Being strong is sexy, it’s empowering.”
Rashi Chowdhary, 31, Nutritionist
“My husband once told me that my shoulders look like a man’s, but when you train like this you learn to feel proud of yourself.”
Chowdhary was forced to question her already healthy lifestyle when her painful period cramps were diagnosed as endometriosis. That’s when she switched to a grain-free paleo diet, started her healthy treat store, The Protein Bake Shop, and got hooked to CrossFit. “We’re conditioned to only look at the weighing scale, but building muscle is essential,” she says. “Plus, nothing beats the feeling of being able to lift twice your weight.”
Credits: Text: Mamta Mody. Photographs: Taras Taraporvala. Styling: Nidhi Jacob. Art Direction: Reshma Rajiwdekar. Makeup & Hair: Avni Rambhia. Assisted by: Divya Gursahani (Fashion)