Participating in the Ms India Curvy contest was a journey of discovery — both of the modeling world and of herself — for this plus-size single mother
Delhi is not my favourite place – at least, that was my impression after three visits over the last 20 years. That is why, before flying down from Mumbai, I had to tell myself I did not care the least about how polluted the place is or how political the people. I reminded myself that this visit was different, I was really excited about what the visit would bring.
In fact, I had to embrace the difference, for I was stepping into unknown terrain. I was one among the 63 finalists of Ms India Curvy 2019, the first ever beauty pageant for plus size women in India. I had promised myself that I will return with a crown and remain focused on my mission throughout the trip.
When I landed, I was received by a couple of friends who were all ears to know what I was up to. My image as an educator didn’t quite fit into the glamour world that I was prepping for. Soon we were deep in discussion, discussing our past experiences. Self-searching was imperative for me to dig into my soul and justify my choices. The answers gradually unfolded…
Checking out credentials
It turned out, my friends demanded answers to the same question that had been running in my head when I registered for the contest: Were the organisers, Glamour Gurgaon, a genuine outfit? This Gurugram-based modeling agency and event management company should not have any hidden motives for organising the contest. It’s easy to set up a website and claim to be a public figure on social media. How had I verified this? I had spoken to a handful of people familiar with the industry, and I was warned to tread carefully. I looked at their posts on Youtube, Facebook and print media, the content looked top quality but not enough to convince me.
The picture had become clearer to some extent at the Mumbai auditions. I saw directors Barkha and Abhishek Nangia at work, their conduct and preparations giving the impression that they were here for a legit business.
I was further convinced when I underwent the four-day training and grooming sessions at The Hyatt Place, Gurgaon. The promotional flex featured more sponsors than before and there was a big team dedicatedly working on making the competition a success, a few of them former participants. We were treated like models and had a rigorous schedule. Right from make-up sessions to photo shoots, interactions with experts to getting our ramp walk right, we ran the gamut. Time and again, we were reminded of the purpose of the pageant and that we were being judged each moment.
Moreover, we were asked to sign a legal contract that included several clauses which were discussed in detail. This exercise forced us to think about all the possible terms and conditions which we would have overlooked otherwise. Now we are equipped to deal with this too, when we receive offers from casting and modeling agencies.
The spend factor
A big factor was the price tag for the pageant. Registration fee was Rs 1,500 only, while participation in the final was pegged at Rs 59,000 including taxes. Well, being a single mother earning just enough to meet the basic expenses, this was a tough call to make. In return for the money I would pay, what was I receiving? A three-night stay at a five-star hotel, a photo shoot, sessions on personal grooming and the feel of a fashion show. If I won the title, I would receive a few modeling assignments. Was that value for money? Maybe if I considered this an investment and remained proactive.
The team was prompt in clarifying all the questions regarding work prospects and their role in it. With this information, I was now more serious. For my auditions, I didn’t keep a record of the expenses but for the finals I set a budget and strictly tracked my expenses.
Now, when someone asks me if it was worth it, my answer is a big yes! I enjoyed and experienced a lot more than I would have, had I taken an international holiday or done a photo shoot independently!
The big day
We 63 contestants were divided into two categories based on age. True to the intent to break stereotypes and myths about beauty, all the shortlisted participants were curvy. Most of the ladies who made it to the Top 5 were expected by us to win, but some weren’t. I was very disappointed when I was not chosen, but later I discovered that I was two-thirds the size and not an accurate representation of curvy. Fair enough!
The jury included women achievers like television producer and former creative director at Balaji Telefilms Nivedita Basu and actor Nayani Dixit of Queen fame. Since the event was addressing the issue of body shaming, it did focus on choosing curvy women to represent the pageant, a principle it stuck to till the very end. In fact, I now feel that I must never consider myself fat and focus on being healthy and fit.
I appreciate the transparency and professionalism with which Glamour Gurgaon conceptualised and executed the pageant; they are people worth being associated with and can be trusted. I did win a subtitle, Ms Fashionista, and a bagful of goodies from the sponsors. It felt great, especially in an age where anything can be bought, including a title! At least 30 contestants went home with a title or sub-title and no contestant won more than one sub-title. I felt that was generous. This was ensured despite using the voting system for most sub-titles.
Besides the prize, I won access to new friends, a bigger network and potential work opportunities. Can a girl ask for more?
The biggest takeaway, which one cannot attach value to, is the transformation that has happened within. Being plus size was only an illusion in my mind and now it is broken. That is priceless!
I returned more confident and clear about my abilities and dreams. A lot of ideas and possibilities that remained mere thoughts will now manifest themselves, as I have developed the mindset to act upon them. During my stay in Gurgaon, I merely slept for 6-7 hours in all, and I was not complaining. I discovered my limits and how far I would go if something really had meaning for me.
This was the big discovery. I came here to win a crown and returned with a halo, shining much brighter!