Vahbiz Dorabjee on Going Digital, the Simple Joys of Being Real, and Body Positivity
“About three or four years back, I had a vision. That way, I have futuristic thinking.” Vahbiz Dorabjee describes how her subtle shift from being exclusively an actor to also being a content creator came about. Boosted by the support of her friends who thought she had the personality for it, Vahbiz delved into digital content with a Youtube show called ‘Showbiz with Vahbiz”. All at a time when people hadn’t even heard about the O of OTT. “… it started off with taking baby steps. You’re in there just trying to understand the field.”
That’s how long Dorabjee’s journey as an influencer has been in the making. But things hit a new crescendo during the lockdown. “People started to understand the value of Facebook, Instagram, of digital. And a lot of small and big businesses started promoting everything on instagram.”. And what did she do? “I started working way more hard and I took up all the opportunities,” she says.
One can’t help but agree with her friends when they said she has the personality to be a good influencer. She’s a creative and beautiful woman with a sunny personality who wears pretty clothes and travels a lot— an ideal influencer cocktail. But it all comes very naturally to her because she lives offline much like she lives online: “[influencing] is up my sleeve. I am a creative person, I am somebody who travels, I am somebody who is a foodie. When you add it all together, it’s like a bonus. It’s something I love as it is a very similar lifestyle that I anyway live.”
What about the pressures of being authentic with her audience? “I cannot cheat my audience,” she says emphatically. She’s just out here living her life; what could be more authentic than that? “I don’t promote brands I don’t believe in. Whatever brands I’m working with I’ve loved them. If something goes wrong or I don’t like it, I’ll tell [brands] directly that I won’t put it up.”
In some ways, influencing has helped her showcase her real self after years of embodying different characters for the camera. Vahbiz’s social media personality looks nothing like her characters on-screen which were sometimes intense and mostly donned Indian clothes. Contrast that with her sunny, happy self posing by the pool in a swimming costume; it could not be any more different.
However, it wasn’t all so easy. There was moving to a city as cutthroat as Mumbai for the Pune girl, there were millions upon millions of auditions to get just a couple of small jobs, and even when she hit it big on TV there were the inhumane hours and timings: “Because television is a medium where you have to telecast everyday, even if you are burning the highest of fevers you have to keep working.” It wasn’t always this glitzy for Vahbiz. What sets her apart from others then and now? “A lot of people I feel are not consistent; they give up very fast, they lose hope very fast. And I have always been more into quality than quantity,” she says.
The way she describes it, one can’t help but wonder why she even gravitated towards an industry this intimidating. She says it all started at the beginning: “From childhood I have been a clotheshorse. I love dressing up…” she says. Her Instagram is a testament to that. Her Instagram is also an ode to her strong, fit, and very real body, and that’s on purpose. “I show my responsibility by being who I am because even I’m not a skinny woman, I’m a well endowed, voluptuous woman.”
I ask how she feels as a voluptuous woman in fashion. “I don’t keep waiting for fashion designers. Most of the clothes on my insta are my own.” As an influencer of over a million followers, why does she feel like this? “I would say things have not changed drastically. Still most of the time I’ve been told ‘you size is not there’.”
If a renowned actor and influencer can’t get stylists or designers to get her the right sizes, what hope do the rest of mid-sized or plus-sized women have? “That’s why my heart goes out to other women. Many people are genetically on the heavier side or they cannot lose weight, I am also a hypothryroid patient. What about them? Are they just not going to get clothes?”
Vahbiz isn’t afraid to be associated with not being size zero. She embraces it with full joy in typical Vahbiz style. “Okay I’ve seen my older pictures, yes I was very thin and had a very athletic body,” she reminisces, “but I realized that I’m loving myself even now. My face has become cuter, I’m enjoying this look. I’m actually happy the way I am but society tries to break me down.
What about other women who society is trying to break down? She gives them the same advice that she gives herself, “do not allow anyone to break you.” She urges women to work on their mental health first and foremost— a refreshingly real piece of advice. Vahbiz considers mental health the building blocks upon which you place the blocks of eating well, and exercising.
The intensity and vigor with which Vahbiz talks about body positivity and her fans is endearing, but it’s also protective… protective of embracing who you are and protective of the joy of living. “I belong to an industry that is about looks. It took me a long time to realize, but I came to a point in my life where I said ‘I am not going to conform to anyone now’.”