Did Parineeti Chopra's Weight Loss Make Her A Bad Role Model?
I’ve always been of the opinion that whatever views movie stars give on various social issues should be taken with a grain of salt. They are usually, after all, privileged people consumed by their own little bubble, living in luxury apartments and dining in 5 star hotels, surrounded by ‘yes’ men/women. Therefore to have a certain amount of naivete on certain matters is almost expected.
However, I am still shocked by the amount of ignorance certain members of the Bollywood fraternity can display when it comes to the possible impact of statements that they make. Any Bollywood fan will know by now that Parineeti Chopra, Priyanka Chopra's cousin, who launched her own Bollywood career in 2009 (with Ladies vs. Ricky Behl) and part of the next-gen crop of actresses, has recently lost a copious amount of weight. From ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots, it appears to be a significant amount. That the media was obsessed with her weight loss story is a fact. From invasive personal questions at press conferences about her endeavour to lose weight to distasteful snide remarks by hosts on her body on any of the ‘entertainment news’ channels, her weight was a much talked about issue. Chopra, probably exasperated in a bid to 'fit in', decided to take matters into her own hands and went off on a weight loss sojourn, revealing her new body in a photo shoot released on her fourth Bollywood anniversary.
All of this is great, and my comment is not on the fact that she has lost weight. I think she looks great as she does now, but more importantly, I think she looked great even before the weight loss. Frankly, I don’t think she even needed to lose weight in the first place…..but that’s another matter.
My comment is on the stance that she has taken in terms of her weight loss and the message she is trying to portray. Before embarking on her weight loss journey, she made various comments in interviews about realising that she ‘needed’ to lose weight and making statements to the effect of actresses not looking good on screen unless they had a certain type of body or looked a certain way.
If that isn’t offensive enough, her ‘big reveal’ #BuiltThatWay photoshoot that was supposed to showcase her new body had an opening mission statement which said “4 years ago, a chubby, childish girl was introduced to the world. 4 years later, I am closer to where I want to be”. This was followed by pictures of Parineeti showcasing her body, partaking in physical activities with slogans like ‘Don’t hide weakness. Kill it!'.
The triple whammy was the follow up comments post the reveal of this photoshoot. Parineeti went on to say (despite looking like having lost about 10-15kg or so) that she still felt like she had to lose more weight! Another recent doozy of hers was about not being able to wear a bikini because she still didn’t have a bikini body! Reading these comments made me almost shout in frustration. Not only do these statements reek of personal insecurities and serious self-esteem and body image issues, but they portray the wrong message to her fans!
For someone to constantly say how they didn’t think they looked good in whatever weight they were to go on and lose a ridiculous amount of weight and STILL complain about not having a bikini body can only indicate personal body image issues. To that end, that is her personal prerogative and is not for me to comment on. Being related to a genetically blessed Priyanka Chopra would definitely have its downsides in that respect, but I digress. But to ridicule her own body, to constantly state that she looked overweight, to ‘assure’ the media that she was doing all that she could to lose weight because, yes, it was definitely a huge concern that she weighed this much and looked the way she did? THAT I have a problem with!
It makes me deeply uncomfortable to think that her basic message is this: unless you are skinny, you don’t look good. Unless you have a certain type of body, you can’t be an actress. Unless you look a certain way, you aren’t considered attractive. By caving in to certain female body standards mandated by society (which are rubbish as it is), Parineeti has potentially fostered a dangerous mindset amongst her fans that they need to look a certain way or have a certain type of body to be considered attractive. Is that really OK? Shouldn’t she be telling her fans to love the skin they’re in instead?
On a personal level, I have always liked watching Parineeti on screen. Not just for her acting prowess (which I admire) but also her overall look. My own body is very much like Parineeti’s was before the weight transformation, and I always rejoiced in seeing an actress without the traditional flat stomach and toned arms, who looked like me (for the record, I don’t generally consider myself overweight. I’m happy with my body the way it is, thank you very much). I have never looked at Parineeti and thought her unattractive. For that very person to then go on to say that they definitely had to lose weight was personally offensive and I can only imagine the impact a statement like that would have on a fan of hers with low self-confidence! If that isn’t bad enough, Parineeti has gone on to say that she’s still not happy with her body and wants to lose even more weight. What, then, is Parineeti’s definition of an attractive body? One’s that skeletal?
The worst part about these statements is that the intention behind the weight loss was not to become fitter and healthier. If there was stress placed on a healthier and fitter body, with a by-product of weight loss, then the situation would have been different altogether and I wouldn’t even be writing this. Instead, I might have written an article commending her on encouraging her fans to have a healthier lifestyle. But the emphasis, consistently, has been on losing weight to only look good. One of the slogans in her photoshoot proudly states ‘Don’t hide weakness. Kill it!’ What is she trying to say? Someone who doesn’t lose weight or is heavier is weak? Is that the message that should be given to young, impressionable fans? Isn’t that a dangerous mentality to have? Won’t this affect their self-esteem?
I can’t help but feel incredibly disappointed, as a fan, with the stance that Parineeti has taken. As a celebrity with a large fan base, there is a certain level of accountability which has inadvertently rested on her shoulders the moment she became well known. What makes me sadder is that women already have a tough time as it is battling conceptions of how they ‘should’ look in day to day life. Things like this don’t help the cause of raising awareness of body image issues that a lot of women face. In fact, they make them worse!
I can only hope that Parineeti wises up the damage that her statements have made. Parineeti hasn’t had a release since Kill Dil in November 2014 (she took the time off to work on her weight loss apparently). She only recently signed a film, Meri Pyaari Bindu, after her hiatus (another Yash Raj one mind cue *eye roll*) either so it may be a long while yet till we get to see Parineeti on screen again. My advice to Parineeti is this – please start promoting a healthy body image, Parineeti, and I promise you, you’ll have double the number of fans you have already. And please, please, sign more films and let the focus be on your tremendous acting capability instead!