Sudha Pillai is many things, including a writer, journalist, photographer and artist. For the last six years, she was the features editor of Bangalore Mirror, until April 2016. Earlier, she was the editor of Bangalore Times, and now she’s the founder of A Sunny Square, a digital lifestyle magazine for stories of innovation and creativity.
Apart from all this, on her Facebook page, Lines by Su, she puts up several of her illustrations and paintings. Art comes as a natural way to deal with problems she says, and that’s how her series Fat-Bottomed Ladies began. We spoke to her about unrealistic beauty standards, body image issues and her future plans for the series.
How did this series start? What gave you the idea?
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, who was living abroad and had come down to visit. I hadn’t seen him for years, and we were talking about some international projects. I’m sure it didn’t even strike him when he casually said, “You’re too fat for the international market. We will not make you meet the clients face-to-face. We’ll show them your work. Because once they see the work, they cannot say no to you, because the work is good.” I was stunned for a minute. I know him very well, and he’s seen me from the time I was thin. And I realised there was no malice in his observations, it was just something that came naturally and casually to him.
That’s also when I realised that it’s not something that he just pulled out of his hat. He has lived abroad all his life. And I realised that this was something he had encountered. It is something happening in the international market.
What are these beauty standards?
First impressions always count. If you are fair, if you are slim, if you are young, you are considered to be more productive. It is connected with higher productivity, which isn’t true. I am in my 40s, and I know for a fact that I am so much more capable
than someone doing things in their 20s. But it is a perception.
Of course, I gave this friend a piece of my mind. That’s when I came back home and started thinking about this. And that’s how I usually deal with problems, I draw, I paint, and sometimes I write. And I was just doodling, and I did the first illustration, which was of this fat-bottomed girl with a camera since I’m a professional photographer too. And that’s how I started Fat-Bottomed Ladies. One thing led to another and it was a joyous thing to do, and it became a series.
When did you start thinking about body image?
I have never had any body image issues, thanks to my parents. I am dark-skinned but I have never suffered any kind of problems because of that. I was brought up in such a way that I had some sort of reverse racism, and I thought all white-skinned people were not up to the mark. When you grow up, you start realising not everything your parents said was right. But I grew up with a very healthy image.
When you enter your 40s, your body changes, and a lot of things are not under your control. And if you have a hormonal problem or something like that, it becomes slightly difficult. I didn’t notice it, but the…Read more