There are incredible women out there, including you, dreamchaser, who are hustling hard toward their dreams and busting their bottoms to change the world. As I thought more about how to support these women and network with other go-getters out there, I realized that there are stories behind these women that propel them toward their ambitions...and how better to get to know those stories than to ask?
Now, I have the privilege of introducing Karusha Pather, a body-positivity advocate and absolutely GORGEOUS model in South Africa. Not only does this girl go to school and kick ass there, she is also the head of a campaign to integrate more South Asian women into their respective industries . Representation matters, and Karusha is the perfect example of what brains, beauty and boldness look like!
Follow her on Instagram: @Karushapather
And her blog: kaykorner.wixsite.com/thekorner/
And support Crown the Brown: @crownthebrown on Instagram
Guys, seriously...this girl. Superwoman. I was so impressed and so, so happy I got to spotlight her! Read on and you'll agree.
Give us the deets--where did you grow up, what do you love to do...who are you?
I grew up in Cape Town, situated in the Western Cape in South Africa. I am a fun loving, spontaneous, humorous and humanitarian soul. I enjoy reading, music, the theatre and cricket! I love meeting new people and networking with others. My entire life revolved around people and working with the community thus leading to me becoming the person I am today. I love working with people and uplifting people to reach their full potential. It inspires me to see other people succeed. My renowned love for people led to me becoming a Social Worker and a body positive advocate for those struggling in everyday society with their personal insecurities. I run a blog called, The Korner. It focuses on self-love, body positivity as well as relationships. This blog has created the platform to network with other fellow body positive advocates and those dealing with personal issues and vulnerabilities. I love being able to support and spread girl love on various platforms.
Tell me about your campaign!
I have recently started a body positive and South Asian expansion campaign called ‘Crown The Brown’. It focuses on South Asians all over the world and acknowledging their hard work and talent within various industries, whether it is fashion, media or even an everyday occupation that is undermined by others.
I established this campaign due to the lack of recognition that many South Asians receive in the industry and the manner in which many are undermined for being themselves due to traditional views depicted within our communities. It helps women feel more empowered to be themselves and basically become proud of who they are and the skin that they are in. The campaign includes exposure on social media platforms by using the hashtag #crownthebrown.
It enables the initiative of bringing people together and gaining support from our communities in terms of basically being “crowned” in a sense for our accomplishments.
How did you realize that the media needed more South Asian plus-sized women represented? Did you have a particular experience? What makes you so passionate about this issue?
When I first started my modelling career, I became extremely sceptic about the lack of diversity regarding South Asians in the industry. I decided to conduct my own research on plus size modelling because I was new to the idea and I had no experience in the industry. I wanted to make the most of this new career by learning from a fellow South Asian plus-size model, until I realized that there were hardly any signed into the agency. I was told that South Asians are minorities and that it was not considered a big demand because of the lack of South Asians everywhere else in the world with the exception of Asia.
It was astounding to think that people were promoting diversity, yet South Asians were still being left behind. I was struggling to get work in the industry because I refused to show as much skin as other models. It all comes down to values. I was brought up in a conservative home, as most Indians are and it somehow became an issue within the industry. People often assume that confidence means showing skin, especially if you are plus-size, merely because we have so many insecurities regarding certain body parts but I believe that you can still be confident without having to wear less clothing.
There is nothing wrong with showing skin and I admire those who are confident and showcase their confidence in that manner but many people fail to realize that you can be confident both ways, with less or more skin. It became a continuous struggle to justify this as many companies kept wanting skin, which made it harder for me to advocate because I was not able to showcase myself in the light that I desired. I guess my passion is justified by this experience. I was ecstatic to become a body positive activist in general because I have always struggled with my weight but after conducting my research and realizing that the lack of diversity within the industry is a bigger issue, it became my main focus. I realized that I was never able to walk into a store and see a representative of myself on a billboard, poster or magazine.
South Asian women have been limited regarding opportunities mainly because people assume that our value and belief system is an issue regarding the expectations in society but it is not an issue. It is remarkable to see so many South Asian women and plus size women finding themselves and showcasing their talent regardless of the expectations of others and I believe that if we had more South Asians in the media representing us, our youth would have role models to admire and be able to feel proud of being South Asian rather than giving into the norm only because it exists.
Furthermore, another issue within the industry is age discrimination. Companies assume that plus size fashion relates to an older market and potentially forget to include younger females in their campaigns which added to my struggle in the industry. I experienced being rejected because I was too young for campaigns or brands which I felt was extremely discriminatory because many younger plus size women feel excluded and uncomfortable shopping in certain plus size stores because it becomes labelled as being a brand for older women which excludes the younger plus size generation market, thus limiting their options. There are hardly any younger representatives for plus size brands, which affects how younger girls view themselves. It influences their self-image and they begin to feel even more self-conscious about being bigger at a younger age.
What drives you every day toward your goal of increasing representation? How do you handle setbacks?
My biggest motivation would have to be my amazing support system, which includes my family, my friends and the support I gain from my social media platforms. It motivates me to work harder every single day. When I walk into a store with my nieces, I often observe their behaviour when they see other little girls or look at posters of women. It is heart-breaking watching them try to fit themselves into that little box of expectation rather than being a proud Indian girl. They start to believe that this is what they have to become in order to be accepted and it should not be the case.
There are so many young women wanting to start modelling careers and trying to find themselves. I always receive messages about how they attempt to model but left the idea because it went against their values and agencies expected them to do certain things that they were not comfortable with and that made me work even harder because that mentality needs to change. South Asian women should not have to change their traditional ways because of the opinions of others.
