You know my Twitter bio reads that ‘I am Extremely Ugly’. Few years ago when I was trolled for the way I look and people called me ‘extremely ugly’, they could not belittle me. I am putting my strength and weakness out there. There are people with brains, who look beyond the external element of your personality; rather they look for the ‘x-factor’. Those girls, who also faced this, who are told that they are ‘ugly’, should know that I am told I am ugly and today I am living my best life, achieved success on my own terms and thriving to achieve more than those people who matched the ‘beauty standard’ set by the society. You choose how you want to be remembered; your look, skin colour, the shape of your body can never be a hindrance in your growth.
I have grown up in a regular household of a middle-class Indian family where I was given everything that I wanted as a child including higher education. I wanted to become a journalist, so it never bothered me if I have a pretty face. None of my family members and loved ones ever had shown me any form of discrimination for the fact that I have a dusky complexion and never had the prettiest face even as a child. But it crossed my mind because of the kind of conversation I have heard around beauty. Whenever I would attend any marriage or would see any newly-wed bride come to our family or even in the neigbourhood, all the maasi, chachi and elderly female members of the family would not stop praising her saying, ‘humari bahu kitni gori hai, kitni sundar hai’, ‘hai, chand jaisi sundar hai’, ‘gori bahu laye hai hum ghar mein’ and it goes on and on. Nobody would talk about how hardworking, educated, capable a girl is, but their pride would only revolve around a girl’s fair complexion and pretty face. So, in my mind, I understood very clearly that in our society, all that matters for a girl to secure her future is to be pretty and fair. That is so unfair!
Becoming an actress and joining the business of beauty and entertainment was never the plan. Acting happened to me because I went to give an audition for anchoring a show and I was offered a role for a TV show. My personal journey of grooming started from there. That moment when I bagged the role and steadily found my space in TV entertainment, I realised that talent matters to the last longer, not the standard of beauty all the time.
However, in my experience, unless there is a specific requirement of a certain look for a character, the entertainment industry has room for every skin colour, size and look. At times we see some of the most beautiful girls or men with great bodies and 8-packs abs finding it hard to get a role. Whereas, I and many actors with unusual looks and dusky complexion are the example of how craft matters. Your on-screen look can be created by the makeup artist, your body from over-weight to well-toned can be transformed if the character requires it. But, acting? Performance? That is what really matters to survive here.
We must not forget that women go through a series of hormonal changes and that reflects on our skin and hair. I was not born with a great glowing skin and my hair was not wavy and thick. I had acne and pimple-prone skin, my complexion is dusky and I have thin hair and I often have bad-hair-days. In fact, my skin and hair went through a worse phase when I started wearing heavy makeup and facing the light during the shoot. I, therefore, went through skin and hair treatment for getting rid of my acne and hair loss issues. Now, will you say it is matching up to the beauty standard or grooming yourself for betterment?
See, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your skin, hair and improving your fashion sense to look presentable because that is an art itself. In the entertainment industry, looking well-groomed matters and there is nothing wrong with that. It is wrong if someone shows you a discriminatory attitude based on your skin colour, or the face and body you are born with. When I enter a room, I am not a head-turner beauty that everyone will pay attention to instantly, but on-screen, people are watching me because I manage to create that impact. It comes from my confidence, not necessarily the clothes and makeup. Wearing a hair patch, getting your nails done and manufacturing elements to match up the standard of beauty, is in a way not embracing your unique quality. You are born unique; do you really want to turn yourself into someone else?
(Nia Sharma, who had made her television debut in 2010 is today one of the most famous TV celebs on social media having a whopping 5.8 million followers on Instagram. She was also named as third Sexiest Asian Women by a London-based newspaper, Eastern Eye, for three consecutive years. The Jamai Raja actor, whose ravishing Instagram video of running on the beach in a monokini just went viral day before, however has an interesting twitter bio that reads: Social media bio reads ‘Extremely Ugly...Lacks Fashion Sense... Ham....ConGirl!’ This is her sarcastic take on all the hate she regularly fields from the trolls which range from the regular body-shaming to skin-shaming to being shamed for her dusky complexion.)
—As told to AB