Need body positive role models? These three women are leading the way

Being yourself is the new cool

Image: Ashish Shah

They are rewriting the definition of beauty with their curves and spots. If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, they’re teaching you to view yourselves without judgement. They’re your point of reference when you need one more reason to love yourself. And they’re your reminder to accept, embrace and show off what you’ve got. Meet supermodels Ashley Graham and Winnie Harlow and actor Shikha Talsania, the three women who are making a strong case for loving the skin you’re in.

Ashley Graham, model


You know Ashley Graham—she’s been shouting from the rooftops for curvy girls to be included in fashion for years now. But the model and body activist says there’s much more to her message than that. “There are people at home reading this who have survived anorexia, there are women who look like me, and there are people who are curvier than I am,” she says. “They all need to see that they are included [in fashion]. No more tokens. No more ‘one black girl, one plus-size girl.’” While she’ll never stop campaigning for designers, fashion buyers and advertisers to be more inclusive, she wants women to challenge themselves, too. She herself dug deep this year (“I didn’t know I could ever get so personal”) when she opened up about the sexual harassment she experienced early in her career, “but learning about myself made me realise I could help other women,” she says. “You have to think you’re good enough.” —Lauren Chan

The body-positive role model on the power of positive affirmations and beauty beyond size:


When I was growing up, the women I saw in makeup campaigns always had an unattainable beauty. They were either an A-list movie star or a very thin model. I hope people understand how groundbreaking this is—that Revlon now has a curve model from my generation in their campaign.


Beauty is beyond size. Real beauty can’t be seen on the outside; it’s everything on the inside being spilled out from your pores and the creases of your body. Being comfortable with who you are is something nobody can ever change.


My mom’s always been a positive influence. When I first started gaining weight, she walked in on me while I was rubbing my hip. I told her, with tears in my eyes, “It just bulges out right here.” She was like, “Ashley, that’s just a part of your hip and your butt. If you didn’t have that, you wouldn’t fit into this family.” Then it kind of hit me. That side butt—that’s what my husband calls it now—is okay.


There used to be a time when I couldn’t say “I love you” to myself in the mirror, so I began telling myself the affirmations “I am bold, I am brilliant, I am beautiful.” I still say them. That’s what gets me out of bed on my hardest days.


I like a downplayed vibe for my everyday style. It’s all about glowing skin, highlighter, very thick eyebrows, lots of lashes, and a glossy lip. When I go on the red carpet, though, I love a dramatic glitter or metallic eye. I’ve been slowly getting into lipstick, but I’m such an eye girl.


I do hair masks all the time. They’re totally underrated.


Of course, my hourglass figure. I can be fully covered, and as long as I have something clinging my waist, I feel sexy. I also love the two beauty marks on my face. When I was shooting my Maxim cover a couple of years ago, the makeup artist coloured in one [on my left cheek] with an eyebrow pencil. I liked it so much I’ve done it ever since. It’s a little Cindy Crawford. —As told to Lindsay Schallon

Shikha Talsania, actor

Image: Ashish Shah

You didn’t just spot her as one of the ‘veeres’ in Veere Di Wedding, you really took notice. She’s funny, she’s sharp, and her self-confidence can put all the body shamers to shame. Ask her to describe herself, and it’s pretty much a piece of every girl put together: “Self-assured, cranky, fit, ogre-like, giggly, impatient, radiant… basically, human.” And just like every girl, she faced stigma, too. “I still do! I grew up with people saying, ‘Such a pretty face—if only you would lose some weight,’” says Talsania, whose support system of family and friends made her realise there is more to her than only what she looks like. “There are days where it does affect me, especially in my field of work. But it passes soon because I remind myself to be happy, be healthy, be the best you.” After a reckless decade in her twenties, Talsania now prioritises her health and keeps it simple with lots of water and regular exercise. “And vitamins are my new best friends,” she reveals.

While there has been an evident shift in perspective when it comes to the ideal body and ‘looking fit’, Talsania believes that what really needs to change is that this ‘acceptance’ should be the norm, not a ‘celebrated’ rarity. “Humans are vain creatures, ergo, each and every one of us has body image issues. Most times we are body-shaming ourselves. Change that conversation with your body. If you want the conversation to move from shaming to body positivity, be cognisant that you follow through. Love yourself. Also know that it’s absolutely okay not to love your body 365 days, it’s okay to bemoan your fate because of that period pimple or those extra inches after a night of partying. It’s OKAY!” —Sneha Mankani

Photo: Ashish Shah; Stylist: Priyanka Kapadia; Hair: Michel Baltazar/JCB; Makeup: Mitesh Rajani/Sparkle Talent Management; Production: Ankita Chandra, Shweta Chaudhri. Dress: Shivan & Narresh. Shoes: Alexander Wang