Breaking barriers with Jyotsna Sunil

With her grace, elegance and influence on the lives of so many women, Jyotsna Sunil is breaking barriers across all of social media. Being one of the first plus size fashion influencers in the UAE, she has managed to change the lives of so many women with her style and words of inclusivity. 

Initially, traditional standards and people’s talks have put down so many women to break out of their shells and explore the world beyond, in fear of being talked down by society on their weight and beauty. Jyotsna Sunil, being a young Indian plus size fashion influencer and an up and rising plus size model, has managed to smash the calibre and walk out with confidence becoming a role model for these women, that it is completely okay to be positive in your skin and it is okay to wear what you like and that it is absolutely normal to be big. 

Revolutionizing the fashion and beauty standards, and breaking the rules placed on women’s lives. Here we sit with Jyotsna, getting to know more about what she did to overcome this all.

Q.1 What does the power of influence mean to you? How did you overcome the barriers in your life? 

  1. The power of influence to me is like a very positive yet a very negative term. Just because I feel like in today’s social media generation, it’s just everyone’s an influencer. That’s what people keep saying. But people don’t realize the power certain influencers hold or just celebrities or people in general to influence other people, so the power of influence to me is like, I try to take it in a very positive term where I am trying to influence people to feel more comfortable in their bodies. For example, When I post a picture in a swimsuit, I want people to realize that, “Hey, she is big, and she’s in a swimsuit”. So why can’t I be in one too? or in a bikini or in a crop top or something like that? So that, to me, the power of influence is just, I feel like it’s a very strong term and people should use their power of influence wisely, and a lot of people don’t. So when it comes to how you overcome the barriers in your life, I kind of at a very young age, just stopped giving a shit, apologies for my language, but I just stopped caring at some point about what people think and it’s not something that was just like a switch where it was like, hey, like, you know, you just stop. As if, one day you wake up and you just stop caring about something, It’s not like that, it took me so much of strength to ignore the hate that I would receive on my social media platforms or in person from like family members, from friends, and they wouldn’t realize that what they were actually doing to my mental health. So I feel like I just put up like a big show, in a sense, where I was like, Okay, I’m not going to care about what this person thinks, I’m beautiful. But it was like, a couple of years for that process to start to happen and it’s still on and off. It’s just a process and I feel like I’m still in that process on and off like, one day I wake up and just feel like shit, and somebody’s comment could really get to me but then other days I’m like, I really don’t care about what people do. I was like, look at what I’ve achieved these past couple of years and these people just sitting behind a screen and commenting on all this stuff. So, I would just say it’s practice. It’s more it’s yeah, it’s like a practice where there’s no fine print. Fine print it, but it’s just something you have to implement in your everyday life or you’re just gonna feel stuck in a way. 

Q.2 Everywhere you go, there’s so much misconception on the term “influencer”. People believe that every person who creates content on social media is automatically called an influencer. Would you call yourself an influencer? If so, what do you think the term “influencer” really stands for?

  1. So for a very long time, I had this thing where I was like, I am not an influencer, I am only a model. I’m only a model, like, not only a model, I am a model and I was like, don’t call me an influencer, because I don’t post discount codes and I don’t I mean, I rarely posted like paid ads or something like that and that’s what I thought the term influencer meant. But one day, I sat down with a friend of mine and she was like, influencers, is someone that actually holds the power to influence people. So, there are these massive influencers that, you know, can post a paid ad on their stories and sell out an entire store. You know, those people? I mean, yeah, they are influencers, but for me, the term influencer is actually making a positive change in influencing people to live a more positive life to feel better about themselves to spread that kindness that I want people to just treat each other with, like, that’s, that’s what I would genuinely call an influencer, and yes, I do consider myself one because I’ve stopped taking it in a negative way. Yes, I make money from my social media. That is not a bad thing. I’m not saying any, you know, the prior conversation was a bad thing. I’m just saying they hold a massive influence and a lot of them do. Talk about, you know, being kind to one another and being good to one another and I feel like that’s, that’s what I would call an influencer is spreading positive energy, spreading positive vibes, teaching people how to treat one another and, yeah, I would call myself an influencer. I didn’t for a while, like I mentioned before, but it’s just, it was just considered and still is considered to be such a negative term, but I realized I don’t have to take it as a negative thing. I do influence people to feel good about themselves. I do influence people to protect animals, for example. I try my best to do that and I feel like from the love I’ve gotten so far, and the messages and the emails I’ve received from women telling me that they’re so thankful for what I’ve done or having conversations with women that follow me and are like you really, you know, taught me how to, like, dress in my body type or wear a bikini. So I think yeah, I would consider myself to be an influencer for sure.

