I have been part of the modelling industry to date for over 7 years. My journey in this industry began trailblazing as ‘Britain’s First Asian Plus Size Model’. Growing up as a South Asian (Sikh) woman, women of my physical appearance were not prevalent or represented within the industry both here in the West or South Asia. From the very start I have been a vocal critic around this notion, as well as body shaming and unrealistic/manipulated beauty standards within our societies.
I found throughout this process that there was a chronic lack of knowledge, representation as well as ignorance due to societal constructs and conditioning. With that said, I have wanted every human regardless of their sex, age or race to feel included, worthy and represented. Through my work as a public figure I have been able to attempt to educate and raise awareness around body neutrality and to highlight that our goals and achievements transcend merely our outward physical appearance and aesthetic.
I have featured in numerous articles and features over the years; however, I feel this article in The Metro publication in particular encapsulates my ethos and overarching viewpoint on the industry at large.
Breaking down barriers
Very early on in my career I was scouted by a renowned London and New York based modelling agency Bridge Models:
I have had the opportunity to front international campaigns with several high-profile brands that have featured not only worldwide, but as well as on iconic billboards such as London’s Piccadilly Circus making myself again the first plus size south Asian female to feature there.
My passion for plus size Asian women to be heard, seen and represented led me to embark on a mission back to my ancestral homeland Punjab, India. It was through this journey that allowed me to use my growing standing in the industry as a plus size model to pioneer the concept and normalisation around the body positive movement which had not yet begun prior to my efforts.
As my efforts progressed, I used my growing influence and stature to create a platform for plus size women. India in particular has never acknowledged the concept of plus size. With that said, I wanted to provide these women with an opportunity to present their talent and unique identities to the world with the respect and dignity it deserves.
As South Asians we are heavily influenced by the music and the film industry. Growing up I have only ever seen a plus size character in a comedy role, usually baring the brunt of fat phobia. I have been so passionate about changing this concept as I firmly believe the media has the power to change stereotypes and if we do not see ourselves portrayed positively then years of stigma and ridicule is hard to undo. I’m also proud to share that I have been able to create history in Punjab by completing my first Punjabi feature film as a plus size woman in a lead role which will be released early this year. This will be the start of normalising body diversity and will hopefully open the door to other talented females regardless of their size to pursue their dreams.
I have always viewed fashion as a powerful tool which has the ability too allow an individual to shape and express their identity, increase their self esteem and confidence whilst giving one a general sense of empowerment. In general, in previous times well designed, crafted and resolved garments for plus size women have usually been merely an afterthought or entirely neglected by brands all together. Whilst in the UK this paradigm has started to shift now with a multitude of options in the plus size segment, I always found India to be making little progress in this segment of the market.
GirlLikeMe was conceived by my desire to fill a glaring niche in the market. Not all plus size clothing needs to be overly simplistic, outdated, overly expensive or sacrifice style over comfort, which is where our brands identity and aesthetic entered in an attempt to change that concept. With that said, My brand has successfully been able to position its self in the market and recognised as filling the forementioned niche.
https://www.itv.com/news/central/2020-12-22/five-ways-to-boost-our-energy-over-the-christmas-period – (please scroll to the bottom of this link for the ITV report at the bottom of the page referring to GirlLikeMe)
Whilst I am generally known for my modelling and acting work, what tends to surprise a number of people is that my primary career and vocation is Law and child protection services. I began my career after achieving a Law and Criminology degree at the University of Derby. Although despite choosing the path of Law, ironically it was child protection services which became my chosen vocation. This was bourn out of my fervent passion to help and support the most vulnerable in our societies. However, my passion for Law was fuelled thorough my position as a Justice of Peace. I was appointed by the former Home Sectary Mr Jack Straw in 2009 to serve Her Majesties Court Service as the first youngest Asian in the history of the United Kingdom as Magistrate at only 22years old.
As a young Asian female I have always strived to act as a positive role model for other women to highlight that it is indeed possible to have multiple careers and paths simultaneously.
Whilst it’s difficult to condense 7 years of my work and career into an evidence statement, it’s important to mention through my activism I have been able to support government initiatives such as the Women and Equalities Committee into their body image inquiry.
I have also supported charitable organisations such as The Female Lead who are dedicated to finding the factors that limit women’s choices and fulfilment and amplifies their voices in order to drive change and improve economic outcomes.
Please find below several links to other key articles of note:
Glamour Magazine UK – https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/plus-size-asians-shoot-michelle-elman