Roshini

 

“It took me ten years to finally love and accept my body. Today, I live to inspire others to do the same. Issues surrounding the body are universal but I think that, as an Indian woman, I need to make an even stronger point. It is important to fight against unnecessary beauty standards and finally eradicate the narrow-mindedness of older generations.”

Whether her hair is fiery red, amethyst blue or rainbow-coloured, Roshini is a soul that stands out of the crowd. Her nature enchants you as she moves with grace. Her ambition, strength and humanity shines through every cell of her body. She makes you rise in love rather than fall.

I became acquainted with Roshini’s work through a friend that I made in Goa. I immediately became enthralled with her photography and life story. This woman will make history, I thought to myself and knew that it was time for me to hit the road and explore the women of Bangalore. A fashion photographer, influencer, entrepreneur, artist and body positivist, Roshini travels the biggest cities of India for work and empowerment. I met the Creatress in a quiet place of metropolitan Bangalore, The Bohemian House, where coffee flows endlessly and work gets done collectively. I noted that even in real life, Rosh is definitely living what she is preaching on social media. Her work centres around body positivity and self-acceptance something that, I felt Indian women tend to struggle with in a slightly different way. In fact, while travelling India, I was shocked to find supermarket shelves stacked with skin whitening creams, lotions and masks. Every beauty product seemed to be designed to have an “anti-tan” effect. Finding it slightly disturbing (not that I ever understood the craze around getting that perfect tan), I asked Roshini to share her thoughts on this specific beauty standard.

“In India, there’s a whole stigma surrounding fairness. This is all rooted in the caste system. The darker your skin is, the more you are seen as an outcast, as a lower-caste person. It is so embedded within the Indian consciousness, it’s insane! We are being controlled and manipulated by this. If you watch Indian advertisements, you will only see fair people. Every programme is literally telling you that if your skin is not light enough, as a woman you are nothing; you aren’t worth of marriage, you aren’t worth of a career. What we are being shown in popular culture is that being white equals beauty and success. It’s ridiculous. This is the kind of internal racism that Indians go through amongst each other. I work in the fashion industry and I see this type of discrimination happening on a daily basis. It is impossible for women to thrive in this environment.”

Each project that Roshini engages in challenges the fashion industry and patriarchy simultaneously. On a daily basis, the Goddess works hard to stir the conversation and educate the Indian society about the flaws of beauty standards, and you can clearly see this on her instagram. Unlike the majority of influencers out there, Roshini is not a gym bunny who is selling her life for what it is not. Instead, on her social media platforms, she presents herself as living the philosophy that she communicates through her work. She regularly posts authentic, unfiltered self-portraits that reveal her stretch marks and scars. Rosh is real and she’s asking her followers to be real too! Her posts and artwork do not only focus on women but also figure men, non-binary and transgender of all shapes and sizes. This is the kind of work that will make you take a step back, self-reflect and question your own beliefs about self-worth and beauty.

“All I do is encourage people to make decisions for themselves. If you are genuinely unhappy with your appearance or the way you feel, then maybe you should take a healthy initiative towards change. Now, I’m not telling you to start hating yourself or starving yourself! You need to think and ask yourself what will make you feel better, whether it’s to join the gym, cut that hair, dye that hair or simply nourish your body with more wholesome food. I think that it’s useless to just sit around and dwell in self-hatred. This won’t change your circumstances. Once you’ve dug into the root of the problem and taken away all the social falsehood that creates the insecurities inside of you, you’ll need to see what you can change in order to feel better. When and how do you feel at your sexiest? Follow your own beauty standards!”

The Creatress’ role as an influencer is a tricky one. How does one change people’s thinking in a country that sticks so strongly to tradition? I have noted that the youth of India is slowly speaking up for their rights. Women like Roshini, are questioning all that they have learned about life and gender so far. I could sense that innovative lifestyles are emerging amongst youngsters, marriage is being put aside and most importantly, the topic of mental health is being addressed more openly

“You see, older generations just don’t get it, they seem to be completely oblivious to notions like anxiety, PTSD and depression in this country. Yet so many of us young people are suffering of some form of mental illness. These things are not talked about in schools. I struggled so much with my body image issues. I was chubby in school and people bullied me because of that. I just hated myself at one point. I used to do ridiculous shit to control my curves, and to be honest I wasn’t as aware of my body before my school mates started bullying me about it. The paradox of Indian culture is that all of our Goddesses are depicted as thick and curvy but real women are not allowed to have the body of a Goddess. It’s both an ideal and it’s not.”

 

Roshini’s leap out of self-loathing into self-loving wasn’t a usual one. At the age of fourteen, the Creatress was diagnosed with stage four bone cancer, which she considers a true blessing, no matter how perverse that may sound. During her hospitalisation, Roshini came to a number of realisations about the relation between herself, her body and her life. While losing all her hair and significant weight through chemotherapy, she was overcome with shame for being so horrible to her body prior to the illness. When Roshini told me of her battle with cancer I was also overcome with shame. I remembered my own self-loathing, the way I took my body for granted when I would constantly diet at the age of fifteen and I remembered all the plastic surgeries that I inflicted upon myself just because I never felt pretty enough as a teenager. Isn’t this ironic how we only start valuing our lives once we are at the brink of death? Roshini’s life story as well as her work made me realise what an asshole I have been to myself all these years and how so many other fellow women are stuck in a similar cycle of self-sabotage.