Q.3 What are your thoughts on being called a “real woman”? What does it mean to be a “real woman”? 

  1. I feel like this is a very vast subject because there’s so many communities that are not born women that choose to identify as women and I feel I’m a very pro choice. As a person, I strongly believe in live and let live and I feel like anyone who wants to identify as a woman and has that feminine energy in them and wants to accept that and consider that to be the higher energy. I just feel like they’re real women, like we have the transgender community, we have so many other communities that just, you know, are tortured, because people keep saying that they’re not real women, and it breaks my heart because I accept them. Our community accepts them. It’s just such a vast, like conversation to have. But that’s my opinion on real women. Anyone wants to identify as woman and, you know, just wants to make their life about that feminine energy that is within all of us. I would say they are real women and what it means to be a real woman is like, women are just more kind and badass and that’s just that, to me, that’s just what makes you a real woman. Like, you want to own it. You are it. It’s just like, why wouldn’t people want to be like women? We are freaking great.

Q.4 Apart from influencing, you’ve also taken down the path of becoming a model. Plus size models for me are “models”, and the fashion industry is starting to become more inclusive in terms of diversity and inclusivity. I’d like to know; how has the modelling industry been treating you ever since the standards are slowly evolving? Or do you believe the “change” that is being publicized is just a sham from multiple brands?

  1. Okay, so, I mean, yeah, apart from influencing, I would say I did start modeling before I, you know, was called an influencer and I have spoken on multiple platforms about how difficult it was being a plus size model and it’s funny because I was having this conversation with another plus size model at our recent photoshoot about how it’s changing, but it’s not there yet. They have definitely become more accepting. I’ve been modeling for four years now, almost five and last weekend was my first first photoshoot for a big company with two other plus size models and I feel like that is the change that we want to see. I don’t want to be just another inclusiveness tick mark, that’s not the aim for me. It is to actually for brands to be inclusive, and you’ve actually realized what inclusiveness is, so the modeling industry has included for sure, I am treated now with much more respect than I was previously actually taking care of, like any other model should or would be taken care of. So, that’s something that I really think is great. Growth is always applauded. But it’s definitely not there yet. Like I don’t, I don’t I still don’t see a lot of brands, being inclusive is turning the blind eye to impulsiveness. I mean, I have a friend of mine who recently did a massive you know, she walked for a massive show and she was treated like shit by staff. So, you know, it’s, it’s a very give and take kind of situation where we’re giving, or we’re not receiving as much. Yeah, but definitely, definitely some growth with a long way to go. There’s still a long way to go. But I’m very happy to be part of that change and to just, you know, I’d be so happy that models that are starting out now receive that kind of respect, than starting out four or five years ago when I’d started out and wasn’t, so very happy to be part of that change.

Q.5 Being in the fashion industry, you’ve been quite successful as a model and an influencer — you have 45.4k Instagram followers and a grace that has garnered the attention of many. What do you think it is about you and your style that attracts people?

  1. 100% I would say, what attracts people to my instagram or my social media platforms is my niche which is the fact that I am plus size but I am obsessed with fashion. I think that’s why people come to my page and like my content, but I feel like it’s more fashion oriented because I always tag the brands that I work with or tag the brands that I am wearing and women are able to go to those websites, women with the same body type or different body types and just like my fashion sense which I am very thankful for because I’m obsessed. But I think, those people follow me for that particular reason, and with that following I try to endorse body positivity as much as I can and through my posts they see that I am wearing a crop top and purposely I pull down my jeans to show that I am comfortable showing my stomach, I mean I am still not there yet obviously, I still have my days where I am super conscious where I am not feeling it, but I try to be as transparent as possible and that’s where I feel the community has been built.

