Crown The Brown: Bishamber Das – Britain’s First Asian Plus Size Model
At Crown The Brown, South Asian representation matters and who better than Bishamber Das to bring some damn good representation! Bishamber Das is a well-known plus size model and body positive advocate. She started her career in modelling 5 years ago. Bishamber was the only plus size contestant to represent the UK against 9 European countries! She was the second runner up! Not only is she a plus size model but Bishamber is the very first Asian plus size model in Britain!
A part from Modelling, Bishamber certainly has a busy lifestyle with a career in Child protection, working in the field of law. This phenomenal woman has always been a pillar of representation and breaking barriers within western society.
Bishamber is one of the reasons why Crown The Brown began! Bishamber always advocated on behalf of Asians and believed that representation truly matters. Her persistence encouraged us to start a community filled with South Asians creating their own table rather than trying to fit the mold in a western world, all thanks to the influence of Bishamber Das! We had the privilege of picking her brain at a few things, and this is what she had to share with us!
Body Positive, Advocate for South Asian representation and Model! Bishamber Das, let’s start from the very beginning of it all! How did your modelling career start and what inspired you to become a model?
My journey started 5 years ago when I found myself scrolling through Instagram. I came across a beauty pageant which had no size restrictions. I’ve always been attracted to the world of modelling. But my size always held me back. This was my ticket forward, I participated as the only plus size woman at size 18/20, using my size to differentiate my self from the rest instead of looking at this as a flaw.
I came as the second runner up and never looked back. My inspiration purely came from the frustration and anger I had within me around people constantly belittling plus size women predominantly within the south Asian culture. I wanted to prove everyone wrong.
Above all, Britain’s First South Asian Plus Size Model. How this title impacted on your modelling career and how significant has this title been to the industry and our society as South Asians?
When I first started I realized very quickly there was no other in the United Kingdom representing ‘our’ part of the world. I only saw successful Caucasian models with a selected few black models. I needed to highlight my heritage, towards recognition and inclusion in the industry.
Many people passed comments and even wrote articles on how they thought I was ‘silly’ for being so specific. I hope the same people understand now why it was always important for me to do so. Asian women have been ignored massively over the decades in media especially in fashion.
The amount of times I have seen campaigns talking about inclusivity and diversity but have totally ignored South Asian people, who not only are the second largest population in the world but make up at least 10% of the UK’s population. How have brands not been able to find one south Asian to represent? You can’t talk about diversity and then be colour blind.
As a body positive activist and model, self-love is an important factor. At what age did you start fully embracing your body and loving yourself? How important do you think that journey of self-love is, especially in the modelling industry?
There is much of the world of modelling that is ‘fake’ in my opinion. You find influencers/models preaching self love, respect and equality all the time but in reality their actions are different to those who know of them through work. I have sat at events in front of most influencers and online on social media, talked openly about diversity for Asian people loudly and proudly for 5 years.
Most of these ‘self love, we promote equality’ influencers have ignored my efforts. I don’t have expectations that another should fight this battle for me, but why is the onus always on POC?. By ignoring such important topics I believe you also become part of the problem.
Self love comes with feeling empowered, the fact that so many women through out my journey saw themselves through me always inspired me to do more for ‘us’ this is when my self love journey started.
You are known for breaking barriers in the modelling world and creating more opportunities for South Asians. What are some of the challenges you have faced in the industry?
Being Asian and even getting the opportunity in the first place is a big deal in its self. The amount of times I have found myself emailing brands convincing them why it’s important to have me part of their campaign.
As well as how this will reflect positively on their brand as it shows true representation is ridiculous. In the end most of the time I have lost the campaign to other Caucasian models. I have over and over seen brands use more tanned Caucasian models in place of south Asians and it starts to become so frustrating when your fighting against a system alone.
What do you think is the biggest issue with regards to old traditional views in our societies? What can we as South Asians do to create more awareness around social issues?
There has always been an obsession between Asians and unrealistic beauty standards. If your slim, fair, light eyes and have pretty features, you are deemed as beautiful. This has become the highest rank of beauty standard amongst most south Asians. This is further fueled by the entertainment industry. Bollywood and the music scene in India are massive worldwide.
In Bollywood movies we will only ever see slim actresses; music artists sing songs glorifying women with slim waists and fair skin. This thought process over the years has influenced society on a massive scale. Plus size women in films, what was the last role you have seen? 99% of the time you will see a plus size woman given a comedy role.
It’s only more recently with the likes of ‘veere de wedding’ and ‘dum laga ke haisha‘ we have been able to see plus size women being portrayed differently to what we have seen over the years. Plus size women need more opportunities so the general public see ‘us’ more normalized.
Previously, online you have spoken about South Asians not having a seat at the table when it comes to the beauty, fashion and entertainment industry. How important is South Asian representation to you?
It’s who I am. I can’t change who I am. A woman of colour. I am talented and just as able as any other. Why should I not be considered? My race, my religion, my culture my language, me weight should not be a reason for me to be ignored. Yes I am different; yes there is beauty in being different.
You have recently been a part of an Asian representation campaign. It sparked such incredible feedback and inspired many South Asians, especially plus size women! In your opinion, what is the significance behind campaigns such as those and do you think we have enough awareness around the issue of diversity?
When I started of I was alone. Nothing feels more empowering than knowing there are others who feel just as the same as I do. They are also working hard to bring change and together we are all fighting for the same thing.
When I met Michelle Elman (activist also part of the campaign) she said one thing that resonated with me, she turned her frustration into her strength and as a result this campaign was created. It was so important to show the world what ‘we Asians’ are capable off.
The image is royal! Fierce! The world needed to feel the power.
You are an inspiration to many. You are also one of the reasons we started Crown The Brown. What advice do you have for other young girls struggling to love their bodies.
Warms my heart that others are able to find their passion through my actions. This is why it’s so important we encourage those who look to us. You have no idea where your encouragement can direct someone. For many years growing up I always looked for validation from others. It was more important to satisfy another compared to how I felt. If I could share one thing with anyone, that’s what it would be. You come first, you matter.
Furthermore, we are so grateful to be able to share this platform with such a phenomenal woman! This women’s month we will be celebrating many more women and Bishamber Das is surely a woman of worth and strength! She has empowered many by using her platform and her voice. We cannot express the gratitude of having someone like Bishamber fighting for representation and diversity in the industry.
Be sure to follow Bishamber Das on instagram and follow her journey in the industry!