We need real representatives that we can relate to on an everyday basis. The lack of diversity that I see each and everyday drives me the most. Walking into a store and seeing a billboard that is assumed to depict diversity yet not a single South Asian depicted is motivation itself.
Furthermore, with regards to setbacks, there will always be setbacks. Initially, I would often just decide to give it all up because people would either not acknowledge me as a model or I would just not feel like the campaign is going anywhere. When I feel this way, I read messages from other young ladies having similar struggles and how I helped them through the struggle and it often makes me stronger to work through those setbacks. I eventually learned to persevere and work harder. It’s always good to remember to not have any expectation and to just use the passion that you have in everything that you do. You can never go wrong when you do something with passion, because it creates a never ending drive. It is something that needs to be learned and something we grow into. It takes time to learn how to handle setbacks but once you disregard limitations and use your passion in everything that you do, you will succeed one way or another. I always believe that there is a reason why things do not work out the way you planned, because there is a bigger dream ahead and sometimes not having that planned expectation creates a bigger success that you might not have initially imagined.
What is the best advice you've received as you've become the face of this campaign?
The best advice I received was that if you don’t do it, nobody will because not everyone has the same vision. I was told that in order to succeed you have to like yourself and like what you are doing because having a mission means having passion to face that mission each and every day regardless of the disappointments that may come your way. Nothing can be done without having a passionate drive for what you are doing and without being secure within yourself, you cannot expect to succeed because it starts from within. We allow other people to distract us from our goals because we allow their opinions to affect us. That can only happen if you are not secure within yourself because if you really become confident within yourself, nobody else matters.
Three weird facts about you that the public doesn't know...go!
It's five years from now, and you've achieved your dream. What does your vision look like?
In five years, I would hope that I would still have more dreams to follow as I believe that dreams are never ending. There should always be a continuous drive to do something amazing. I would have my own private social work practice and a crown the brown foundation that works towards supporting the dreams of fellow South Asian artists, as well as founding a possible South-Asian modelling agency that works towards breaking the barriers of diversity by ensuring that there is a representative for every South Asian girl on as many billboards, magazines and television screens possible. I would hope to have at least one book published regarding my experience as a South-Asian plus size model and continuous growth and support on my blog, “The Korner”. I would also hope that I would get to travel a lot during that time, to network with as many people possible to grow the industry.
And now it's your turn to be the wise one! What is advice you would give someone who is getting their vision off the ground?
My advice would be that in order to get your vision off the ground, you have to know who you are. Find yourself, find your purpose and work towards it. Many of us struggle to find ourselves and it leads to missed opportunities and continuous barriers being formed because we allow limitations to control our situations. If you know your purpose in life, then you are unstoppable. There is no limitation in self-acceptance. Being able to find yourself is the most liberating part of life because once you are able to fully grasp the person that you are, you are able to live life to the fullest. Be strong and consistent in your vision, do not let anyone steer you away from your goal and never forget why you chose that vision. Always remember the purpose behind it and do not forget to work on yourself as well because you are your biggest critic.
Top three bucket list items:
Travel all throughout India and learn more about the indigenous culture in various parts of India
Learn to play at least two musical instruments (Guitar and piano)
To have an adventurous experience in a foreign country, such as skydiving, kayaking, hiking.
Five people you recommend people follow and why they've influenced you.
1. Bishamber Das (@bishamberdas)
Bishamber Das is my role model. Bishamber Das is Britain’s First Asian Plus Size Model. She is currently part of the campaign regarding the lack of diversity of South Asians in the industry and she influenced me to become an activist as we experienced similar diversity issues within our respective modelling fields. Bishamber shows that Indian women can be classy, confident and sexy without having to show skin and I love that about her. She shows that confidence comes from within rather than from just showcasing skin.
2. Ta’Shan (@tashan_music)
Ta’Shan is a musician in the UK. She is a South Asian body positive musician. Ta’Shan expands the minds of musicians by showcasing her amazing talent as a musician. She is often called Bombay Mami. I love that she is proud Indian. She embraces her culture in many of her music videos and photoshoots, as well as her live performances with regards to her style. It influences me to be proud and brown regardless of the norm within the South African society.
3. Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling)
Mindy Kaling is a well-known actress and is known for her role in The Mindy Project. Mindy inspired me immensely. Mindy showed me how to be confident and outspoken not only as a woman but as a South-Asian woman. She allowed me to become more opinionated and fight for what I believe in. Mindy also embraces a lot of colour in her wardrobe which I usually would never do being a plus-size girl but it influenced me to become more open to the idea of colour and adding patterns to my wardrobe!
4. Neha Parulkar (@nehaparulkar)
Neha Parulkar is a body positive influener and Plus size model in India. She is extremely motivational and uplifting. Neha promotes self-love and spreading girl love. Neha influenced me to start my campaign as she initially struggled to find herself within the industry but succeeded because of her passion for the promotion of body positivity
5. Aarti Olivia Dubey (@curvesbecomeher)
Aarti is a plus size body positive advocate focusing on self-love, mental health and chronic illnesses. Aarti was one of the first body positive accounts I followed. Aarti inspired me to become more accepting of my body and to find my worth. Aarti often motivated me to start advocating and using my platform the way I envisioned it but I was never brave enough to start at the time. I am thankful for the positive messages Aarti spreads, it really motivated me to work harder.