Q.6 The plus size fashion industry as I mentioned before, is booming. What do you think is the reason it took years for women of bigger sizes to really be seen?

  1. This is such an interesting question. I think it’s just the oppression that happened over the year of time where you saw women in the 1800’s with those corsets, and then the women 1900’s with like different things to do to their body, and it was just such a weird time and all that oppression was just built up to us to just be like screw you guys, we deserve that kind of recognition as well. I also feel that it did become a trend at some point, that’s just a different conversation but I just feel like that it was the oppression that women faced, that it was me at a very young age having to shop at the maternity section which is just not okay in my opinion. It’s all of those stupid traditions, that accumlated into one big swirl look like, people were just invaged about the fact, like me people being me, and all other women were just invaged by the fact that we could not shop from particular brands that we liked growing up. My friends would get these beautiful dresses for New years eve, for Christmas and I had to go to all these shitty stores that my mom used to shop from and I didn’t want to dress like my mom. So, all the oppression was accumulated and it took us a while to stand up, but I feel that change was so needed and it has helped so many people like beyond means, and brands really took that into consideration so I feel its all growth, its great growth and like I just said its not there yet, it has just begun and we have so much more changes to see and be more accepted by the fashion industry and the brands and yeah we have so much to do!

Q.7 Traditional models have always been forced to look a certain way, in terms of their weight and height. Have agencies or designers asked that of you?

  1. So, yes. I have been turned down by multiple brands and multiple agencies because of my weight and my height, I remember when I was first starting and I was like approaching agencies here. So, I am a 5’6 in height, but I think a typical model is 5’11 and above, and I was like okay, you are telling me what women are not my height or shorter than me, it’s just a whole conversation, but I remember being turned down by that and I felt like crap, because I was like there’s something I can do about my weight but I can’t do anything about my height and I was very depressed and upset about it for a very long time and then a lot of agencies did start accepting shorter and bigger women and that was a big change because then I started getting approached by a lot of modelling agencies to model for them and I was like that’s amazing, that’s the inclusivity I want to see. Yes, we want to see inclusiveness with weight and bigger women but what about height? Like why? That’s the point of being inclusive, being inclusive doesn’t only mean to accepting bigger women, its accepting every single person that is, it’s short, it’s tall, it’s dark, it’s light, it’s that it’s a term that is used very likely now and people need to realize that being inclusive doesn’t just mean to include bigger women. Sorry, I am going off track, so yeah I have been turned down, designers would give shit to the agencies about hiring me because I am slightly bigger than the dress that they designed and I didnt fit into the dress and it’s just so many conversations that have happened around that subject, and I used to take it to heart and I used to feel like crap to the point I used to binge eat or not eat for two weeks and it is so bad for our mental health and people need to realize that these conversations are so bad for a woman’s mental health. It could be one remark or one thing you could be saying and it could just spiral down to a person’s mind. So, yeah that has happened but it hasn’t happened recently gratefully.

Q.8 Your style is beyond impeccable. Where do you get your inspiration from? and how does that influence your audience base?

  1. That’s really sweet. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I follow so many fashion influencers and body positive influencers whether its TikTok, whether it’s Instagram and that’s where I get my inspiration from. I also feel, the huge inspiration I get is from my mom and from my mom’s sister, because she’s a fashion designer. I feel like they both have given me that love for bright colors and prints. They used to work together in fashion, just growing up seeing that, so that’s where it really comes from and I also love, I am a very really loud person and I love loud colors that’s where my obsession for neon colors come from.

Q.9 Last but not the least, what do you want to voice out to the plus size community and to all those women who want to build a career in the fashion industry but are made to believe they do not fit the standards?

  1. The one thing I wanted to say is, screw it. If I can do it, you can do it. I do not fit any beauty standard and if I am really able to push through and get stuff done and give people that platform to voice themselves and just, yeah just go for it take a leap of faith, that’s what I did, and I am not where I want to be yet but atleast I am on the way there and you could be to.  That’s what I tell all the people that message me, pick up the phone and get it done, that’s what i strongly believe in, do it yourself nobody else is gonna do it for you, and if someone turns you down there’s 10 other people that really want you, so don’t take it to heart, think with your mind and yeah have thick skin.

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