“I revisited my entire life once I was admitted at the hospital for chemotherapy. I asked myself why the hell did I let people and society structure my life? I thought to myself: Damn, I should have done whatever the fuck I wanted all these years instead of living a life that was created by others’ opinions and desires. So much work went into ME these past years that I cannot believe that ten years ago I was starving and hating myself.”

The superwoman kicked cancer’s ass eventually. During her recovery she came to her authentic self. With her parents’ support, little by little, Rosh started painting her new path with in her own colours. She gradually started experimenting with her look and became her one and only long-term project. The Creatress stopped covering her precious body, threw away all the thick clothing and took the wig off. A warrior Goddess was born.

“Taking my wig off was a huge step for me towards self-acceptance. Once my hair had grown I dyed it red straight away. Something that I wanted to do prior to my hospitalisation but was always too scared of what people would say. I want people to know my story because I want them to understand that I did not just magically become this body positivist. It does not work like that. I had to literally purge every part of my body. My cancer survival is so symbolic to me. It was the beginning of a new life. It took me ten years to finally reach the completion of who I truly am and here I am, finally living a life that belongs to only me.”

Her first tattoo says “I am what I am”, the motto that she lives by but also uses as the premise of her work as a fashion photographer. Her work is a blend of conceptual, editorial and fashion photography. The subjects and models that she depicts are at their most natural. The Creatress refuses to use Photoshop or airbrush any flaws of her models. One of my favourite photo-series of hers is BARE” that portrays men and women in full demonstration of their imperfectly perfect bodies with pride and revolt.  Roshini is producing photography that shows the beauty of nature. All of her projects are so intensely raw that she often finds herself confronted with Instagram’s misogynist policies.

 

“My series “BARE” is probably the most empowering and at the same time, the most challenging project I have ever executed. I was so nervous about its reception! After all, what I am doing in this specific project is highlighting that which is usually retouched in fashion photography. I focus on the body parts that the majority of us are insecure about. Luckily, all of my subjects felt empowered rather than insecure during the photoshoot. The way I work with them is meant to underline their perfection rather than imperfection. I don’t just work with them as if they were objects or ideas to me. No, they are humans so why would I want to make them look like anything else, like dolls? Luckily, I did not get much negative feedback. I was surprised about this at first because my audience is mostly Indian and we are still pretty conservative. I have now made of “BARE” a continuous series.”

Sadly, the fashion industry is destroying people globally. It not only dissects and objectifies women, but it also creates separation between humans. Rosh and I both agreed that our capitalism driven world has got it all wrong about fashion. It is supposed to accentuate and admire diversity as well as personal style. We are not paper dolls, we are humans. The way we dress and present ourselves is essential to our inner and spiritual well-being. With our dyed hair and the ink on our skin we feel beautiful and true to our inner selves. It’s all about self-expression in the end.

Recently, the Creatress has launched an online magazine called Revolution Magazine , a platform that provides a space for uncensored self-expression, where new voices can be heard. The idea is to create a community where people share and submit their work and reconstruct culture and the fashion industry.

When I asked Roshini to speak of womanhood in relation to India we had an interesting discussion about periods and the ultimate taboo word vagina.

“This whole taboo surrounding the subject of vagina is fucking annoying! We are conditioned to keep quiet about our sexualities as if we were doomed by our own reproductive organs. Women in some parts of India are not even allowed to enter their own kitchens when they’re menstruating. I still cannot believe this! It’s natural to menstruate! Get over it, patriarchy!”

To respond to this nonsensical approach to menstruation, Roshini released yet another controversial series of mixed media photographs called “I Bleed”. 

Some of Rosh’s works such as “Pussy & Patron” got reported on Instagram and the Indian male audience was very perplexed by the aim of this project. Some people failed to understand that her work is not meant to shock just for the sake of it. It is supposed to unsettle you as a viewer but also reflect on the fact precisely why does this unsettle you.

“I hate to say this but I do feel safer outside of India. When I go to Cambodia or Thailand, I feel like I can be myself. In India people know how to make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. This is so wrong! I know that with the outfits I wear and the colour of my hair will get me into trouble in certain places of India at certain times of the day. I don’t get it, cos in the end I’m not harming anyone by just dressing the way I want to. India needs to work on itself in that matter.”

As an independent photographer, the badass woman is currently rocking the boat in Mumbai’s art scene. Roshini uses social media to empower and encourage human beings to live fearlessly. Rosh is the Durga of modern times, she is the woman who will raise tough, magnificent daughters and lead the way to a future filled with self-love. She is the woman I wish I had as an example when I was an insecure, little girl.

Follow and support Roshini!
@rosh93

https://www.roshinikumar.com

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