New Delhi: Apart from all the pomp and glamour at the India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020, there was something which drew the attention of everyone who attended the fashion event. It was Beena Malji, a 48-year-old plus-size model, who slayed the ramp with her elegance and confidence. Each time she entered the runway, the hall echoed with loud claps and hoots.
This was the first time that the India Fashion Week, organised by the Fashion Design Council of India, roped in a plus-size model to imbibe the idea of inclusivity.
Mumbai-based Malji is a professional actor who has been working in Hindi film, TV serials and commercials for the last 13-14 years.
But it was just last year when she walked the ramp for the first time after her 18-year-old daughter motivated her to start a career in modelling.
"I didn't even know what plus-size modelling was. One day my daughter told me that in foreign countries, plus-size modelling is very much in demand and the models are seen with a lot of dignity and respect.
"She told me 'mom you should go ahead and do something that can make you an inspiration for many girls. You can become a role model. At this age, if you take the initiative, it will motivate them'."
Malji's first experience on the ramp was in Mumbai modelling for a US-based fashion brand catering the plus-size market. "My daughter took me for the audition and I was selected. I had no idea of it beforehand.
"But the experience was awesome. I have worked on the camera but walking live in front of the audience and when you get claps and hoots, the boost of motivation and confidence you get is of another level," says Malji.
According to Malji, the initiative taken by the India Fashion Week will bring a revolution and will change the trend.
"Until now, they have been doing shows with regular models and this is the first time they have included inclusivity, which means women of any age, shape and size and gender can take part. I'm so proud to say that I'm representing the plus-size community and I'm the only plus-size model who is walking the ramp."
"The moment I was selected and my pictures were uploaded on social media. I got so many calls and messages from girls saying 'you are doing very well', 'it makes us confident. We want to do it', 'how to do this?' If all of these girls come forward for the next time, we can change the trend."
For Malji, making a career in modelling was not a cakewalk as her family disapproved of her choice.
"I got negative vibes even from my family. They didn't like it. For them, acting was ok, but they disapproved modelling. Since my daughter and my husband were okay with it and supporting me, I went ahead. I am doing something towards body positivity and good for the society and so I will continue doing it."
Malji says since she has started modelling, her life has changed tremendously both in positive and negative ways.
"The positive side is that some people take me as an inspiration. I started getting a lot of job offers. People in the industry started seeing me in a different league and gave respect.
"On the other hand, there are some who question my job. They say, 'you are not supposed to do all this at this age. How can you wear short clothes? Body shaming is still there in India. And in our society, women are more judgemental."
Her answer to them: "Your decency should be in your eyes and not clothes. Your character is not defined by the length of your clothes. Believe that your are beautiful and don't think yourself lesser than any other."