MTV's "Supermodel" Hunt Is Proof That India's Fashion Biz Is Not Inclusive

Pratika Yashaswi
MUMBAI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 23: Models walk the runway during the Parfait Lingerie plus size fashion show at JW Marriott on February 23, 2019 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Chirag Wakaskar/Getty Images)

At the beginning of the first episode of the first season of MTV’s reality show Supermodel of the Year (SOTY), host Anusha Dandekar announced what the search was all about: “Beyond a face, beyond a body, beyond any kind of model. We’re looking at an icon that redefines beauty!”

As contestants and alleged beauty re-definers sashayed down the ramp, a rapper belted out lines like ‘No need for validation when you know you irreplaceable’. We saw some skin colour diversity. We spotted a tiny bit of flab, we saw tight abs, and small variations in heights.

One contestant, Anushka Sharma, was an ex plus-size model who used to be overweight. 

She told the judges how she never felt respected equally as a plus-size model, quit, and decided she would only get back when she ‘improved’ herself. She explained how hard she worked at the gym, to which Milind Soman asked her to show him how many push-ups she can do. And she did more than eight.

A still from the MTV show.

She was met with approval and applause. “On any kind of modelling show or beauty show, we look for certain types of beauty and whatever,” Dandekar began, impassioned. “But that doesn’t mean starving yourself or becoming anorexic, or bulimic. We don’t promote that…This is what we want. We want a person who wants to lose weight in a healthy way and be fit!”

“Supermodel is all about breaking these norms and stereotypes!” gushed judge Malaika Arora, who is the embodiment of golden ratio slenderness. “We’ve got heavy-hipped girl, heavy-thighed girl, not so tall girls. But that’s what it’s all about!”

As she says this, the beaming, otherwise eloquent Arora falters a bit. To my untrained eye, heavy-hipped girl and heavy-thighed girl appeared to be the same, singular woman in a lineup of 10. Anvita Dixit, the ‘Yogic Rapper’ seems to have what internet culture would refer to as ‘thicc’ thighs, but otherwise, almost every other woman in the lineup was objectively, conventionally ‘perfect’ shape. Not...

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