"Embrace your imperfections and work with what you have."
Despite their growing presence in mainstream fashion for the past decade, plus size models remain a rarity in the industry today.
It is not everyday a size 12 fashion model walks the ramp or appears on magazine covers. Even lesser seen are those of ethnic minorities.
But social media and powerful campaigns, such as #TheNewSexy by lingerie brand Curvy Kate, have provided them with a meaningful platform to celebrate beauty outside the confines of mainstream media.
Gurj, a British Asian plus size model, speaks with DESIblitz about achieving her ambitions and the importance of staying positive.
How did you get into modelling?
“I have wanted to be a model since I can remember! I remember when I was young, I was always in the school plays and performing dance/singing acts at the fates etc.
“I also studied drama as a GCSE. Throughout high school, I always knew I would work in entertainment somehow and decided in my early 20’s to follow my passion and to try and be a positive model (role).”
Being an ‘all natural’ model, what is your view on models who get cosmetic surgery done to enhance themselves?
“It’s difficult to comment on, as I have never had any type of work done. For me, personally it’s about being confident in your skin and true to yourself.
“I am the first to admit I am not the slimmest or prettiest woman, but I work with what I have and make the most of what God has given me.
“I try to convey this message through my work – it’s ok to have a few curves, it’s ok to not have the straightest teeth, it’s ok not to be a size 0! But I guess it comes down to personal preference and what makes you feel beautiful.”
As a model of Indian origin, what is the public reaction to you posing nude or doing glamour work?
“Some positive and some negative, but I guess you have to take the good with the bad right?
“It used to affect me a lot when I first started, but now it’s just the apart of the job.
“I don’t shoot nude but of course glamour is very provocative, so I get and understand that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I always remember that if you were everyone’s cup of tea, you’d be a mug!”
How easy or hard is it for you to find work as a British Asian model?
“It has its advantages and disadvantages. I have been lucky to work with some great companies and for great causes/campaigns.
“I think being a size 12/14 has definitely opened a lot more doors for me than if I was the standard model size, also being Indian.
“The world around us is changing everyday and I believe I represent a modern day British Indian living in the UK.”
What satisfaction does glamour modelling work give you that non-glamour work does not?
“Any job I do or take makes me feel like it is another step up on ladder, no matter how small or big it is.
“This is my passion and I truly believe that if you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time. Women should feel confident and sexy in their own skin and I hope this is portrayed through my images and work.
“I also have my bad days, but try to remember it’s a bad day and not a bad life! It’s always nice to hear from young women around the world who celebrate my work and in return feel good about themselves – that feeling is in explainable – to know you have made a positive difference in someones life is priceless.”
Is your family supportive of your work?
“Yes, 150%! In fact, if it wasn’t for their support, I don’t think I would have the courage to do it!
“They are my sounding board and my strength – I am my own worst critic and can be harsh to myself, but they always have my back and push me to pursue my dreams.”
You are fighting for models not to be size zero to succeed. Tell us more about your challenges with this?
“I have found that a lot of people are unhappy with things in their life, but do not have the courage to make a change. Even if it is a small change. You really are the master of your own destiny and you are responsible for your happiness.
“I personally try to push myself everyday and that means succeeding in any part of my life – this is not just about how I look. A lot of people are searching for answers (including myself sometimes!)
“I think being unhappy with how you look stems from inside, so looking at why you are unhappy and working towards changing that is a start. I think a lot of people also do not realise how lucky they are and a lot of the time are looking at what they do not have instead of what they have.”
Who are your role models? Who do you look up to?
“My role models would be the strong women in my life and the women around me that I see face enormous struggle everyday. I do believe we are the stronger sex and being a women is a tough job – we are expected to know it all (even though we think we do!).
“I look up to anyone who has struggled in their life and have had the courage to live the way they want to live instead of how their families or society tells them to live.
“I also look up to people who are self-made, who never give up and who work harder than their situations.”
What would you say to young girls who are victims of body shaming?
“Please spend your young adult /teen years having fun! The reality is we will always have a complex about something, so try your best to embrace your imperfections and work with what you have.
“Saying that you do only have one body so look after it well and feed your soul with what makes you happy. Life is happening now – don’t let your insecurities stop you from doing what you want when you want.
“Do not be someone you are not and try to be true to your heart.
“Also girls, eat the last slice of pizza, text the boy back. If he does not treat you like the princess you are, cry for a few minutes then replace him. Learn how to wing your eyeliner properly. Always say how you feel even if your voice shakes and squat!”
For British Asian girls aspiring to become models, what would you say to them – the do’s and don’ts?
“Do know your market and what type of model you want to be. There is so many different avenues for you to chose from so make sure you know what you want and do not want.
“Don’t sell yourself short.
“Be prepared to put the work in – this will mean unpaid work sometimes, long days and a lot of sitting around!
“Do follow your passion with everything you have – that means giving it 110%, and lastly, enjoy! Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Unafraid to break the mould and ready to rock the world with her passion for fashion, Gurj will serve as a positive role model not just for aspiring models – but also anyone who dare to be different.